The Conners neighborhood will remain the same, with the exception of the loss of Roseanne. While matriarch Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr) won’t be part of the ABC spinoff, her family’s next-door neighbors Samir and Fatima Al-Harazi will be back, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The Conners’ Muslim neighbors, played by Alain Washnevsky and Anne Bedian, were first introduced in the Season 10 Roseanne episode “Go Cubs,” an episode dreamed up by Roseanne Barr herself.
In a behind-the-scenes video posted by The Wrap, Barr revealed she came up with the idea of her character being afraid of her Muslim neighbors because “she has heard so many things on the news, and so she has a lot of pre-conceived notions.”
“I just thought it would be really relevant for a show about immigrants and prejudice, so we find a way to cut to the humanity of each other,” the Roseanne star said earlier this year.
Now, the neighbors will return in the third episode of The Conners spinoff, titled, “There Won’t be Blood.” The episode will be a Halloween episode, which the Roseanne series was famous for.
After initial irrational fears about her new Muslim neighbors, Samir and Fatima, Roseanne Barr’s character became friendly with them in the “Go Cubs” episode. But three weeks after the episode aired, Barr was fired by ABC and her series canceled after she tweeted “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby” when referencing former White House aide Valerie Jarrett.
In a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter shortly after Barr’s firing, actor Alain Washnevsky revealed he could not believe it when he heard about the actress’s tweet about Jarrett.
The Iranian-born actor revealed that when he got the call to play the Conners’ Muslim neighbor Samir, he felt “an enormous responsibility to represent a demographic that is often not well-portrayed on TV.”
Washnevsky described his first meeting with Barr, saying she gave him a warm, genuine hug to welcome him to the show and that she asked him questions about his background as they hung out together on the Roseanne set. So when he heard about Barr’s racist tweet, Washnevsky admitted he was “extremely disappointed.”
“I was so shocked, angry and hurt. Her words go against everything I believe in and everything that our episode represented. Or so I thought. I was extremely disappointed not only by her words, but also by the cancellation of the show which shined a light into many dark spots of our society — corners of society we don’t like to look at, see or talk about at parties.”
Washnevsky also expressed regret in losing out on a return appearance on the previously greenlit 11th season of Roseanne.
“The showrunners had made optimistic statements about having our characters return for next season,” the actor wrote. “Nothing would’ve made me happier.”
Luckily for everyone, the Conners have not forgotten about the Al-Harazi family. With Roseanne Barr’s character reportedly killed off of the new series, The Conners showrunner Bruce Helford previously hinted to press reporters that he wanted to bring the Al-Harazis back.
“We definitely want them to return,” The Conners producer said. “They’re their neighbors. They live right next door, so we definitely want to see more of them.”
You can see Alain Washnevsky and Anne Bedianin a scene from the “Go Cubs” episode of Roseanne below.