Back in December I had a serious pinch me moment. I was invited to visit the set of Roseanne! And yes it was everything a 90s kid could've wanted. Not only did we get to walk through the actual set, I'm talking I sat on the couch you guys, but we also got to sit down with Becky #1, Darlene, and D.J.! I'm excited to share this exclusive interview with Roseanne stars: Sara Gilbert, Michael Fishman, and Lecy Goranson!
When I first heard that Roseanne was coming back, and the original cast like John Goodman was included, I wondered how they were going to move forward from where things ended.
Sara: In terms of storylines, I mean it's 20 years later, but we're picking up where we and our head writers basically thought our characters were.
And what about Dan?
Sara: Well, Dan is alive. [LAUGHS]
Lecy: We’re all alive. [LAUGHS]
Michael: I think we’ve done a good job of kind of acknowledging where we went towards the end of the show but within context. It’ll all make sense for fans. I think it’s a really quick kind of recap in the first episode. The writers did a really good job of explaining where we are now and how it kind of fits in the transition. It’s pretty clean, but as you can see…
Sara: You can look at the set, as you can see we’re poor. (Laughter)
Michael: Without giving everything away, it’s much closer probably to the core of the show. As you can see from the set, kinda the time period is appropriate to that.
How did it feel to come back to the set like 20 years later?
Lecy: I mean it really feels like a family. It feels like going home. I’m from the outside of Chicago, and it’s like when you walk in your front door and you think, oh, yeah, this is that feeling, and that’s how I felt here. Especially when I see these faces and I hear Roseanne’s voice piercing [LAUGHS] through the set.
Michael: I think a big part of this initiated with what John and Sara did on the talk, and then Sara really has taken the ball and run with this and brought everybody together. She’s kind of modest in that standpoint, but she really has been a very pivotal part of that. I think we’re all really thankful that we got this opportunity to be together again.
Lecy: Revisiting I had a lot of anxiety particularly about the writing. If it was gonna be good, if it was gonna feel like the show? What was it gonna look like? What was it gonna be like? I had so many questions. Then when I showed up to set and we were around the table and we were reading, I just felt so relieved and so connected and grounded in our world again. And it was just such a moving, beautiful thing. I’m about to cry. [LAUGHS]
I still can't believe it's been 20 years. Why is now the right time to bring Roseanne back? What do they hope the audience will take away from the show?
Sara: I think in one respect it was an incredible time to do it, because I felt like our country is so divided. I feel like this is a working class family that can have varying political views even within the family but still love each other. And I thought what a great way to try to help unite people, have people listen to each other. I strongly believe that we can disagree without being so divided. So, I’m hoping that we can help in that way.
Then it was also just a matter of synchronicity. I think none of us really thought that everybody would be onboard. And when I heard John say that he would do it, then it just motivated me to see if everyone would do it.
On their characters:
Lecy: Becky is a widow and she is a waitress. And she really likes to drink. [LAUGHS] But I also think she’s very strong. I mean she’s struggling, but she’s fighting. She’s fighting to have her life together. And she’s a little arrested, but she’s working on it. A little bit of arrested development, which happens [LAUGHS] to some of us. But that’s where Becky’s at.
Sara: Darlene is basically a single parent. David has been in and out slightly over the years. I don’t think she’s fully moved on when our season starts. But she’s just been getting by with these two kids, and she’s moved back home. She always dreamt of being a writer, and that dream, as happens in life, you sort of can get knocked down the totem pole. Okay, well, my dream was to be up here and now I’m here and now I’m here and now I’m here.
So, I think part of her arc over the season is seeing if she’ll go back and chase that dream or take a safe path to take care of her kids.
Michael: I think one thing that Sara’s done really well is embodied the way that parents prioritize and take certain jobs or positions that they don’t always envision or want to. I think we all as parents know that there are times when you end up doing things that you didn’t imagine but you’re making the best of a situation, which I think most of the country will really respond to. I think the way Lecy handles being a widow is something.
And then for my character I’m married. I have a daughter on the show and she’s fantastic. She has a great energy about her. My character came out of the military and is kind of struggling to re-establish himself. His wife is actually still active in the military.
So, there’s that juxtaposition of feeling strongly connected and proud of what you did, but a little frustrated because you weren’t quite ready to move on and are not sure what you want do next. I think that’s also something people can really relate to. That’s the beauty of this show. I think that’s one of the things Sara touched on is the show resonates with people because we deal with real-life topics, and it’s not always pretty and it’s not always easy. And real life’s not.
Sara: Something that I love about it is it’s almost like a hybrid between a comedy and a drama. It doesn’t really just feel like a sitcom. Sometimes we’re doing it, and it’s like, wow, this is heavy, but we handle everything with humor. People deal with all these heavy topics and you want be able to make an impact and help people see their stories represented on television. So, I feel really proud that I think we’re doing that at least to some degree.
Lecy: That’s how I feel too. Friday night we shoot the show, and then it’s Saturday. And sometimes I’ll just start laughing at something that happened or some joke or what happened the night before. But then I’ll be moved by something too. I always struggle thinking of something like a television show, viewing it as art. But I do see our show as art, because I feel moved and I feel inspired and it can be funny and it stays with you.
I hope I’m not alone in that. That other people will feel that too. That’s what I’m hoping [CHUCKLES].
Sara: No, it’s so funny you say that because I was texting with Johnny on Saturday, because we had shot this heavy episode on Friday. And I was laughing and texting him that I was sitting in bed crying about the episode (LAUGHS) as if it all really happened. [CHUCKLES]
When I went back to watch the original show, I was amazed without how many guest stars and recurring roles were held by big name actors and actresses. Do you remember when George Clooney was on Roseanne? I had completely forgotten! When asked if there would be any guest stars and if Becky #2, Sarah Chalke, would be involved:
Sara: Yep, Sarah Chalke is involved. She’s not playing Becky, but she’s playing another role that’s linked to Becky, which is great. She’s in a few episodes. James Pickens is back and Adilah Barnes. There’s so many people that we had over the years and because it’s only nine episode and we’ve added three characters, it’s already difficult to service everybody who’s here. I think we’ve gotten a couple, but I wish there was room for more. Natalie West came back as Crystal. Estelle Parsons.
Michael: We’ve done a great job of bringing as many people as you could jam into this short window. There’s so many stories and the writing has been so good. We have really tried to focus on the family as much as possible. And we’ve been lucky to get the right group of people back.
There were a lot of inside jokes and Easter eggs on the original show. I swear corn was mentioned in every episode! And who can forget the chicken shirt?! If you're wondering if things like that are back, you're in for a treat.
Sara: Look for the chicken shirt. [LAUGHS]
Lecy: The funny thing about the chicken shirt though is that the original chicken shirt is lost. Now you can buy a chicken shirt [LAUGHS] online. And so, they bought the chicken shirt, but they had to realign it so it would look like the original one. [LAUGHS] If you want a chicken shirt you can get one [LAUGHS]. All of you guys can get one.
Sara: I think I have my meat stinks shirt in storage. I should try to pull it out. [LAUGHS]
Michael: There’s a lot of people on the crew who were here the first time around. And it’s really funny, because people show up with shirts from the original run that were jokes then. We’ve seen the meat stinks shirt. I saw Wellman’s Plastics shirt the other day. Somebody was wearing one of the jackets we got Season 1 or Season 2.
Sara: Johnny and I had these combat boots we used to wear and we wore them on the show. [CHUCKLES] And he sent me a picture “guess what I found in storage?” And then he wore them in to wear on the show. So, if you see the boots he’s wearing they’re from 25 years ago. [LAUGHS]
Lecy: There’s this iconic photo that used to be on set of Michael as a little boy and he had a bowtie. And we used to call him Mr. Laughy. That image was Mr. Laughy 'cause he looked kind of like a vaudevillian, old-time kind of comic or something, or almost like a ventriloquist doll. [CHUCKLES]
And then there was a t-shirt made of it. Lori is wearing the t-shirt of Mr. Laughy on the show and wants to wear it every week. [LAUGHS] We’re getting a little Meta like that.
Sara: It’s an incredibly distracting t-shirt. [LAUGHS]
Michael: If you ever have that one picture that goes around in your family where you’re like I don’t wanna look at that, but everybody in your family loves that photo [CHUCKLES]. It was my preschool graduation photo.
Then at one point on the show I came in one day, on the first run, and everybody had t-shirts and mugs. [LAUGHS]
Sara: But there was one scene where it was just her (Lori) and Roseanne talking on the porch, and (laughs) we’re like, oh, no, not for this scene, because it looked like three people were gonna talking [LAUGHS].
Michael: And it was kind of a serious scene, they have a lot to talk about. And then there’s just me. [LAUGHS] It made me uncomfortable, and it’s my face. So.. (LAUGHS)
Michael shared what his kids think of the show and I bet you can't even guess how old they are!
Michael: Yeah, they’ve watched the old shows. They were never obsessed with the show. They always watched it in passing, because there was such a time period. My kids always told me it’s a really good show and it’s entertaining. What’s fascinating for me now and I think one of the things that makes me really upbeat and excited about the show is my son’s 18 and my daughter’s 15.
(You can imagine all the gasping, laughing, and denial about this. LOL!)
But I brought my kids week one. They’ve known everybody in passing. They’ve known them as people who matter to me in my life. But to come here it was really amazing because my son’s a really quiet guy, and he said, oh, you’re not bad. [LAUGHS]
And which for him is a huge compliment. The thing that really struck me was my 15-year-old daughter turned to me and said “wow, everybody’s so good. I understand why you talk about them the way you do and why you love this. I might like to do this one day. I love what you guys do.”
Watch Roseanne tonight at 8pm EDT on ABC!
Interview photos by Louise of MomStart.com