Our nation has become more polarized than ever since the 2016 presidential election, and the cast and crew of ABC’s upcoming revival of Roseanne say their show will help bridge that gap when it returns in March.
Roseanne Barr’s hit sitcom—about Roseanne and Dan Conner, and their working class family in Illinois—ran for nine seasons on ABC, before ending its run in 1997. The entire original cast is returning for the revival (including John Goodman, who played Dan, even though the then-series finale revealed that his character died), which premieres Tuesday, March 27, in its old 8 p.m. time slot.
Executive producer Bruce Helford said at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour that the Conner family “represents a full cross-section of values of beliefs. Everybody in the family has a different take on things. And we wanted to get that debate going in a very honest way, in a very real way.”
Roseanne, he continued, occupies “a beloved place in the hearts of the American viewers, and we wanted to get out there and do something that we felt would be valuable to maybe healing things and putting everybody’s cards on the table.”
Much like Will & Grace’s revival last fall, the new season undoes several major events in the-then series finale, including Dan’s death. Dan is alive and well in the new episodes, which poke fun at the belief that people keep thinking the character had died.
The 2018 version of Roseanne—in which two of their children now have kids of their own, and many family members are once again living together under the same roof—is as relevant as ever, said executive producer Tom Werner, touching on issues like opioids, aging parents and healthcare.
And like many families across the country, deep rifts have formed since the 2016 presidential election. Roseanne, who voted for Trump, is estranged from sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), who sports a “Nasty Woman” T-shirt and blames Roseanne for Trump’s win.
“Our country is very divided,” said Sara Gilbert, who plays daughter Darlene and is also an executive producer on the revival. “And we did have a wonderful opportunity to talk about this in the context of a family, and I think part of what’s going on is that people feel like they can’t disagree and still love each other or still talk to each other. So, to me, it was a great opportunity to have a family that can be divided by politics, but still is filled with love. And what a great thing to bring into this country right now.”
Barr tried to deflect questions from reporters about her own political beliefs—she was a vocal Donald Trump supporter, especially on social media—and whether that influenced the decision to make her TV alter ego a Trump voter as well.
On the series, she said, “I’ve always tried to have it be a true reflection of the society we live in,” she said. “I feel like half the people voted for Trump and half didn’t, so it’s just realistic.”
The comedian continued, “It was working class people who elected Trump. I felt that was very real, and something that needed to be discussed.”
As the show’s premiere approaches, Barr is trying to keep her infamous outbursts—many of them on social media—in check, and said that her kids have taken away her Twitter password. “I did not want it to overshadow the show, so I’m taking a little bit of a break” from social media, said Barr.
After some prodding, however, Barr couldn’t resist indulging a bit. When asked about the possibility of an Oprah Winfrey presidential run, she said, “Actually, I think I would be a better president than Oprah and Susan Sarandon, possibly even President Trump.”
She later admitted that Trump “says a lot of crazy shit,” and insisted, “I’m not a Trump apologist. There are a lot of things he has said and done that I don’t agree with, like there’s probably a lot of things Hillary Clinton has done and said that you don’t agree with.”
During Roseanne’s initial run, Barr became known for her volatile temper behind the scenes on the show. But two decades later, “I think that I’ve mellowed,” she said. “Everybody who hits 65 is more mellow than they were in their 40s.”
Roseanne joins several hit ’90s shows that have been revived in recent years, including Full House, Will & Grace, The X-Files and Boy Meets World. But unlike some of those other series, “our show has a depth to it that’s unusual,” said Lecy Goranson, who plays daughter Becky. “I think that people want a meal and not a snack—and they’ve had a lot of snacks over the past 20 years.”
This season’s run is nine episodes, but “we hope to have more,” said Barr. Earlier in the day, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey told Adweek that she was also open to ordering more episodes if the revival is a hit.