When last we saw Roseanne Conner, in 1997, the character was sitting alone on that old living room couch, after revealing that her husband, Dan, had died of a heart attack and that all nine seasons of Roseanne had been a grief-induced fantasy about her family. (Or something like that.)
Now Roseanne is back, the fantasy is out and Trump is in.
The show’s Emmy-winning star, Roseanne Barr, returned to ABC with a nine-episode revival season. Dan’s back too, once again played by John Goodman, as is daughter Darlene (Sara Gilbert, who is also an executive producer) and much of the original cast.
Roseanne was a bona fide trailblazer the first time around, with its focus on blue-collar Americans, its diversity of LGBT characters, and its star — a woman who did not look or sound like a typical television female lead. The new Roseanne is topical in its own ways, starting with Roseanne Conner’s full-throated support for US President Donald Trump. Barr is a Trump backer as well; she argued on Jimmy Kimmel recently that supporting Trump was critical to keeping Mike Pence from the presidency.
Barr, now 65 and living in Hawaii where she has a macadamia nut farm, recently spoke about the Roseanne revival, her stormy past on the show, her views on women in Hollywood and her feelings about Trump.
It’s been 21 years since Roseanne went off the air. Did you miss being Roseanne Conner?
No. I did a lot of other things.
You ran for president in 2012. What was that about?
To bring up questions and conversation that I wasn’t hearing anywhere. Specifically, how the public’s money never ends up going to the public.
Why play Roseanne again?
Everybody seemed to be into it and, you know, the conditions that I wanted were right.
I wanted somebody else to do the work that I wasn’t good at, and to let me do the work that I was good at. I don’t like arguing with people. I just am over it and I don’t like fighting. So I got — Sara Gilbert stepped into that role nicely.
The last time around, you were the star and the idea engine for the show, but you threatened to quit over creative conflicts.
It was incredible this time. I was very protected and respected. I wasn’t having to explain why I wanted things.
Thirty years ago when Roseanne started, what were you treated like?
I was just not respected as a woman artist, but you know I think I paid my dues and some time passed and the world changed.
Do you think women have more opportunities today in Hollywood to tell the stories they want to tell?
I don’t know. There’s a lot more women who are featured, but I don’t know if they are doing what they really want to do.
Did you have any worries about coming back to the role?
No. I was excited to do it because I realised that was going to be the only opportunity I would get to act, because I’m kind of typecast as me. But I loved acting. And everybody really got a lot better in their acting chops, so that was great.
How are you different than during the last run of Roseanne?
Well, I’m older, and I’ve been through menopause, so that was great. I’m a grandma now. I’m older and wiser. I appreciate things better, and appreciate having an opportunity at age 65 to come back and do what I love to do.
What kind of stories did you want to tell on the new Roseanne?
How families are still struggling and what they do about it. There’s an arc in this season, and it’s the closest I’ve been to doing what I want to do. It’s about everything in our country. It’s about opioids and health care. How we deal with whole new issues that we didn’t even have before, like gender-fluid kids. How working class people — how and why they elected Trump.
Roseanne Conner has become a Trump supporter. How did that happen?
I just wanted to have that dialogue about families torn apart by the election and their political differences of opinion and how we handle it. I thought that this was an important thing to say at this time.
Was it your idea for Roseanne to back Trump?
Yes. Because it’s an accurate portrayal of these people and people like them. In terms of what they think, and how they feel when they are the ones who send their kids over to fight. We’ve been in wars for a long, long time, which everybody seems to forget — but working class people don’t forget it because their kids are in it.
Trump has had tough words for ABC. Did you get any pushback from ABC about making Roseanne a Trump supporter?
Not from ABC, no.
Everyone else in the world.
Why do you think?
You know, people only want to see — they want to stick to their narrative and they don’t want it shaken up. But, you know, I was like, “Oh, here we go. I’m just the person for this job.”
Considering that Trump opposes many of the principles that you and Roseanne Conner have stood for, how can you support him?
No, he doesn’t, I don’t think he does. I don’t think so at all. I think he voices them quite well.
Why is Trump OK but Pence is objectionable, by your lights?
I think Pence is not as good as Trump, not as accepting, and not as, you know — I think that he’s way more radical.
How has America changed since the first incarnation of Roseanne? How has that affected the current show’s humour?
Same jokes, same kind of thing. Just trying to get through paycheck to paycheck and handle it. Having no jobs and people losing their homes and you know that never, ever being talked about on television.
How did you guys address whether to have John come back since his character Dan is dead?
I always knew how I would do it, and I wrote it. Once John was in, I thought, well, I’m going to get a chance to continue the story that I always wanted to tell.
A lot of fans are wondering, how should we regard Dan’s death?
Well, I can’t tip it. You’ll see in the first show.
A lot of people thought the last season of Roseanne was pretty bad. In hindsight, do you?
No. I love it. I just watched a few of them and they were really funny. It was a departure though, but once you see why, you know I think it explains it all.
How many seasons do you think the new Roseanne will continue?
We all want to keep doing it so we just hope people like it and they watch it, and it gets renewed, you know, we all want that.
Is there a new character or storyline you think is kind of a trailblazer, like the show was the last time around?
I like that Darlene’s a mom now because my kids are all parents. I thought that would ring a bell with most people, my age anyway. Like what are you doing with these kids? And it’s fun to have Darlene and her kids living in the house because we really get to dissect and discuss parenting.
Do you have an arc in mind for the next season if it comes to be?
Oh, yeah, of course I do. A family grows older.
Is Dan still alive?
Oh, yeah, hopefully. Hopefully we’re all going to be alive.