Ever since John Goodman, in a recent interview with The Times of London, made it clear that the Roseanne Conner character will have died between last season’s finale of Roseanne and the premiere of The Conners, the question has been exactly how they were going to write her out of the show that she stood at the center of.
Interestingly enough, the answer comes from Roseanne Barr herself, who, while appearing on the YouTube show Walk Away (hosted by Brandon Straka), noted that the writers will be expanding on a story idea that had been touched upon last season, which she wanted to explore further, but with a far different outcome. “They have her die of an opioid overdose,” she said. “I wanted to show [opioid struggle] in the show, but I was never going to have Roseanne die of an opioid overdose. It’s so cynical and horrible. She should have died as a hero or not at all… It wasn’t enough to [fire me], they had to so cruelly insult the people who loved that family and that show.”
Obviously, there’s a lot of pain there.
Earlier, during a recent sit-down with The Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Podcast, Roseanne first addressed the comments that she’d be killed off on the show as revealed by John in his interview. “I just have to be neutral and walk away,” she said. “I did walk away, so people can keep their jobs.”
She added of the reboot, “You know, there’s always a silver lining in every cloud, and the tough part is to find it. I’m not going to curse it or bless it. I’m staying neutral. That’s what I do. I’m staying neutral. I’m staying away from it. Not wishing bad on anyone, and I don’t wish good for my enemies. I don’t. I can’t. I just stay neutral. That’s what I gotta do.”
Death is certainly nothing new for Roseanne. When the rebooted show returned last season, daughter Becky Conner’s husband, Mark Healy, was explained to have died while in combat in Afghanistan, which was devised to cover the death of actor Glenn Quinn who had played the character. And then, infamously, in the final episode of the show in its original incarnation, the Roseanne character, in voiceover narration, informed us that John’s character, Dan Conner, had actually died of a heart attack. It was a notion that virtually everyone hated, and one the show itself was quick to make fun of in the first episode of its reboot.
That reboot, of course, was an unexpectedly phenomenal success that quickly became the highest-rated series of the season, and seemed to pave the way for many more successful years to come as everyone involved effortlessly updated things for the present. But then Roseanne delivered what was viewed as a racist tweet and ABC instantly cancelled the show. Hundreds of cast and crew were suddenly unemployed, until the network announced The Conners spin-off. What few may suspect, however, is that Roseanne — the woman responsible for their firing — literally had to sign off on the show for it to go forward.
While emphasizing that he knows the actress is not a racist, John recently detailed, “She had to sign a paper saying that she relinquished all her rights to the show so that we could go on. I sent her an email and thanked her for that. I did not hear anything back, but she was going through hell at the time. And she’s still going through hell.”
John also noted that when the show ended its original run, he was more than ready for it to do so (“I said good riddance… but then I missed it”), yet he was thrilled with the opportunity to come back, and devastated when he heard it had been cancelled.
“I went through a period, about a month, where I was very depressed,” he admitted. “I’m a depressive anyway, so any excuse that I can get to lower myself, I will. But that had a great deal to do with it, more than I wanted to admit.”
The real question is whether or not The Conners will be able to carry on without their main star. Given television history, it would seem that the odds are very much against them. At the same time, there are few shows that have the writers that this one does, the caliber of cast (including, beyond John, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert), and the unique point of view.
“There’s not a lot of people scraping by on television,” John pointed out. “[The Conners] love each other very much and that’s what gets them through — the humor and the love.”
If anybody can overcome the odds, it’s this group of people. The Conners premieres Oct. 16 on ABC.