“I felt like I wasn’t finished playing this character,” admits Sara Gilbert about reprising her role as Darlene Conner on the revival of the classic ABC sitcom “Roseanne” and its spinoff “The Conners,” which stars original cast members Gilbert, John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Lecy Goranson and Michael Fishman alongside a raft of new and returning characters from their extended TV family. Watch our exclusive video interview with Gilbert above.
Gilbert was instrumental in bringing the show back in 2018, recalling how the idea blossomed unexpectedly. “John Goodman came on my talk show at the time and we did this little sketch in front of the audience as our characters,” she recalls. “We did one take and it just felt so natural, like the relationship was right there still. And I walked to my dressing room and I was emotional. I just thought wow we have to do something with this and I feel like its the right time and the right place.”
While the “Roseanne” reboot was riding high in early 2018 after it premiered to monster ratings in March 2018, it was suddenly derailed two months later after it was unceremoniously dumped by the network after a racially insensitive tweet by the show’s star Roseanne Barr. Despite the ferocious backlash and subsequent fallout, ABC eventually commissioned “The Conners” as a new spinoff series focusing on the beloved blue collar sitcom family after the sudden death of its matriarch. It was a good call by the network, as “The Conners” remains one of ABC’s best performers, emulating the success of the original series which ran from 1988 to 1997, as well as its abruptly cancelled 2018 revival.
“It was a hard time because we were making something that we loved and no one thought that it was going to go that way,” Gilbert reveals. “We didn’t expect that turn of events, so it hard to go through on a lot of levels.”
It was a welcome relief to cast and crew when the show came back as the rebranded spinoff. Gilbert was keen to continue developing Darlene as an adult, saying that it did not take long to figure out who she was after all these years. “She always had this vulnerability that I think people liked, under this tough exterior,” she explains. “I wanted to include more of that. More wear and tear along the years and some kind of softening because I found that happens to some degree.”
The actress agrees that a key to understanding Darlene is that she represents a common reality for many people that life isn’t always what we think it’s going to be when we grow up. “With Darlene, we always thought that she was the rising star of this family,” Gilbert muses. “She was smart and sarcastic and had it together and be clever enough to make her way. But the cycle of poverty generally doesn’t work that way.”
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