John Shaffner Interview: ‘Roseanne’ production designer
“You can’t underestimate how that story of working class America has resonated with the public,” says production designer John Shaffner about the success of the “Roseanne” revival. Before he read the first script for the reboot, which picks up 20 years after the original series ended, Shaffner thought, “Why are we bringing this show back? How is it going to be as good, how’s it going to be better?” But to his surprise the script was “on the right track,” and by the time of the first table reading with returning cast members Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert, Lecy Goranson, and Michael Fishman, “it was just like revisiting family.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Shaffner above.
The multi-cam veteran was a new addition to the “Roseanne” family. Having been longtime friends with the show’s original production designer, Garvin Eddy, Shaffner had the opportunity to “slightly observe the processes it took” to create the Conner home. For the revival, he had to decide “how it would be 20 years later.” Initially they thought about doing radical changes, since patriarch Dan (Goodman) is a contractor who could’ve done extensive work on the house. Yet when Shaffner and his team presented a new-and-improved Conner abode, a decision was made to “go as close as we can to the original.”
There was, however, one small concession: when their furniture and appliances wore out, “they did their best to find something that matched what they already had. So even though it isn’t exactly the same, it’s the same tone, it’s the same environment.”
Since 1987, Shaffner has received 31 Primetime Emmy nominations and 4 wins: three consecutive trophies for Best Variety Special Art Direction (“The Magic of David Copperfield” in 1991, 1992 and 1993) and one for Best Multi-Camera Art Direction (“George Lopez” in 2005). He also picked up two Daytime Emmys for his work on the talk show “Ellen” in 2004 and 2007. In addition to his Emmy wins, Shaffner served as chairman and CEO of the TV academy for four years, ending in 2011. His other credits include “Friends,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “Two and a Half Men,” “The Big Bang Theory,” and “Mom.”