[SPOILER ALERT: This report contains details of the The Conners premiere tonight.] Five cast members from The Conners and producer Tom Werner watched the show’s live East Coast premiere at the Paley Center just before a PaleyFest New York panel discussion about the unlikely re-reboot and how Roseanne Conner met her end.
After Roseanne Barr’s offensive tweets prompted the abrupt cancellation of Roseanne following its smash midseason premiere, the new show gradually came together in post-Barr form. The question of how The Conners would treat the absence of its matriarch was answered in the opening minutes, when it was revealed that Roseanne Conner had died of an opioid overdose, not a heart attack, as her family initially believed.
“It was important that we all be respectful of Roseanne Conner and Roseanne Barr,” Werner said of the approach to the premiere episode. That would be the only time Barr’s name came up during the session — not a surprise, perhaps, given the cataclysm of her tweets and her continued lobbing of verbal Molotov cocktails about the whole affair.
A crucial element of the show’s appeal, Werner went on, was its focus on a “working-class family that is very identifiable to our audience. … Last year, Roseanne Conner was struggling with painkillers.” Given that the opioid epidemic killed more than 80,000 people last year, Werner added, “There will be people talking about this.”
One key scene that points to societal issues around health care and prescriptions is when John Goodman’s character accuses a friend of his wife’s played by Mary Steenburgen of supplying the fatal dose of pills. It turns out that she was just one of . “Prescription drugs are expensive,” Werner said, adding almost apologetically, “I don’t want to get too heavy.”
Goodman joked, “I hope we never use the word ‘reboot’ again.” Turning serious, he added, “I didn’t want to leave the audience hanging after we gave them a taste of it last year. We thought maybe they’ll give us another chance.” In terms of reuniting with the cast, he said he enjoyed “leaning on each other. That was the juice for me. The gratitude.”
Sara Gilbert, who plays Roseanne Conner’s daughter and is also a producer of the show, said, “We weren’t done. We had more stories to tell. We wanted to give that to our audience and not end things so abruptly.”