ALL THE RAGE
HEADING INTO HER FINAL SEASON, ROSEANNE SNIPES AT HOLLYWOOD, THE MEDIA, AND TOM-WHILE COSTARS LAURIE METCALF AND SARA GILBERT DUCK
You’ve got to understand the ground rules: Roseanne is Roseanne’s show, and Roseanne rules. She rules over story lines, she rules over writers, and, sitting in her trailer with Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert, she rules over the conversation. True, she doesn’t win every battle: The show-now in its seventh season and, for the first time, not rated among the top five (it’s averaging eighth for the season)-was recently moved against her wishes from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. ABC says the show will return to its regular slot for the May sweeps. But Roseanne can convince you that that’s just more Hollywood bullsh-well, you know the kind of word Roseanne would choose, because Roseanne is a woman who’s mad as hell even when she’s contented. You’re in her trailer for a roundtable talk with Roseanne, Metcalf, and Gilbert about what it’s like to work together on a female-centric sitcom that cuts so close to the bones of their real lives as women: Roseanne Conner is pregnant, and so is the star, divorced from Tom Arnold and married on Valentine’s Day to her former bodyguard, Ben Thomas; Jackie Harris is the mother of a little boy, and so is Metcalf, with actor husband Matt Roth; Darlene Conner is away at college, and so is Gilbert, a sophomore at Yale majoring in art. By the way, do you understand that Roseanne calls the shots? Just in case you don’t, she says something like this: ”There’s no room for anybody but me anywhere in the f — -in’ world.” It’s clear, though, that Metcalf and Gilbert are not exactly cowed by their colleague. Their posture says ah, hey, it’s just Roseanne being Roseanne. They’ve heard it all before, and besides, all three are starting to turn their attention to the future: Gilbert, 20, is working on a portfolio of photographs to submit for her sophomore review; on April 21, Metcalf, 39, begins preview performances for her Broadway debut in My Thing of Love, having appeared Off Broadway throughout the ’80s; and Roseanne, 42, is fired up about producing an American version of the British TV comedy Absolutely Fabulous (for which Carrie Fisher is up for a role). Roseanne sits propped by pillows on a couch, picking at a tray of elaborately arranged fruit with her elaborately red fingernails; Gilbert, eyes made exotic by Egyptian-style eyeliner, takes a chair opposite, next to a credenza covered with photos of Roseanne’s kids; Metcalf, in workout clothes, hunches with knees to chest on the floor. They laugh easily. They fall into conversational patterns much like their characters’: Gilbert challenges; Metcalf maintains a shy reserve. And Roseanne? Ah, hey, life’s no fun if she’s not pissed off about something.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is a woman-driven show. Is there a different feeling on the set now that Tom Arnold has left? Roseanne: It always was woman-driven. Even when (Arnold) was here, he didn’t do s — -. He was just somebody who slept in his office and took my money. He didn’t do nothin’. (Metcalf and Gilbert giggle wildly.) EW: Sara, you want to say something? Gilbert: Absolutely not! EW: Sara, when you announced you were going off to Yale, was there pressure to stay? Roseanne: I was proud of her, and I still am, to have other goals besides this very fleeting and not real world. I tried to get her to postpone it a year. But she was very determined. She reminds me of my own kids. Metcalf: My 11-year-old daughter reminds me of Sara now. She’s going through changes like you did on the show off stage, where you’d go from kidlike- wanting to sit on everybody’s lap-and then you slowly wanted to get away from that. EW: Does being away and flying in only sporadically make you think, enough already, I’m tired of this? Gilbert: I feel like (the show) is a part of my life that’s passing right now. I think we all feel like we’re winding up. EW: Roseanne has made greater strides for including homosexuality as a part of life than any other show on television. Roseanne: We’re the only ones, too. EW: Well, now we see it on other sitcoms. Roseanne: But they all do it badly. And I know, because I’m a homosexual! (Wild laughter from Gilbert and Metcalf.) I just like the message of humanity for everybody. I know everything on Roseanne’s revolutionary. And I know that people aren’t gonna get half of it for 50 years. EW: Can you get in trouble for anything anymore? Roseanne: Oh, they let me do everythin’ now and it’s no fun. I’m pretty bored. I’ve covered all the bases. EW: What was the last big negotiation about a plotline? Roseanne: When D.J. wouldn’t kiss the black girl. That was the best show we’ve ever done. And it took a lot of fighting. Because I wanted race and class and sex to intersect. Nobody else discusses class on TV except this show. I’m really proud of this show a lot. And bored to hell with it. EW: Are you really bored? Roseanne: I have one more year, and that’s it. , Metcalf: I’m not bored with the show, not at all. I’m going to be really depressed when it’s over. Roseanne: I will, too, but like I said, I can’t think of anything else to say lately. Maybe I’m just getting burnt out. EW: Are you worried about your drop in the ratings? Roseanne: Well, everybody drops after six years. I love how they hold this show up to impossible standards that nobody else has to keep. Maybe I’ll get really pissed off in the next five shows and come back fightin’. I feel really happy that I’m pregnant and doin’ really well and I’m not pissed at anybody. Gilbert: I feel that this show has moved television in certain ways and addressed certain issues. But the fact is, after seven years, that voice gets tired, and it’s time for a new voice. Roseanne: I’m going to (savor) next year and enjoy every minute of it. Gilbert: Wow, I just got this flash that it’s really gonna end. Roseanne: Big bummer, ain’t it? But it’s a good thing, too. That’s how I felt all the way through the show, when (to Gilbert) you went to college and (to Metcalf) you got pregnant, Michael (Fishman, who plays son D.J.) got bigger, and especially when Lecy (Goranson, the original Becky) left (in 1993). EW: There has been more backstage drama to this sitcom than to any other show. Roseanne: It was the vision I brought to the show, which has never been done before and never will be done again. No matter how much they try to copy it, and no matter which chick they get that tries to be me, they’re never gonna do it because they don’t get it. EW: You also made your own headlines. Roseanne: Anything I did made headlines. They took the smallest f — -in’ stupid thing I did and made it a huge controversy. Because they do that to women. I saw the tabloiding of the press, and it began with me and Oprah. EW: You didn’t go out to embrace it? Roseanne: No, I didn’t. I just played it. I’m really appalled by the fact that everybody with their enquiring minds feels they should know the color of my underwear and how much I weigh, but if you say, ”Don’t you want to know what we did in Iran?” they don’t f — -in’ have the enquiring mind for that. EW: Laurie, as Roseanne makes news, do you feel the effects? Metcalf: The first question everyone asks is, ”What’s she really like?” I don’t know how to make her sound as interesting as she is in real life. I feel protective of her. Gilbert: Nobody wants to hear that she’s really great and that I love her to < death. They're like, oh, well, is she fat? Roseanne: There's a real political point to make here, which is, nobody came to television or anywhere near the media with the idea that I came with, which is a pro-woman idea. And they don't get that here. They don't dig that in the press, they don't dig it at the networks, and they never will. So that's how Roseanne got to be such a big personality and celebrity. If Roseanne came here and weighed 120 pounds and wanted to show her tits, nobody would have said s