How the Roseanne set was painstakingly recreated
It was as important to the reunion as getting back all the original actors.
When executive producers Tom Werner, Sara Gilbert, and Whitney Cummings began working on the revival of Roseanne, recreating the set on Soundstage 15 in Studio City, Calif., took on a life of its own. Every last item in the Conner household was painstakingly mulled over, right down to the pickled eggs in the kitchen pantry and pictures that hang in the hallway.
“That became the challenge, recreating something when there was nothing in existence,” production designer John Shaffner tells EW. “They don’t print those (kitchen) wallpapers anymore. We had a devil of a time finding a sofa.”
Here, Schaffner breaks down the process of recreating the fictitious, Landlord, Ill., home of Roseanne and Dan Conner which had the cast believing you can go home again. “It was like the last 20 years didn’t happen,” John Goodman tells EW.
Most viewers probably don’t remember the color of the living room walls, but Gilbert did, and she and Shaffner had a helluva time recreating it. “It had been painted a soft, pale lettuce green,” he explains. “Sara had the best color memory. Trying to find the color was really tricky. The first time, there was a little too much blue in it. It was minty. That’s not right. I have to hand it to production. They truly wanted us to have the opportunity to get it right.”
The picture of the dogs playing poker that used to hang by the front door didn’t make the cut — it’s rumored to be at the home of one of the original crew members — but most of the art from the original run was recreated, as was the coffee table. A dinosaur was even returned to the rear console. (The pictures in the hallway are of Michael Fishman’s D.J., Johnny Galecki’s David, and Lecy Goranson’s Becky from set back in the day.)
But fans should notice something new on the stairwell — a chair elevator! We won’t spoil who needs it but suffice it to say Dan and Roseanne are not as spry as they used to be.
Believe it or not, the original Conner couch does exist. “There was a gentleman who claimed to have the original sofa. He has it in some kind of TV museum in Arizona and no one understands how he got the sofa,” explains Shaffner. “He did offer to rent it to us, under conditions that there always be a security guard with it, it has to be in a temperature controlled environment, and it’s only used on days when we were shooting. So we passed on that.” Instead, Shaffner’s team found a pair of sofas on Craigslist and actually cut one down to create the matching chair. The fabric was bought from a company that upholsters RVs. “We ended up painting out lines in the fabric in the sofa,” Shaffner said. “They did the best they could to repurpose what they had.”
Recreating the afghan wasn’t a challenge. “We had a couple copies of that,” Shaffner says, proudly.
Shaffner was surprised to discover that there weren’t a lot of close-ups of the Conner fireplace in the old episodes. Fortunately, a former assistant of Garvin Eddy, the comedy’s original production designer, had old mockups so that helped Shaffner rebuild the walls. “The original electric fireplace was a mantle bought at Sears, but they don’t make that anymore,” said Shaffner. “We finally got enough pictures and reproduced it.” As for those matriarchal shots on the mantle, that was Barr’s idea. There were various family shots placed on the mantle by the props department but Barr thought it should be a shrine for the family’s grand dames — so she changed them.
The kitchen came with its own set of challenges. “We realized over the nine years that Roseanne was on the air, they had changed the wallpaper three times,” explains Shaffner. “We looked at all three wallpapers, but what ended up going through a vintage wallpaper book and taking some of the work from there. We adjusted and altered it.”
It was Gilbert who made sure there were cans of creamed corn and a jar of pickled eggs on the pantry shelf. (“Thank God for anal retentive,” quipped Goodman to EW). And we can’t recall where the plates featuring Elvis Presley were hung, but Barr says they were stolen so, ahem, don’t look for those. But just like during the show’s original run, a crazy fan letter has been returned to the freezer, placed there by Barr. Too bad we’ll never see it.
Roseanne returns to ABC on March 27.