Actor Michael Fishman, who played son D.J. Conner on Roseanne from 1988 to 1997 and has returned for the revival of the ABC sitcom (Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET), blogs exclusively for EW about his experience filming the new episodes.
In 1988, the world met a family that seemed to resonate across all demographic barriers, the Conners. Decades later we stand backstage, as we have over 200 times before, anxiously awaiting a packed studio audience. It’s our first taping of the nine new episodes — or, as Sara Gilbert [who plays Conner daughter Darlene] has referred to it, “Roseanne Season 10”. We laugh and joke as a cast, but with each passing moment electricity builds because, despite a week’s worth of preparation, this moment, in front of our fans, is the moment of truth.
All week we honed a great script under the technical prowess of director John Pasquin. The crew, led by first AD Amy Brown, has conquered every challenge. The writers have signed off on a great script, spearheaded by Bruce Rasmussen. Only one thing remains, the most important thing: How do the fans, the people who journeyed with us through nine triumphant seasons on ABC, receive the Conner’s return.
The first time around, in 1988, we started without fanfare. There was no precedent, but from the beginning you could feel something special. Now we have a legacy to live up to. One thing is clear as we run lines one last time, the chemistry remains impeccable and we are all ecstatic to face the opportunity.
From the first table read through each day of rehearsal, you could feel us rise to new heights, spurned on by our love for each other. This first show has a monumental responsibility, though. Season 10’s first episode has to encapsulate who the Conners were historically, who and where we are now, and, most importantly, who we might become. The writers have painstakingly shaped a vision from Tom Werner, Roseanne, Sara Gilbert, Bruce Helford and Whitney Cummings, into a “welcome home” to Lanford.
The audience is thunderous, dedicated and ravenous with anticipation. Audience warmup Bill Sindelar has them humming at a fever pitch of excitement. Interacting with fans frequently, I am constantly reminded that Roseanne has meant a tremendous amount to millions of people. We specialized in finding the laughter in the darkest of times. This first script highlights that unique blend of painful realism and playful sarcastic humor, where families fight but love never wanes.
Emotions rush over all of us as Roseanne and John take their places. This first scene, as with the whole first show, is set to captivate lifelong fans, and introduce us to a whole new generation with timing, humor, and raw honesty rarely found all in one place in modern entertainment.
The applause shake the stage, then a perfect silence, suddenly that iconic music plays… we’re back!
For premiere night, two half-hour episodes of Roseanne will air. Here, Fishman discusses shooting what viewers will see during the second half of the hour-long event.
It was a very busy week on the set. Now back at work for a couple weeks, we are getting right back in the groove. But among the things required to shoot are new opening credits. [Like with the original series,] they take place around the kitchen table, and the logistics are always pretty challenging when you get that many people around one table.
This episode is masterfully written by Darlene Hunt. One of the greatest parts about the return of Roseanne is the opportunity to revisit the relationships, bolstered by decades of friendship. Becky and Darlene have the kind of sibling rivalry they could never outgrow. [Actresses] Lecy Goranson and Sara Gilbert shine as they trade barbs with a zest you just have to see.
Becky is determined to change her life by being a surrogate to Andrea, played by Sarah Chalke[, who replaced Goranson as Becky for a few seasons during the comedy’s initial run]. Lecy and Sarah never had an opportunity to act opposite each other on the show before but hey are both so uniquely talented and their rhythm is a joy to watch.
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Sara Gilbert really demonstrates her kind heart as a mom throughout this episode. Having to move is always a transition, but your child starting a new school is an major event. Mark’s clothing preferences spark a family debate, and while disarmed in humor, it is a powerful topic I believe fans will enjoy. There’s a scene between Roseanne and Mark that reminds me of many I shared with Roseanne throughout the first series. There is a dialog and honesty I find very powerful.
If you love how the Conners make each other squirm, you won’t want to miss Andrea meeting Becky’s family for the first time! Obviously with Roseanne and Dan uncomfortable with Becky’s desire to be a surrogate, things get interesting.