By Maureen Lee Lenker
October 03, 2018 at 04:04 PM EDT
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John Goodman, Sara Gilbert, and Laurie Metcalf were determined to keep the Conner family together.

The three stars of The Conners, the spin-off of the Roseanne revival that arose in the wake of that series’ cancellation, open up about the ensuing drama and the series’ rebirth in this week’s issue of PEOPLE.

“There was the feeling of not wanting it to go away until we were ready,” Goodman told PEOPLE. “There was a debt owed to this fictional family. We want to finish telling this story.”

The trio admits the time immediately after ABC’s decision to cancel the series in the wake of Roseanne Barr’s controversial tweets was a difficult one full of uncertainty, with much of their information coming via social media and the news. Goodman told PEOPLE, “It just didn’t seem true. Then it got true. I was consciously trying to accept it,” while Gilbert added, “I was just kind of taking things one step at a time as they came.”

The cast continued to hold on to hope that the series would be revived in some way before ABC confirmed in June that the show would continue in a Roseanne-less spin-off titled The Conners. “It was so unbelievable to do this show and it was like easy come, easy go,” said Goodman, while Metcalf added she struggled to “reconcile [herself] to the show being gone.”

Jeff Lipsky for People

Metcalf also told PEOPLE the decision to return was a collective one made by the cast. “There was a lot of risk involved,” she said. “But we all decided as a group to take the risk, knowing that we could be judged by deciding to come back.” The series was also aided by Barr’s agreement to cut ties with the show; she agreed to sever all financial and creative links.

The series is reportedly set to kill off Roseanne, and Gilbert, who is also a producer, notes that any sense of loss the cast might feel is useful for the show. “Any sadness that we feel over what we’ve lost we’re hopefully channeling in an honest way into the show,” she said. “And our show has always been able to deal with heavy topics, particularly for a sitcom. It’s been kind of built into the mix.”

Eric McCandless/ABC

Goodman urged any naysayers to simply give the show a chance to end its run on their terms. “We’re leaning on each other when we do this show,” he said. “And supporting each other  that’s a very strong feeling among us. It’s different, but we can create something new from it. Let us finish the story on our own terms. Come along with us and see how we do.”

Read PEOPLE’s full story hereThe Conners premieres Oct. 16 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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