It’s arguably the most anticipated of Roseanne‘s nine revival episodes: Tonight, Darlene and David reunite on ABC (8/7c) and there will be… well, maybe not blood, but definitely a lot of screaming (and crying and maybe kissing?). I put aside my ongoing, and recently expressed, mixed feelings about the return of Roseanne long enough to both preview “Darlene v. David” (which I loved) and talk to star/exec producer Sara Gilbert about the much anticipated reunion. And, yes, I also lightly grilled her about the issues I raised in my recent essay.
TVLINE | How important was it to get Johnny Galecki back for an episode?
To me, it was so important. Our relationship was one of the central themes of Darlene’s life 20 years ago. And to leave it unanswered would be so unsatisfying to me personally and to the fans.
TVLINE | Did you have a backup plan in the event his commitment to Big Bang prevented him from being on the show?
I did have a backup plan. The backup plan was going to be [Darlene] dealing with the heartbreak of him being an absent father. Darlene would have plans for him to show up, he would say he was going to show up, and then he wouldn’t show up. I was still going to deal with the relationship, but it would not have been the same without him.
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TVLINE | When I spoke to exec producer Whitney Cummings, she told me how much she loves the character of David and how tough it was for her personally to wrap her head around the idea that he would abandon his children. Did you struggle with this, too?
I didn’t struggle with that as much as Whitney did, because I feel like people are their own heroes. David couldn’t handle the pressures at home and I think he has, throughout the years, come home and seen his kids. People put placeholders in their heads, and go, “As soon as I finish this, I’ll be back and involved more.” A lot of people are drifters who are really good people. They can’t face the day-to-day of their lives, but they can face trying to save the world [doing humanitarian work]. It’s an important type of person to talk about that isn’t really represented on TV too much.
TVLINE | How did it feel shooting that first scene, where David sneaks into Darlene’s bedroom through the window as if no time had passed?
It was so great shooting that scene. I just thought, “The audience is going to lose their minds when I pull these curtains back and they see David.”
TVLINE | If Johnny didn’t have the Big Bang conflict, fair to say David would’ve been a constant presence in his kids’ lives, regardless of whether he and Darlene were still together?
I think if Johnny didn’t have an empire to run, he would’ve certainly been in more episodes. But I still like the idea of an inconsistent parent. It’s such a great area to explore, regardless of his availability. I know he did say in an interview that he wanted to do more episodes next year, so hopefully he’ll be doing more than just one next year.
TVLINE | I want to end by asking you about that crazy first week with the ratings and the Trump family’s subsequent victory dance. Trump and his supporters somehow saw the show’s success as vindication for their movement — and Roseanne herself played into this, by not only taking Trump’s congratulatory phone call but gushing about it to the press afterwards. It turned my stomach. And I wrote about how it was making it hard — almost impossible — for me to enjoy this revival, especially as a member of the LGBTQ community. You are also a member of the LGBTQ community and you not only work with Roseanne, but you were the driving force behind this revival. How did you feel about Roseanne taking that call from President Trump and, more importantly, how are you able to reconcile working with a person who is using her now-larger platform to support a man — and a movement — that is causing our community so much pain?
I don’t see the show as any [particular movement]’s show. Anyone who tries to take ownership of the show, whether it’s conservatives or liberals… I can’t control someone claiming that it’s theirs. But it’s not. It’s a show that 300 people — with 300 opinions — put together. And it’s something that, at the start, is supposed to address the divide between a family when you disagree politically. It’s about people not seeing eye-to-eye and still loving each other. I don’t see it as a show for just one side. That’s never been the intention. It’s supposed to be something that unifies. And the fact that people are using it to be divisive or to claim victory shows the times we are in. People feel like they have to divide one side versus the other. I would like everybody to come closer together as a result of the show.
TVLINE | What message do you have for fans of the show Roseanne, like me, who are struggling with this conflict?
This show is about many characters and many people. It’s a group of voices. It’s not a platform for any one person. It’s about different people with different points of view who are in a family and can still love each other. And that’s exactly what our country is dealing with. We’re dealing with family members we don’t agree with politically. We’re dealing with friends and co-workers we don’t agree with politically. And, the truth is, we still love each other. It’s about understanding each other, getting closer to each other and [figuring out] how we deal with this as a country without ignoring each other and making the divide grow further.