Roseanne Barr is rarely at a loss for words, and this week’s Adweek cover story about her ABC revival’s surprise success was no exception. In these edited highlights from two separate interviews, Barr talks about tonight’s season finale, enlisting her TV daughter (and fellow executive producer) Sara Gilbert to battle with the network and studio on her behalf, her new approach to social media and the “Roseanne effect” that is shaking up the industry.
Adweek: Had there previously been talks about a Roseanne reunion or revival prior to last spring?
Roseanne Barr: Yeah. There were a couple mentions over the years, but nothing came of them.
Why did you enlist Sara Gilbert to run interference with the studio and network, which you used to do during the show’s original run?
I wanted just to be free to do what I do best, and Sara is really an excellent communicator. I still do [fight those battles], but Sara co-executive produces with me and I don’t feel that I am just there alone. Also I feel like I have a good partnership with Sara and [executive producers] Tom Warner and Bruce [Helford]. I feel like I have a lot of protection and assistance and that’s great.
How did you decide which stories to tackle on the show this season?
Well, there were some things that I really wanted to do. Over the 21 years I got asked in a lot of articles what I felt the Conners would be doing now. So I had a long time to think about it, because I had already answered that question so many times. There were some things that I definitely wanted and some things we found in the room with the whole team.
What was your reaction to the premiere’s huge ratings, and all the think pieces that the first episode inspired?
I was very happy and thrilled and surprised. I just hadn’t thought that it would be that big a number, but it’s very gratifying. I was very hopeful that it would make something positive occur. I was hopeful that people would be able to talk to each other about things.
What was it like to have the president call to congratulate you on the ratings?
It was very trippy to get a phone call that said, ‘Hold please for the president of the United States.’ He congratulated all of us and he was very impressed with the ratings. He’s very into ratings. He was very nice and we talked about quite a few things. I have had political people call me before, but never the president of the United States. I’ve met about six presidents and talked to them, but that was very exciting.
Your kids took you off social media earlier this year, but you’re back now. What happened?
I can’t back off from what’s really going on in the world, because I’m very fascinated by it and I have to stick my nose in everyone’s business. But I’m going to just try to talk about what I’m for, rather than what I’m against.
The show hasn’t delved back into politics since the premiere episode. Will you continue to keep the focus on the family next season?
It’s always about the family, and like John Goodman [’s character Dan] said, no matter who gets in office, things don’t change much for the family and most Americans. Our show is always political, even if people don’t see it that way, it is. Because it’s about a class of working people, so of course that’s political, but it’s local politics. Every episode of the show is kind of addressing culture wars.