What it was like to work on 'Roseanne,' according to a writers' assistant

The “Roseanne” writers room ― defunct as of Tuesday, when ABC swiftly canceled the series in response to one of Roseanne Barr’s racist tweets ― knew to anticipate blowback when they wrote the titular character’s controversial crack about “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat.”

In the April 3 episode, after Dan sarcastically bemoans sleeping through “all the shows about black and Asian families,” his wife quips: “They’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up.” The viewer backlash to what seemed like Roseanne Conner’s dismissive attitude about programming centered on minorities was immediate. 

But according to Ryan Kemp, a writers’ assistant on the recently concluded 10th season of “Roseanne,” the joke was meant to signal tolerance ― a message, he said, the sitcom’s new writing team attempted to advocate throughout its popular return

“The more I think about it, the more I think [the ‘Roseanne’ cancellation] is actually in line with what the show promised,” Kemp said during our 50-minute phone call on Tuesday, a few hours after ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey issued a strongly worded statement that at once terminated Barr’s series and condemned her tweet insulting former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett.

“This is what we were preaching — or not preaching, but this is what we were going for ― tolerance and understanding and trying to bring an end to the division. This goes right in line with what the show was about. It basically proves that ABC is putting their money where their mouth is.” 

Kemp, who previously worked on “Scrubs” and “2 Broke Girls,” wasn’t intending to return for what would have been the show’s 11th season, but he watched with sympathy as his former colleagues lost their jobs in one fell swoop, and as the rich legacy of “Roseanne” ― a show that chronicled working-class travails with a candor rarely seen on network television ― was forever stained by its namesake.

In contrast to Barr’s online persona, Kemp reported that she was pleasant and considerate on the set and in the writers room ― a far cry from the behavior she presented on Twitter, where Barr peddled reactionary conspiracy theories and made insensitive remarks. His is just one perspective on what occurred behind the scenes, but he praised the “camaraderie” and good intentions of the creative nexus spearheaded by Whitney Cummings and “Roseanne” veteran Bruce Helford, even when it came to jokes they knew were questionable.

Ultimately, Kemp takes the same stance as Wanda Sykes, Sara Gilbert and many others associated with the program: Barr, who apologized late Tuesday night and blamed the incident on Ambien, should have known better.

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'Roseanne' revival
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'Roseanne' revival
ROSEANNE - 'Go Cubs' - The Conners can't pay their Wi-Fi bill, so they befriend their new neighbors to use the internet for Mary to Skype with mom Geena, who is stationed in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Dan loses an important job and D.J. admits post-military life has been hard, so they come up with a plan to make extra money, on the seventh episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, MAY 8 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose/ABC via Getty Images) SARA GILBERT, ROSEANNE BARR, ALAIN WASHNEVSKY, ANNE BEDIAN
ROSEANNE - 'No Country for Old Women' - After Beverly gets kicked out of the nursing home, Roseanne and Jackie fight over who will take care of their mother. Meanwhile, Mark's creative touch with building a birdhouse for Dan's customer is more than Dan can handle, but Darlene defends her son, on the sixth episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, MAY 1 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Greg Gayne/ABC via Getty Images) ESTELLE PARSONS, LAURIE METCALF
ROSEANNE - 'Eggs Over, Not Easy' - A crucial moment for Becky's surrogacy arrangement forces her and Darlene to critically assess each other's lives. Meanwhile, an animal rescue organization rejects Jackie's application to adopt a puppy; and Roseanne makes a plan to change their mind, on the fourth episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, APRIL 10 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose/ABC via Getty Images) LAURIE METCALF, LECY GORANSON, SARAH CHALKE
ROSEANNE - 'Netflix & Pill' - After celebrating their 45th anniversary, Roseanne reveals to Dan a bigger problem with her bad knee. Meanwhile, Crystal announces her retirement as a waitress at the casino, and Becky and Darlene compete for the job which has full-time benefits, on the eighth episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, MAY 15 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose via Getty Images) ROSEANNE BARR, JOHN GOODMAN
ROSEANNE - 'Darlene v. David' - David unexpectedly shows up for Harris' birthday after being absent for years, forcing Darlene to re-examine their relationship and the rest of the family. Meanwhile, Bev temporarily moves into the Conner home after an incident at the nursing home prevents her from returning, on the fifth episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, APRIL 17 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Greg Gayne via Getty Images) LECY GORANSON, SARA GILBERT
ROSEANNE - 'Go Cubs' - The Conners can't pay their Wi-Fi bill, so they befriend their new neighbors to use the internet for Mary to Skype with mom Geena, who is stationed in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Dan loses an important job and D.J. admits post-military life has been hard, so they come up with a plan to make extra money, on the seventh episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, MAY 8 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose/ABC via Getty Images) JOHN GOODMAN, MICHAEL FISHMAN
ROSEANNE - 'Netflix & Pill' - After celebrating their 45th anniversary, Roseanne reveals to Dan a bigger problem with her bad knee. Meanwhile, Crystal announces her retirement as a waitress at the casino, and Becky and Darlene compete for the job which has full-time benefits, on the eighth episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, MAY 15 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose via Getty Images) ROSEANNE BARR
ROSEANNE - 'Go Cubs' - The Conners can't pay their Wi-Fi bill, so they befriend their new neighbors to use the internet for Mary to Skype with mom Geena, who is stationed in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Dan loses an important job and D.J. admits post-military life has been hard, so they come up with a plan to make extra money, on the seventh episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, MAY 8 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose/ABC via Getty Images) ROSEANNE BARR, JAYDEN REY, SARA GILBERT, LAURIE METCALF
ROSEANNE - ABC's 'Roseanne' stars Ames McNamara as Mark, Sara Gilbert as Darlene Conner, Laurie Metcalf as Jackie Harris, Emma Kenney as Harris Conner, Jayden Rey as Mary, Roseanne Barr as Roseanne Conner, Michael Fishman as D.J. Conner, John Goodman as Dan Conner, Lecy Goranson as Becky Conner, and Sarah Chalke as Andrea. (Robert Trachtenberg/ABC via Getty Images)
ROSEANNE - 'Roseanne Gets the Chair' - Roseanne's clash with Darlene over how she's raising her kids - especially Harris - reaches a breaking point; while Dan tries to help Roseanne with her bad knee by getting her an elevator chair, which she refuses to use because she doesn't want to admit getting old, on the second episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, APRIL 3 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose via Getty Images) ROSEANNE BARR, JOHN GOODMAN
ROSEANNE - 'Roseanne Gets the Chair' - Roseanne's clash with Darlene over how she's raising her kids - especially Harris - reaches a breaking point; while Dan tries to help Roseanne with her bad knee by getting her an elevator chair, which she refuses to use because she doesn't want to admit getting old, on the second episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, APRIL 3 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose via Getty Images) ROSEANNE BARR, JOHN GOODMAN, LAURIE METCALF, EMMA KENNEY, SARA GILBERT
ROSEANNE - 'Roseanne Gets the Chair' - Roseanne's clash with Darlene over how she's raising her kids - especially Harris - reaches a breaking point; while Dan tries to help Roseanne with her bad knee by getting her an elevator chair, which she refuses to use because she doesn't want to admit getting old, on the second episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, APRIL 3 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose via Getty Images) SARA GILBERT, JOHN GOODMAN, LAURIE METCALF, ROSEANNE BARR
ROSEANNE - 'Roseanne Gets the Chair' - Roseanne's clash with Darlene over how she's raising her kids - especially Harris - reaches a breaking point; while Dan tries to help Roseanne with her bad knee by getting her an elevator chair, which she refuses to use because she doesn't want to admit getting old, on the second episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, APRIL 3 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose via Getty Images) ROSEANNE BARR
ROSEANNE - 'Eggs Over, Not Easy' - A crucial moment for Becky's surrogacy arrangement forces her and Darlene to critically assess each other's lives. Meanwhile, an animal rescue organization rejects Jackie's application to adopt a puppy; and Roseanne makes a plan to change their mind, on the fourth episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, APRIL 10 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose/ABC via Getty Images) LAURIE METCALF
ROSEANNE - 'Eggs Over, Not Easy' - A crucial moment for Becky's surrogacy arrangement forces her and Darlene to critically assess each other's lives. Meanwhile, an animal rescue organization rejects Jackie's application to adopt a puppy; and Roseanne makes a plan to change their mind, on the fourth episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, APRIL 10 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose/ABC via Getty Images) LECY GORANSON, LAURIE METCALF
ROSEANNE - Iconic comedy series Roseanne returns to The ABC Television Network on Tuesday, March 27, at 8 p.m. EDT, with nine new episodes featuring the complete original cast - Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, Sara Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Fishman and Lecy Goranson. Sarah Chalke, who played the character Becky in later seasons, will also appear in another role. New cast joining the one-of-a-kind Conner family includes Emma Kenney as Harris Conner-Healy, Ames McNamara as Mark Conner-Healy and Jayden Rey as Mary Conner. With fresh stories that tackle todays issues and even more laughs from a brilliant cast and crew that havent missed a beat, audiences old and new will celebrate the homecoming of Americas favorite working-class family. (Adam Rose/ABC via Getty Images) SARA GILBERT, ROSEANNE BARR
ROSEANNE - 'Eggs Over, Not Easy' - A crucial moment for Becky's surrogacy arrangement forces her and Darlene to critically assess each other's lives. Meanwhile, an animal rescue organization rejects Jackie's application to adopt a puppy; and Roseanne makes a plan to change their mind, on the fourth episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, APRIL 10 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose/ABC via Getty Images) LECY GORANSON
ROSEANNE - Iconic comedy series Roseanne returns to The ABC Television Network on Tuesday, March 27, at 8 p.m. EDT, with nine new episodes featuring the complete original cast - Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, Sara Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Fishman and Lecy Goranson. Sarah Chalke, who played the character Becky in later seasons, will also appear in another role. New cast joining the one-of-a-kind Conner family includes Emma Kenney as Harris Conner-Healy, Ames McNamara as Mark Conner-Healy and Jayden Rey as Mary Conner. With fresh stories that tackle todays issues and even more laughs from a brilliant cast and crew that havent missed a beat, audiences old and new will celebrate the homecoming of Americas favorite working-class family. (Adam Rose/ABC via Getty Images) ROSEANNE BARR, JOHN GOODMAN
ROSEANNE - Iconic comedy series Roseanne returns to The ABC Television Network on Tuesday, March 27, at 8 p.m. EDT, with nine new episodes featuring the complete original cast - Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, Sara Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Fishman and Lecy Goranson. Sarah Chalke, who played the character Becky in later seasons, will also appear in another role. New cast joining the one-of-a-kind Conner family includes Emma Kenney as Harris Conner-Healy, Ames McNamara as Mark Conner-Healy and Jayden Rey as Mary Conner. With fresh stories that tackle todays issues and even more laughs from a brilliant cast and crew that havent missed a beat, audiences old and new will celebrate the homecoming of Americas favorite working-class family. (Adam Rose/ABC via Getty Images) ROSEANNE BARR, JOHN GOODMAN
ROSEANNE - Iconic comedy series Roseanne returns to The ABC Television Network on Tuesday, March 27, at 8 p.m. EDT, with nine new episodes featuring the complete original cast - Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, Sara Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf, Michael Fishman and Lecy Goranson. Sarah Chalke, who played the character Becky in later seasons, will also appear in another role. New cast joining the one-of-a-kind Conner family includes Emma Kenney as Harris Conner-Healy, Ames McNamara as Mark Conner-Healy and Jayden Rey as Mary Conner. With fresh stories that tackle todays issues and even more laughs from a brilliant cast and crew that havent missed a beat, audiences old and new will celebrate the homecoming of Americas favorite working-class family. (Adam Rose/ABC via Getty Images) SARA GILBERT, LAURIE METCALF, ROSEANNE BARR
ROSEANNE - 'No Country for Old Women' - After Beverly gets kicked out of the nursing home, Roseanne and Jackie fight over who will take care of their mother. Meanwhile, Mark's creative touch with building a birdhouse for Dan's customer is more than Dan can handle, but Darlene defends her son, on the sixth episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, MAY 1 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Greg Gayne/ABC via Getty Images) JOHN GOODMAN, LAURIE METCALF, ROSEANNE BARR
ROSEANNE - 'Darlene v. David' - David unexpectedly shows up for Harris' birthday after being absent for years, forcing Darlene to re-examine their relationship and the rest of the family. Meanwhile, Roseanne and Jackie's mother, Bev, temporarily moves into the Conner home after an incident at the nursing home prevents her from returning, on the fifth episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, APRIL 17 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Greg Gayne/ABC via Getty Images) ROSEANNE BARR, ESTELLE PARSONS
ROSEANNE - 'Go Cubs' - The Conners can't pay their Wi-Fi bill, so they befriend their new neighbors to use the internet for Mary to Skype with mom Geena, who is stationed in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Dan loses an important job and D.J. admits post-military life has been hard, so they come up with a plan to make extra money, on the seventh episode of the revival of 'Roseanne,' TUESDAY, MAY 8 (8:00-8:30 p.m. EDT), on The ABC Television Network. (Adam Rose/ABC via Getty Images) ROSEANNE BARR, JOHN GOODMAN
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Nonetheless, here’s his take on what it was like to work on “Roseanne.”

How did you find out the show was canceled?

One of my buddies who’s a fellow writer texted me. He was up for a writing position on the show. He texted me, “Have you heard about Roseanne’s most recent tirade?” I’m like, “Oh no. What now?” So I got online, and I saw what she said. I saw that Wanda Sykes quit, and I just kept reading the news. And all of a sudden I saw online that they’d canceled it.

What did your role on the show entail?

I was a writers’ assistant, so basically I would sit in the writers room and take down all the notes. I would keep all the scripts organized and edited, and make sure everything went fluidly in the room. We’d go down and watch all the rehearsals on set, and take notes on what worked and what didn’t. [...] They let us pitch also, and I got to work with some great writers and an extraordinary cast. It’s one of the pinnacles of my career.

How did “Roseanne” differ from other writers rooms?

Everyone told me she was going to be difficult to work with and that she was very rigid about the way she wanted things. But she seemed very grateful. I never knew her in the first run, but other people said this was a 180 for her.

She seemed down-to-earth and concerned with the show and the messages and the people working on the show. She wasn’t out there trying to cause waves. I know she has a big personality, and she would make little jokes here and there, but not at anyone’s expense. When it comes to opinions regarding politics, we tried to keep it out of the workplace — but, you know, it’s “Roseanne.”

Did you know from the start that Roseanne Conner would be a Trump supporter?

Yeah, but here’s the thing: We didn’t want to make a show about a Trump supporter. We wanted to make a show about what’s happening in America and why there’s such division. You can’t be like, “Hey, we think [Trump voters are] wrong, so we’re going to shut them out and hopefully they’ll go away.” It doesn’t work like that. We have to understand where people come from and why people feel this way. These are the conversations we’re having at home with our families, and we wanted to bring that tolerance, because you can’t have tolerance without understanding.

That’s what we wanted to provide. I loved that. America needs help right now, and that’s all we were trying to do.

Do you remember the discussions about Trump’s name never being mentioned in the series?

We didn’t want to hit it on the head. We didn’t want it to be sappy. [...] Yes, [Barr] claims she’s a Trump supporter. And she is, I guess, on Twitter. We never really talked about it onstage. But at the same time, she didn’t hate black people or gay people onstage. She wasn’t anti-woman. I think a lot of people hear “Trump supporter” and think “Nazi.” She’s not.

Listen. Everything changed this morning, and I’m still trying to develop how I feel. I’m currently glad they canceled the show. We can’t let people think it’s OK to say stuff like that or to feel that way or think that way.

How would you characterize the ambiance of the writers room week to week?

It was fantastic. One of the best experiences I’ve ever had in a writers room. We wanted to have the discussions. We didn’t want to just put things in a box and say, “This is what it is,” and label stuff as right or wrong. We wanted to have the discussions people are having at home, and how to understand how something like this could happen — how we could elect [Trump] as a president. It was a very open forum. It was very tolerant. We did some great work and explored some interesting things. I’ve worked on a lot of shows: “Scrubs” and “Outsourced” and “Undateable” and “2 Broke Girls” and tons of pilots in between. [“Roseanne”] was really, truly, a great experience.

This revival arrived with a lot of baggage.

It definitely felt like we were taking on a responsibility. It didn’t feel like, “Hey, let’s make a bunch of money and make a bunch of jokes about whatever.”

I want to get a sense of the creative process. In terms of plotting out the episode about the Conners’ Muslim neighbors, for example, who is leading the discussions about how it will unfold?

There were a lot of executive producers on the show: Bruce Helford, Whitney Cummings, Sara Gilbert, Tom Werner. Everybody was weighing in, and all of the writers. One of the things Bruce did great with his room was treat all the writers equally and value all of their opinions and thoughts. And Darlene Hunt and Betsy Borns. Just all around, we really got to listen and talk and explore the ideas going on in the world, whether it was fears and other prejudices, where they come from, why and what’s being done about them, and where we are now compared to where we were 20 years ago in the first run of “Roseanne.”

Does the process of outlining an episode begin with a specific topic? For example, did the one with the Muslim neighbors begin as, “OK, let’s do a story about immigration and Islamophobia?”

Yes, absolutely. You have to know what it’s about, and then you come up with the story.

Did the finale start with the idea of the Conners receiving FEMA money?

That stems from the idea that working-class, blue-collar people in America don’t have the means if something happens in an emergency. [...] We read a lot of articles, and we used our own stories and experiences. We examined a lot of examples. One of the great books that a lot of the writers read was Hillbilly Elegy. It was basically what’s happened to industrial America in the Rust Belt.

Did ABC executives sit in on writers-room sessions?

Oh yeah, they would come and give us their notes and ideas. ABC executives were very much in touch. I was never in those meetings.

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Roseanne Barr through the years
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Roseanne Barr through the years
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON -- Air Date 11/06/1985 -- Pictured: Comedian Roseanne Barr performs on November 6, 1985 (Photo by Gene Arias/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 13 -- Pictured: Roseanne Barr as operator during 'MetroCard' skit on February 16, 1991 -- (Photo by: Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
ROSEANNE - 'Pretty in Black' which aired on October 13, 1992. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) ROSEANNE BARR
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 10/30/1995 -- Pictured: (l-r) Actress Roseanne Barr during an interview with host Jay Leno on October 30, 1995 -- (Photo by: Margaret Norton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
375669 01: 1998 Roseanne Barr Of The Roseanne Show. (Photo By Getty Images)
1998 Roseanne Barr Of The Roseanne Show. (Photo By Getty Images)
E364920 03: Comedienne Roseanne Barr poses with her husband Ben Thomas at the launch of her new CD titled 'I Just Can''t Help Myself' at the Tower Records store in Hollywood, California, February 21, 2000. The star performed with her band 'DiXXX' whom her husband is a member. (Photo by Chris Martinez)
382709 04: Actress Roseanne Barr and her husband Ben Thomas arrive at Project Angel Food''s Eight Annual 'Devine Design' Galla at the Pacific Design Center November 30, 2000 in West Hollywood, CA. The events proceeds go directly to Project Angel Food which provides free nutritional counseling and life-sustaining meals each day to 1,2000 men, women and children disabled by HIV/AIDS. (Photo byNewsmakers)
385218 39: Actress Roseanne Barr attends February 5, 2001 at the Lane Bryant fashion show at Studio 54 in New York City. (Photo by George De Sota/Newsmakers)
LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 18: Comedian/actress Roseanne Barr poses at the 'Comic Relief 2006' show at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace November 18, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The benefit was held to help families in the Gulf Coast affected by Hurricane Katrina. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - OCTOBER 23: Actress Roseanne Barr (L) with actor Will Ferrell (R) and wife Viveca Paulin arrive at the premiere of 'Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America' held at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre on October 23, 2006 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 04: Actress/writer Roseanne Barr arrives at the Comedy Central Roast of Roseanne Barr at Hollywood Palladium on August 4, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 04: Roastee Roseanne Barr onstage during the Comedy Central Roast of Roseanne Barr at Hollywood Palladium on August 4, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 10: Actress Roseanne Barr attends The Paley Center For Media's 2014 PaleyFest Icon Award announcement at The Paley Center for Media on March 10, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: (EDITORS NOTE: This image was processed using digital filters) Roseanne Barr attends the world premiere of documentary: 'Roseanne For President!' during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 18, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 10: Actress Roseanne Barr attends The Paley Center For Media's 2014 PaleyFest Icon Award announcement at The Paley Center for Media on March 10, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - MARCH 23: Actress Roseanne Barr attends the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival LA Kickoff Reception at The Standard, Hollywood on March 23, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mike Windle/Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 23: Roseanne Barr (L) attends the cinema prive And PANDORA Jewelry Host A Special Screening Of 'Cake' on November 23, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images for cinema prive)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 18: Roseanne Barr (C) and children Jake Pentland (L) and Brandi Brown attend the world premiere of documentary: 'Roseanne For President!' during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival at SVA Theatre on April 18, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 01: Actress Roseanne Barr attends the photo call for Roseanne Barr's 'Roseanne For President!' at Sundance Sunset Cinema on July 01, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Boardman/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 01: Actress Roseanne Barr attends the photo call for Roseanne Barr's 'Roseanne For President!' at Sundance Sunset Cinema on July 1, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tommaso Boddi/WireImage,,)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 07: Roseanne Barr attends The 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 07: Actors John Goodman (L) and Roseanne Barr celebrate The 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards with Moet & Chandon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 7, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Moet & Chandon)
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 08: Roseanne Barr attends the Disney ABC Television Group hosts TCA Winter Press Tour 2018 held at The Langham Huntington on January 8, 2018 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
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Did scripts significantly change based on those meetings?

They changed so many different times in so many different ways. It’s tough to recall specifics. But I think we were all on the same page with the general idea, which is that we can’t make it too broad or too specific. We don’t want to say anything offensive, but at the same time we have to try to portray those fears that we have. [...] There were several times we felt like we were pushing the envelope too much, but at the same time, everything comes from a place. And we’re trying to get to that point: Where does this come from? In order to explore that, we maybe had to do some things that weren’t as comfortable.

I remember there were some times when other co-workers would come up to me and say, “I can’t believe this is what we’re doing. It sounds like we’re making our main character a terrible person, a bigot.”

There’s the way things ought to be, and there’s the way things actually are. We’re not in a utopia where things are always exactly the way they’re supposed to be. In order to get to that spot, we have to address it from this standpoint.

How often was Roseanne Barr in the writers room?

In preproduction, she was up just about every day. She would have been up more, except we had to install an electric chair for her because she has bad knees. We actually used that to address the throughline of the opioid epidemic, which was absolutely real. She mostly had to ride around in a car, and we had to install the chair because the offices we were in didn’t have an elevator. The show actually bought an electric chair for her so she could be in the writers room more often.

We started in June, and we didn’t start shooting until August. We had June, July and most of August to write. She was up there almost every day, at least a few times a week. Not all day. Just to stop in and take note of where we’re going. She would listen and contribute a little bit, but mostly she was just there to say, “This is where we’re going? OK, all right.” She wasn’t disagreeable, she wasn’t obnoxious. I felt like we were all on the same boat on this; we all just wanted to work together in a group effort. There was a big camaraderie.

How often did she pitch or insist on any particular storylines or jokes?

There were a few times in the room where she’d say, “I like that joke,” and we’d highlight it or bold it, like, “Roseanne likes this one.” But there were so many different incarnations of every script and story that it’s hard to recall which ones those were.

Also, I was not there for the meetings behind closed doors. A lot of the executive producers would go off and talk for a few minutes, or they’d be in the corner talking. And I would stand by with a notepad just in case I needed to take something down. But there were a lot of discussions and decisions and jokes written that weren’t in the regular forum room. An EP would go and have a chat with Roseanne for five minutes here or Sara Gilbert for five minutes there. But that’s nothing out of the ordinary. So this is a long way of saying I don’t know which things she said she liked or what needed to stay.

Was there any talk about President Trump calling to congratulate Roseanne on the ratings?

We were actually all done before it aired. The writers room ended, and we shot the last episode the second or third week of December. Aside from email, I haven’t really had much contact with any of them since.

One joke that received a lot of criticism was Roseanne’s crack about the black and Asian families on TV being “just like us,” which felt like a comment on “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat,” two other ABC sitcoms. Can you walk me through the writing of that joke?

Oh, that’s absolutely about that. It was about the ABC schedule. That’s what the joke was based on. So that’s really all the thought we put into it. I think some people were like, “Is that going to come off as racist?” But it refers solely to the ABC lineup; it doesn’t have anything to do with anything else.

The idea we wanted to promote is “they’re just like us.” Everybody there is very open-minded, and we all basically have the idea that we’re all in this together. There’s differences, but we’re America and that’s what it stands for. That’s how we should treat each other, as equals. That’s the throughline of the show.

It sounds like writers already anticipated some blowback about that joke.

Absolutely, and that’s what we want to do. It has to be entertaining, it has to make people think and it has to make people question. You don’t have to do that in TV, obviously, but why not? We’re trying to make the world a better place, and certainly America. We have to all understand, and it’s not always easy. 

How much would you say Roseanne’s personal life influenced the show?

Less now than in the original, but like I said, I wasn’t there for the original. This was more of an investment of everybody, including Whitney, Bruce, Roseanne and the ABC executives. I think everyone was equally invested. It was supposed to be an eight-episode run, and then we were like, well, let’s do another one because of the scheduling. So we did the ninth one, and it was just great. We realized we had a hit. In the context of this show, I think it’s been lacking in the television landscape.

How involved were Whitney Cummings and Wanda Sykes?

Whitney was there through the whole season, and Wanda was there two or three times a week. She was involved. She sat in the writers room, she came to the rehearsals, she came to the shows. She was great. And Norm MacDonald and Morgan Murphy and all these big names. Nobody was too big, nobody was pretentious. It was a real group effort, with a sense of duty.

Cancellation is the name of the game in television, but having worked in the industry for more than a decade, what are you thoughts about your colleagues being out of work because of something one person tweeted?

Man, yeah. That’s something I’m struggling with.

The more I think about it, the more I think [the cancellation] is actually in line with what the show promised. This is what we were preaching — or, not preaching, but this is what we were going for ― tolerance and understanding and trying to bring an end to the division. This goes right in line with what the show was about. It basically proves that ABC is putting their money where their mouth is.

It’s the right decision. And it does suck. A lot of people are losing their jobs. But ABC keeps track of the talented people that work for it, so I’m sure they’ll be able to find more work. I hope so. I think ABC should really assist in that — they have plenty of shows and plenty of opportunities.

But you can’t say stuff like that, and I think for the people who don’t understand why you can’t say stuff like that this is an opportunity to let them know why. It’s not that difficult to understand. I feel like Roseanne on the show would make the same decision if it was a story about one of her kids. I don’t think ironic is the word, but I think it’s serendipitous that it happened this way.

27 PHOTOS
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Roseanne show
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 24: ROSEANNE - 'The Monday Thru Friday Show' - Season One - 1/24/89, Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and Dan (John Goodman) disagree about where to spend a romantic 15th anniversary; Darlene (Sara Gilbert, top left) found her paper route more than she could handle; Becky (Lecy Goranson, top center) refused to dissect a frog in biology class. Laurie Metcalf (Jackie) and Michael Fishman (D.J.) also starred., (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 19: ROSEANNE - 'Radio Days' 11/29/88 Sara Gilbert, Alicia Goranson, Roseanne Bar, Michael Fishman, John Goodman (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 26: ROSEANNE - 'The Memory Game' 12/13/88 Roseanne Barr, John Goodman (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 08: ROSEANNE - gallery - Season Two - 9/8/89, Pictured, from left: Lecy Goranson (Becky), Roseanne Barr (Roseanne), John Goodman (Dan), Sara Gilbert (Darlene), Michael Fishman (D.J.), (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 29: ROSEANNE - 'Radio Days' - Season One - 11/29/88, A songwriting contest unleashes creativity in Dan and Roseanne. Pictured: Michael Fishman (D.J.), Lecy Goranson (Becky), Sara Gilbert (Darlene), (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 06: ROSEANNE - 'Lovers' Lane' - Season One - 12/6/88, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) had a salacious bet on the line with Booker (George Clooney) on bowling night., (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
ROSEANNE - 'Pretty in Black' which aired on October 13, 1992. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) ROSEANNE BARR
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 03: ROSEANNE - 'Dan's Birthday Bash' - Season One - 1/3/89, Becky (Lecy Goranson), Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and Darlene (Sara Gilbert) prepared a birthday breakfast for Dan., (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
ROSEANNE - 'Breaking Up Is Hard To Do' which aired on February 18, 1992. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) ROSEANNE BARR;JOHN GOODMAN
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 31: ROSEANNE - 'Bridge Over Troubled Sonny' - Season One - 1/31/89, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf, left) helped Crystal struggle with her husband's death; and Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) struggles with the secret she knows about Sonny, that she wants to tell Crystal. , (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 16: ROSEANNE- 'Like, a New Job' 10/9/90 Sara Gilbert (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 04: ROSEANNE- 'The Monday Thru Friday Show' 1/24/89 Roseanne Barr, John Goodman (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 02: ROSEANNE - 'Let's Call It Quits' - Season One - 5/2/89, Roseanne (Roseanne Barr, center) had difficulty accepting new rules from a tough new supervisor at the factory. Natalie West (Crystal) and Laurie Metcalf (Jackie) also star., (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 11: ROSEANNE - 'Death and Stuff' - Season One - 4/11/89, A door-to-door saleman dropped dead in Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and Dan's (John Goodman) kitchen., (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MARCH 04: ROSEANNE- 'Like, a Virgin' 10/2/90 Matt Norero, Sara Gilbert (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 03: ROSEANNE - 'Somebody Stole My Gal' - Season Two - 10/3/89, A lonely architect attempts to buy Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and Dan's (John Goodman) friendship with extravagant gifts., (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
ROSEANNE - 'The Mommy's Curse' which aired on September 21, 1993. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) JOHNNY GALECKI;MICHAEL FISHMAN
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 15: ROSEANNE- 'D-I-V-O-R-C-E' 11/1/88 Roseanne Barr, Michael Fishman (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 06: ROSEANNE - 'Lovers' Lane' - Season One - 12/6/88, Bowling night found a different activity for Roseanne (Roseanne Barr), Becky (Lecy Goranson), Darlene (Sara Gilbert), D.J. (Michael Fishman) and Dan (John Goodman) to engage at the bowling alley. , (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JANUARY 28: ROSEANNE - 'Dan's Birthday Bash' 1/3/89 Alicia Goranson, Roseanne Barr, Sara Gilbert (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 19: ROSEANNE - 'Sleeper' - Season Seven - 10/19/94, Michael Fishman (D.J.) on the ABC Television Network comedy 'Roseanne'. 'Roseanne' is the story of a working class family struggling with life's essential problems., (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 18: ROSEANNE - 'The Test' - Season Three - 9/18/90, Dan (John Goodman), Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and D.J. (Michael Fishman) were on pins and needles when Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) thought that she was pregnant again., (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - MAY 07: ROSEANNE - 'Scenes from a Barbecue' - Season Three - 5/7/91, Roseanne Barr (Roseanne), Shelley Winters (Nana) on the ABC Television Network comedy 'Roseanne'. 'Roseanne' is the story of a working class family struggling with life's essential problems., (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
ROSEANNE - 'Terms of Estrangement' which aired on September 15, 1992. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) GLENN QUINN
UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 13: ROSEANNE - 'The Memory Game' - Season One - 12/13/88, Roseanne Barr (Roseanne), Lecy Goranson (Becky), (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
ROSEANNE - 'Terms of Estrangement' which aired on September 15, 1992. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images) ALICIA LECY GORANSON;ROSEANNE BARR;JOHN GOODMAN
UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 29: ROSEANNE - 'The Dark Ages' - Season Five - 9/29/92, Sara Gilbert (Darlene), Roseanne Barr (Roseanne) on the ABC Television Network comedy 'Roseanne'. Dan and Roseanne look at Darlene in a new light after David spends the night., (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)
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Roseanne herself aside, would you say most of the writers room leaned liberal?

Yeah. It’s LA. But it’s really like, “Let’s explore all the angles and all the sides to this.”

You remember the episode in Season 7 where [Roseanne Conner] got mad at DJ for not wanting to kiss a girl because she was black. That’s like [Roseanne Barr], from what I saw. What she’s like on Twitter, and what she’s like when she’s got a spotlight or a microphone, is different from what she’s like onstage. She was grateful to everybody, and grateful for the opportunity to come back because not a lot of people can make that kind of comeback.

How often did you reference certain plot points from the original show?

All the time. And we referenced it not for the sake of referencing it, but because these are the journeys and arcs we go on through our lives. Everything comes from a place, and the way she is now is because of the way she was then. 

We wanted to make sure DJ was married to that woman. It wasn’t, unfortunately, the same actor because of availability issues, but it was the same character.

Was there ever a moment when the writers wanted to depart from Roseanne’s personal politics and she vocalized thoughts on the Trump administration, health care or any other timely policies?

No, not that I was privy to. That’s not to say that nothing happened, but not from where I stood.

I think it’s a bummer because I do think the show kind of forged a place to help teach tolerance. Not to tell people what to think, but what to think about. I felt it had a really good way of doing that. But at the same time, I don’t want to support her. I don’t want to give her a stage to gain attention if she’s like that. Like anybody else, I think she just needs education. [...] She wasn’t like that at work. Every once in a while, you’d hear, like, “Thanks, Obama,” or whatever. Just jokes. But nothing offensive, as far as I heard. I didn’t hear anything about her being insensitive. She seems like somebody who knows better. She’s smarter than this. She’s not that insensitive. She was very respectful of all the black people, gay people, whatever. She just treated everyone like people. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and condensed for length. 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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