Roseanne was a TV sitcom unlike any other.
While cut from a similar blue-collar cloth as other working-class family sitcoms like Home Improvement and Married … with Children, Roseanne carved out its own niche. Revolving around a brash female lead who was a far cry from Mary Tyler Moore — much less contemporaries Murphy Brown and the Golden Girls — Roseanne’s rough edge consistently ruffled feathers. The show also dealt with real-world topics that made the show into more than just a laugh-fest.
A Look Back at Roseanne
The show brought a grittier edge to primetime TV but found its legacy complicated by larger-than-life leading lady Roseanne Barr’s unhinged antics in the public sphere. What appeared to be a promising reboot was instead short-lived due to Barr’s myriad controversies. All that left many scratching their heads about how to best summarize the show’s history.
It seems safe to say that Roseanne both left an indelible mark on mainstream America — and won’t get another chance to do it again. But what of its cast members, which included not only Barr but also towering screen personality John Goodman, lovable Sara Gilbert, and underrated talent Laurie Metcalf?
Here is our closer look at the actors who made Roseanne an idiosyncratic smash hit — and what happened to them after the show ended (twice).
Roseanne Barr (as Roseanne Conner):
At various turns, Roseanne’s namesake was the most popular female comedian and the most loathed female comedian. She was a firebrand who apologized as much as she refused to do so, a rabble-rouser who was silenced after going too far — and who ultimately became persona non grata after burning all her bridges. One incident sums up Barr pretty well: In July 1990, she screeched an obnoxious, off-key rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a nationally televised baseball game in San Diego. The public roundly rejected the horribly executed “joke.” The game’s audience buried her performance with boos and morning-show talking heads — and even then-President George H. W. Bush — hit her with haughty criticism in the ensuing days.
Barr was met with similar sour grapes when she made known her extreme political views, which ranged from an embrace of the Green Party platform to her unfailing support for former President Donald Trump. Barr’s racist tweets in 2018 about an advisor to former President Barack Obama ended the Roseanne reboot just as it found its footing. That same year, Barr’s retweet of a repulsive QAnon conspiracy theory about child sex trafficking marked her last appearance in the public eye. Some of the comments made by Barr, now 69, suggested she might have devastating medical issues but — like other aspects of the comedian — are too convoluted to fully comprehend.
John Goodman (as Dan Conner):
While Barr’s career pretty much rested on the success (and lack thereof) of her TV show, John Goodman — who played her husband — flourished independent of the sitcom. The looming actor, who impressively became sober and shaved 100 pounds off his frame, has enjoyed almost too many starring roles to count, from The Babe to The Flintstones to King Ralph. But his most memorable roles of all are probably in Coen Brothers movies. (He actually began teaming with the duo before Roseanne debuted.) His roles in the Coen films Raising Arizona, Barton Fink, and The Big Lebowski showed just how far he could push the envelope as a “character actor.” Now 70, Goodman currently stars in four shows: ABC’s Roseanne spinoff, The Conners; The Righteous Gemstones; and the animated series The Freak Brothers and Monsters at Work.
Laurie Metcalf (as Jackie Harris):
Laurie Metcalf’s turn as the sister of Roseanne showed her acting prowess. It earned her three consecutive Primetime Emmy Awards from 1992 to 1994. Her role also catapulted her into films from comedies (Uncle Buck) to dramas (JFK) to thrillers (Pacific Heights). The self-declared workaholic (per Vulture) hasn’t let up since, taking on more roles on TV, in movie theaters, and onstage. Metcalf’s role as the mother in 2017’s Lady Bird gave her armfuls of awards and nominations. Also, her starring role in Ray Romano’s directorial debut, Somewhere in Queens, recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
Michael Fishman (as D.J. Conner):
Most still know former child actor Fishman for playing son D.J. on Roseanne and The Conners. He also appeared in the movies A.I. Artificial Intelligence in 2001 and Undrafted in 2016. In late August, People reported that Fishman “was told” he wouldn’t be part of the next season of The Conners. “It’s every actor’s dream to be a series regular, especially on a groundbreaking show, where we tackle significant topics,” Fishman reportedly said in a statement.
Sara Gilbert (as Darlene Conner):
Along with Goodman and Metcalf, Sara Gilbert continues to anchor The Conners, the fifth series of which premiered last month. While she got two Primetime Emmy Award nominations for playing daughter Darlene, she also appeared multiple times on another TV hit show, The Big Bang Theory. she has another major but often overlooked achievement to her name. Gilbert is the creator of and a former co-host on CBS’ The Talk.
Lecy Goranson (as Becky Conner):
Lecy Goranson is yet another one of the Roseanne stars continuing her tenure with the show through the Conners spinoff. The 48-year-old also had small roles in films like How to Make an American Quilt and Boys Don’t Cry, as well as TV shows including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Damages.