Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “The Conners.”
ABC debuted its “Roseanne” spinoff, “The Conners,” Tuesday and the emotional premiere, which killed off the series’ matriarch, Roseanne Barr, struck a balance between somber and laugh-out-loud funny in regular Conner fashion.
A standout scene came late in the episode when Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) and Darlene (Sara Gilbert) tearfully embraced in the Conner kitchen. It was a rare moment of raw emotion for the two usually sturdy women. Gilbert said the scene only needed to be filmed once.
“We only did that scene once. We just did one take,” Gilbert said on Tuesday evening during a PaleyFest panel in New York City that INSIDER attended. “So we rehearsed it, but we didn’t rehearse it up to speed really. We never fully put all the emotions into it.”
“When I walked in, I knew that those were Laurie’s real emotions, and so then it was such an easy scene for us to do in a way,” she added. “When we did the one take and they said we don’t need to do it again, Laurie and I were like, ‘Oh, thank God.'”
In the scene, Metcalf gives an emotional monologue as Gilbert gets closer and closer until she embraces the actress.
“I just wanted to step in. I just wanted to step in and pick up where Roseanne left off and give you guys everything that you need, but I’m just looking for things to do. I’m packing and unpacking drawers. Nothing belongs anywhere. I don’t even know where I belong,” Metcalf says while her voice breaks, speaking about Roseanne on “The Conners.” “I don’t want to go home. I don’t want to leave this house because I don’t want to leave her.”
Metcalf and Gilbert probably didn’t need to fake their emotions on set. The weight of Barr’s absence hung heavy over the series premiere of “The Conners.”
The “Roseanne” revival was canceled in late May after Barr compared Valerie Jarrett, former adviser to President Barack Obama, to an ape. ABC announced “The Conners” the following month with the entire cast except Barr returning.
Gilbert, who also serves as executive producer on the spinoff, said before filming the kitchen scene, she and Metcalf talked about how the premiere would be a heavy episode for the comedic show. Granted, “Roseanne” was never a show to shy away from difficult topics, including racism and politics.
“We were talking about how you kind of want to choose one moment where there’s, like, the heaviest piece. For some reason, I always knew it was going to be this piece where I come in to see Jackie and the kitchen’s a mess,” Gilbert said. “And that somehow seeing her doing that was going to just break my heart because Jackie doesn’t really have anybody else.”
Later during the panel, Gilbert said a main reason she wanted to come back and do the spinoff was because she didn’t want to leave the “Roseanne” revival hanging with such an open-ended finale.
“We loved making the show and love each other,” Gilbert said of her “Conners” cast and crew. “I just think we weren’t done. I feel like we had more stories to tell and felt like we also wanted to give that to our audience, and not end everything so abruptly, and let this family explore more things.”
“The Conners” airs on ABC Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET. You can read our review of the premiere here.
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