Meet 'The Conners': What to expect from the show without Roseanne

ABC News' "Nightline" takes you behind the scenes of the show that premieres on Tuesday, Oct. 16, on ABC.
7:01 | 10/17/18

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Transcript for Meet 'The Conners': What to expect from the show without Roseanne
The Conners kicked off their new season without their leading lady and although Roseanne's story is over, the message behind the character's death has a lasting impact. Here's ABC's Chris Connolly. Reporter: You don't want your emotions to dominate, but then yet, you kind of check in with your cast mates and say, are you struggling here? Reporter: Tonight, the stars of "The Conners" grappling with the departure of the woman so central to their careers. I called Sarah and I said, our mom died. You know? Our mom died. It is psychically like that. There's a loss, creatively, that's a big loss. She has been a sense of humor and force in my life for so long and to kind of take the stage without her was strange. It's been three weeks since granny rose's funeral. Why are people still giving us casseroles? Reporter: Hours Al after months of speculation, following Roseanne Barr's real life implosion and exile from the sitcom that once bore her name, there were answers at last on the roseanne-less series "The Conners. " The autopsy found that it wasn't a heart attack. Roseanne od'd on opioids. Reporter: With that revelation in tonight's premier episode, the show not only explained the fate of Roseanne conner, once among America's most popular TV characters but also set in motion the kind of fresh from the headlines story line and darkly humorous observations that once fueled Roseanne's rise. She got them from Marcy Bellinger. Damn. That's the only thing from mom's closet that I wanted. The first week was really weird. Yeah, it was -- it was like there was a death in the family. Because our show has always done a lot of drama along with the comedy, so we got a chance to put our own feelings into the show. We were dealing with something that was a bigger problem in America, something very serious. And the show has always gone after those things that other shows would be terrified to deal with. Dad. What is this? What's it look like? It looks like a lawsuit. You can't do this. I just took it off the side of your truck. People are taking pictures. That's the point. Put it back. Reporter: After a distraught Dan seeks to hold someone responsible for his late wife's od, his perspective changes. You give her the pills. She took them, she died, you killed her. Dad, stop. We just found another stash in the freezer. It's not just Marcy. Mom was getting pills from lots of people. Statistically, I think as many as 80,000 people died of opioid overdoses last year. And it's a real problem in this country and you know, Roseanne conner was challenged by it last year. I think we dealt with it in a way that was very interesting. I'm in pain so I take a few extra pills. It's not like I'm a drug addict. It touches on the health care issues that people are going through and the affordability of prescription drugs. I never would have given them to her if I knew she had a problem. I know what it's like to have that problem. I think this is one of those scripts that people are going to look back and say, wow, that was really significant and somehow they found a deep, honest, grieving way to still find humor and reach people. Reporter: You could have sent her off to Nevada or done all the things that sitcoms like this one have done in the past. Why did you make the decisions you made? I think to have the shadow of it continuing to exist doesn't allow the characters to move forward. I always have to make the promise to ABC that it will be as funny as it is terrifying. It hurts. I know, honor, it's going to hurt for quite a while. No, corn holders. My shoulder. Yeah. Sorry. Sorry. It's such a hard comment to kill off a character. The fact is this is a new chapter in the lives of the conner family. Reporter: In true Roseanne family, Barr tweeted after tonight's premier. Of course, it was a tweet that pushed her off the air. The commercially successful reboot of her wildly popular show. Torpedoed on may 29th by Barr's racist tweet about former president Obama's senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett. The tweet got the series cancelled. Obviously, when I read the tweet that day, I was disappointed. I thought it was regrettable. She's family so I don't really want to touch on it more than that. Reporter: In a message on social media, Michael would denounce the tweet, calling it reprehensible. I never commented about her as an individual, but it was very serious to me because I think there's a lot of people in our society who needed to know that wasn't how I felt or where I stood. I felt completely paralyzed when it first happened. I texted Sarah Gilbert basically, we're screwed. And then I started to think about what it must be like for an African-American person in our society to grow up and to read things like that. Reporter: By June 21st, the notion of continuing without Roseanne Barr on board had taken shape. Eventually, the Conners became a sitcom reality, down to its new opening. I appreciate the fact that she's allowing us to move forward without her creative or financial participation, so we were able to hire back 200 people from the director and the actors to people who were behind the scenes, and you know, the show goes on. Reporter: What were your conversations like with John Goodman in particular as you shaped this first episode? We had a conversation very early on. I said, you know, we really want you to do this, and he was, like, oh, man, I think I need to. He's already discussed this before. He went through a tough time with this, but he's also a resilient guy. He's just brought the gravitas, the stature that he brings to the show. It's really difficult and difficult in real life as well. It's just -- there's a loss there. Are any of them boys? Yeah. Enrique and Joey. Would you like to talk about death some more? Reporter: In the Conners' debut, each character grapples with grief in his or her own way. Its creators foresee more challenges and laughs on the horizon. What are you looking forward to playing itself out as the season continues? These people have got a lot of problems. So, they got a lot to deal with. People ask me, how's it different? It's more dramatic. It's also funnier. We didn't have to come back a year ago and none of us had to come back this time, but we felt that we had more stories to tell. And laughing inappropriately is what mom taught us to do. Reporter: For "Nightline," I'm Chris Connolly in los next, how this

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