5:59pm PT by Lesley Goldberg, Bryn Elise Sandberg
Roseanne Barr: "I'd Be a Better President" Than Oprah, Susan Sarandon, Trump
It didn't take long before the subject of Donald Trump arose during a panel Monday previewing the return of ABC's Roseanne at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour.
With ABC bringing the working-class Conner family back to primetime, it's no surprise that Roseanne Barr's personal politics are playing a role in her TV counterpart's voting history. When a reporter asked about Barr and John Goodman's leading characters being Trump supporters in the new season, Barr tried to deflect the question before she eventually offered up some insight.
"In The Roseanne Show, I've always tried to have it be a true reflection of the society we live in. I feel like half the people voted for Trump and half didn't, so it's just realistic," she said, adding that she's tried to make the show a realistic portrayal of the working class, in particular. "And, in fact, it was working-class people who elected Trump, so I felt like that was very real and something that needed to be discussed and especially about polarization in the family and people actually hating other people for the way they voted, which I feel is not American."
During her 30 minutes before reporters Monday, Barr was pushed multiple times to explain how her politics impacted the show. At first, she deferred the question to showrunner Bruce Helford, who said the writing staff — which counts Barr as it did during the show's original run — "had a lot of discussions" about the characters' personal beliefs. "What we wanted to do was find a way for this family, which represents a cross-section of values and beliefs, [to] get a debate going in an honest and real way — whether that's pro- or anti-Trump or Jill Stein, it was really about getting dialogue going in an honest way," he said. "There's no agenda on anybody's part."
Helford reiterated something ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey admitted last year — that the Disney-owned network largely catered to upscale, Democratic viewers with Roseanne serving as a way to cater to working-class Americans as the show originally did in the 1990s. "There's no show that's dealing in the same way with these kinds of issues," Helford said. "We have a beloved place in the hearts of American viewers and wanted to do something that would heal things and put all the cards on the table."
Later, when asked about whether she'd vote for Oprah Winfrey if the mogul would run for president in 2020, Barr hesitated. "I do love Oprah. Of course, I love Oprah like everybody else. But you know what? I think it was time for us as a country to shake things up and, you know, try something different," she said, referring to her support of Trump. "What about Susan Sarandon for president?" another reporter asked. "Actually, I think I'd be a better president than Oprah and Susan Sarandon, probably even President Trump. And I did run in 2012," she said.
Barr reunited with Roseanne's entire original cast on the Conners' famed couch. John Goodman (Dan), Laurie Metcalf (Jackie), Sara Gilbert (Darlene), Michael Fishman (DJ), Lecy Goranson (Becky) and Sarah Chalke (who played Becky in later seasons of the original run but is returning for a new role) are all returning. Johnny Galecki, who played Darlene's boyfriend, David, is confirmed to reprise his role for one episode. Whitney Cummings executive produces alongside Tom Werner, who served in the same capacity on the original. The season premiere of the ABC reboot finds Roseanne and her sister Jackie embroiled in a fight. Jackie, as it turns out, voted for Hillary Clinton, while Roseanne is proudly Team Trump.
"This is a time when our country is divided," said Gilbert, who spearheaded (and exec produces) the reboot after Goodman guested on her CBS daytime show The Talk. "We talk about this [politics] in the context of a family. People feel like they can't disagree and still love and talk to each other. It's a great opportunity to have a family divided by politics but still filled with love. What a great thing to bring into this country right now."
As for the decision to undo the show's original series finale — in which Dan died — Barr said she always wanted to have a tenth season so she could complete the Conners' story. "I'm very happy we got a tenth season and got to do that," she said, noting that she does hope ABC renews the revival for another season. "We hope to have more. The arc of this, from the last episode all those years ago, I wanted to complete that arc."
Barr also addressed her recent decision to leave Twitter, confessing that her children took her password to the social networking platform away. "I did not want it to overshadow the show, so I'm taking a break," she said of her personal politics and Twitter. The outspoken comedian and actress confessed that she's much more mellow now, at age 65, than she was when the show originally ran when she was in her 40s. "I think I've grown up," Barr said. "I'm a grandmother, I have six grandkids. I'm 65 years old. This whole arc of this season is about healthcare and stuff like that. I think I've mellowed, but I think everyone who hits 65 is more mellow than when you're in your 40s."
Still, Barr couldn't resist taking on questions about Trump. When one member of the press brought up the notion of Trump being xenophobic, she didn't miss a beat. "Well, that's your opinion," Barr shot back, before clarifying further. "Well, he says a lot of crazy shit ... I'm not a Trump apologist. There are a lot of things he's said and done that I don't agree with, just like there are a lot of things Hillary Clinton has said and done that you don't agree with. Nobody is brainwashed into agreeing with 100 percent of what anybody says." Speaking of Clinton, Barr added that a big reason she didn't vote for Trump's 2016 opponent was "because of Haiti."
Before the panel wrapped, Barr left the room chock-full of reporters and television executives with one last thought. "The one great thing that I read today is that this is the lowest unemployment level for many, many years. So I think that's great and I do support jobs for people and I think that's a great way to fight racism is helping everybody get a job," she said, adding, "I think it's the time to close ranks, and I would really like to see an end to 'hatriotism' in this country."
Roseanne will return with a special hourlong premiere Tuesday, March 27, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC, after which it will air half-hour episodes in its regular time slot on Tuesdays at 8 p.m.