'Roseanne' Cancellation Aftermath: Who Gets Paid?

Stars Sara Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman expect to be paid for the scrapped season, while what, if anything, the writers will receive remains less clear.
Adam Rose/ABC

The abrupt cancellation of Roseanne will not come cheap.

Although the decision was widely viewed as necessary given the racist nature of star Roseanne Barr's social media attack on Valerie Jarrett, the former senior adviser to Barack Obama, several sources with knowledge of the situation suggest that ABC and parent company Disney could be on the hook for "tens of millions of dollars." And that doesn't include the forgone ad revenue, as broadcast's No. 1 show was expected to drive at least $60 million in its 11th season, according to Kantar Media. Insiders, meanwhile, denied the "tens of millions of dollars" sum and pegged it at significantly less. ABC declined comment.

Given the circumstances — the dismissal came just hours after Barr tweeted about Jarett to her 767,000-plus followers: "Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj" — those sources say the network won't be able to invoke the force majeure clause, which allows producers to cancel contracts due to unforeseen, catastrophic events. ABC brass will have to make some tough choices about whether and how to compensate the cast and crew for the scrapped 13 episodes. 

 

According to those same sources, no conversations were had Tuesday about how all of this will play out since all involved were still in a state of shock. ABC's top television executives, Ben Sherwood and Channing Dungey, are expected to engage as early as Wednesday with representatives for Tom Werner, whose Carsey-Werner production company produced the original run as well as the revival, on the subject of compensation for the cast and crew. Werner is repped by UTA, which also represents several writers, including showrunner Bruce Helford, on the series.

Per multiple insiders, reps for the stars, including Sara Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman, who recently negotiated new deals for the 11th season at $300,000 an episode (up from $250,000 a year before), are expecting to still be compensated for at least 10 episodes of the season since, as many note, "Their options were exercised." Or at least that's the case they intend to make if ABC opts not to pay them for the jettisoned season. "They'll lawyer up if they have to," says a source with ties to the show.

What's less clear is if and how the writing staff will be compensated. Only a very select few — and maybe even just one — have a clause in their contracts that requires that they be paid for a minimum number of episodes, in this case 10, regardless of whether anything gets produced. (The scrapped 11th season was due to run 13 episodes, up from nine.) The remainder of the writing staff is contractually obligated to be paid only for produced episodes, of which there were none. In fact, in a surreal twist, the writers room for the forthcoming season opened Tuesday, though insiders suggest little got done given the fallout of the viral (and since deleted) tweet. 

If it comes to it, reps for those writers are expected to fight for at least some compensation, arguing that, among other things, the writers passed up job opportunities to take one on Roseanne. "Nobody really knows yet what kind of compensation they're going to get," writer and exec producer Dave Caplan told The Hollywood Reporter hours after the news hit, noting, "Everybody is a little bit on edge about how it's going to turn out."

ABC's Sherwood issued an internal memo to staff Wednesday in which he apologized to the "many men and women" who worked on the revival and were prepping for the new season. "We're so sorry they were swept up in all of this and we give thanks for their remarkable talents, wish them well, and hope to find another way to work together down the road," he wrote.

UPDATE: This story has been edited to reflect the cast's accurate episodic fee for the 11th season.