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Granting an interview to The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, a day after ABC pulled the plug on the Roseanne reboot following a racist tweet sent from the show’s star, the actor, comedian and former Roseanne writer says he believes that after one season, Barr no longer wanted to do the show.
“It had to happen,” Arnold says of the show’s abrupt end. “And I am going to tell you the truth, she wanted it to happen, if you saw how her tweets escalated this weekend. If it hadn’t happened yesterday, this season would have been so awful for everyone every day because she would have felt like she was [being] taken advantage [of], just like when I left the show.”
Arnold wrote for Roseanne starting in 1988 and married Barr in 1990; the marriage ended in divorce in 1994.
ABC canceled the reboot and ratings juggernaut Tuesday after Barr attacked former Obama White House adviser Valerie Jarrett in a tweet that mentioned both the Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes.
Arnold, who is working on the Viceland series The Hunt for the Trump Tapes With Tom Arnold, said there was a simple solution to the problem: taking away Barr’s phone.
“ABC lost maybe $1 billion from this; this show was grinding out money hand over fist and they lost it all because somebody didn’t say, ‘Get that phone out of her hand,'” Arnold tells THR. “She’s not going to go on TV and say these things. But you put that phone in her hand and she is a loose cannon.”
Arnold says during production of the first season of the reboot, he threw out the idea to family and the crew that someone should take Barr’s phone away.
“I said look, someone has got to tell her that Donald Trump doesn’t carry his own phone,” Arnold says. “He may say the tweet, but someone is typing it in.” Barr needed a “shield,” he says. “She needed someone to wrangle her in and take her phone.”
Arnold was informed that Barr refused to give up her phone, so he says he made a different suggestion: He tried drafting her a statement that would tell fans she was going to spend less time on Twitter.
“I wrote a whole thing for her a month ago and sent it over [to the crew] that said, ‘I am going to take a step back, it was fun at first, but now I can see how much negativity there is out there and people are getting hurt and I am going to take a step back and I am hoping my fans will too,'” Arnold says. “And then if her crazy tweets came out, she could point to that and say, ‘But I have taken a step back.'”
Arnold and Barr have been separated for 24 years, which is also the period of time since he worked on the show. However, Arnold says he will always have a bond with Barr and his stepchildren. In the aftermath of Tuesday’s outcry over Barr’s tweet, Arnold says he reached out to their mutual friend, Rosie O’Donnell, and asked that she give some public support to Barr via Twitter. O’Donnell did, writing, “her racist comment was childish and beneath her best self,” on Twitter on Tuesday.
“Rosie is amazing,” he says. “She is there for Roseanne and her family and that was a big relief off my mind.”
As for his ex-wife’s loyalty to Trump the past few years, Arnold says that has baffled him.
Trump, who called Barr to congratulate her on the reboot’s massive premiere ratings in March, addressed the controversy Wednesday only by asking Disney CEO Bob Iger, who owns ABC, why he apologized to Jarrett over Barr’s tweets and never to him for perceived slights.
“She’s known Trump for 30 years like I have,” he says. “She knows he’s an asshole. She is so locked in with Trump she is unable to have any introspection. It is a weird thing.”
Again reiterating his mixed emotions, Arnold admits that he may not know Barr like he used to years ago.
“It has been 24 years, so I don’t know that I know who Roseanne is,” he says. “Everyone has always been scared shitless of her. She is a fucking asshole, but so am I. No one ever stood up to her like I did.”
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