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“I AIN’T DEAD, BITCHES!!!!” the comedian and actress tweeted just an hour after the episode — which revealed that Roseanne had died of an opioid overdose — finished airing. She followed that up with a more measured joint statement with her friend Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, where the pair criticized the opioid overdose as lending “an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show.”
On Wednesday morning, The Conners stars Lecy Goranson, Michael Fishman and new castmember Maya Lynne Robinson addressed Barr’s response during a visit on ABC’s Good Morning America.
“We really miss Roseanne and love her very much,” said Goranson, who plays older daughter Becky Conner. “Her spirit is still very much with us, so we understand that she’s hurting right now and she’s in pain. She’s always with us, so hopefully we can see her and kind of remedy this at some point in time, I hope.”
Fishman, who plays DJ Conner, admitted that returning to set without Barr was “strange at first, it definitely had a different feel.” But he stood by the decision surrounding her fate.
“The tone of the way she passed away was related to last season,” he explained. “If you listen to our producers, they really wanted to take a real crisis that’s happening to our country and find a way to give voice to that. I know that the reaction to that is going to be different for different people, but we’ve always tried to tackle big topics and be very honest about them.”
Tuesday’s premiere, “Keep on Truckin,” picked up three weeks after the season 10 finale of the Roseanne reboot. After first believing that Roseanne died in her bed from a heart attack following knee surgery, the autopsy revealed that she actually overdosed on pain pills, bottles of which she had been stashing around the Conner home.
Barr had spoiled the reveal of her character’s fate a month ago, saying she had hoped to explore Roseanne’s addiction storyline on the show but not have her die. Barr, however, relinquished rights to the series so that the spinoff could move forward after she was fired. The No. 1 ratings-hit reboot was canceled in May following a racist tweet from Barr about Valerie Jarrett, former White House senior adviser to President Barack Obama.
In a column for The Hollywood Reporter, The Conners showrunner Bruce Helford explained the decision-making process behind killing off Roseanne, a character who launched his career.
“I wanted a respectful sendoff for her,” he said, “one that was relevant and could inspire discussion for the greater good about the American working class, whose authentic problems are often ignored by broadcast television. If you watched the first episode, I hope you’ll agree we did that.”
The premiere, meanwhile, put up strong numbers, despite falling considerably short from the massive Roseanne launch last season.
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