Entertainment Weekly interview
(April 21, 1995) #271
By Lisa Schwarzbaum, photographs taken by Firooz Zahed
This is a digital copy of an interview from Entertainment Weekly with
Roseanne, Sara Gilbert and Laurie Metcalf titled: The Woman of Roseanne;
A trio of white chicks sitting around talking trash.
YOU'VE to understand the ground rules: Roseanne is Roseanne's show, and Roseanne rules. She rules over story
lines, she rules over writers, and, sitting in her trailer with Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert, she rules over the
True, she doesn't win every battle: The show -now in its seventh season and, for the first time,
not rated among the top five (it's averaging eighth for the season -was recently moved against her wishes from 9 p.m.
to 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. ABC says the show will return to its regular slot for the May sweeps. But Roseanne can
convince you that that's just more Hollywood bullsh-- well, you know the kind of word Roseanne would choose,
because Roseanne is a woman who's mad as hell even when she's contented.
You're in her trailer for a round table talk with Roseanne, Metcalf, and Gilbert about what it's like to work together
on a female-centric sitcom that cuts so close to the bones of their real lives as women: Roseanne Conner is pregnant,
and so is the star, divorced from Tom Arnold and married on Valentine's Day to her former bodyguard, Ben Thomas;
Jackie Harris is the mother of a little boy, and so is Metcalf, with actor husband Matt Roth; Darlene Conner is
away at college, and so is Gilbert, a sophomore at Yale majoring in art. By the way, do you understand that
Roseanne calls the shots? Just in case you don't, she says something like this: "There's no room for anybody but
me anywhere in the fuckin' world." It's clear, though, that Metcalf and Gilbert are not exactly...cowed by their
colleague. Their posture says ah, hey, it's just Roseanne being Roseanne
They've heard it all before, and besides, all three are starting to turn their attention to the future:
Gilbert, 20, is working on a portfolio of photographs to submit for her sophomore review; on April 21,
Metcalf, 39, begins preview performances for her Broadway debut in My Thing of Love, having appeared
Off Broadway throughout the '80s; and Roseanne, 42, is fired up about producing an American version of the British TV
comedy Absolutely Fabulous (for which Carrie Fisher is up for a role). Roseanne sits propped by pillows on a couch,
picking at a tray of elaborately arranged fruit with her elaborately red fingernails; Gilbert, eyes made exotic by
Egyptian-style eyeliner, takes a chair opposite, next to a credenza covered with photos of Roseanne's kids;
Metcalf, in workout clothes, hunches with knees to chest on the floor. They laugh easily.
They fall into conversational patterns much like their characters': Gilbert challenges; Metcalf maintains a shy reserve.
And Roseanne? . Ah, hey, life's no fun if she's not pissed off about something.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY:This is a woman-driven show. Is there a different feeling on the set now that Tom Arnold has left? ROSEANNE:
It always was woman-driven. Even when [Arnold] . was here, he didn't do shit. He was just somebody who slept in
his office and took my money. He didn't do nothin'. [Metcalf and Gilbert giggle wildly.] EW:
Sara, you want to say something? GILBERT:
Absolutely not! EW:Sara, when you announced you were going off to to Yale, was there pressure to stay? ROSEANNE:
I was proud of her, and I still am, to have other goals besides this very fleeting and not real world. I
tried to get her to postpone it a year. But she was very determined. She reminds me of my own kids. METCALF:
My 11-year-old daughter reminds me of Sara now. She's going through changes like you did on the show offstage,
where you'd go from kidlike-wanting to sit on everybody's lap and then you slowly wanted to get away from that. EW:Does being away and flying in only sporadically make you think, enough already, I'm tired of this ? GILBERT:
I feel like [the show] is a part of my life that's passing right now. I think we all feel like we're winding up. EW:
Roseanne has made greater strides for including homosexuality as a part of life than any other show on television. ROSEANNE:
We're the only ones, too. EW:Well, now we see it on other sitcoms. ROSEANNE:
But they all do it badly. And I know, because I'm a homosexual! [Wild laughter from Gilbert and Metcalf.]
I just like the message of humanity for everybody. I know everything on Roseanne's revolutionary.
And I know that people aren't gonna get half of it for 50 years. EW:Can you get in trouble for anything anymore? ROSEANNE:
Oh, they let me do everythin' now and it's no fun. I'm pretty bored. I've covered all the bases. EW:What was the last big negotiation about a plotline? ROSEANNE:
When D.J. wouldn't kiss the black girl. That was the best show we've ever done. And it took a lot of fighting.
Because I wanted race and class and sex to intersect. Nobody else discusses class on TV except this show.
I'm really proud of this show a lot. And bored to hell with it. EW:Are you really bored? ROSEANNE:
I have one more year, and that's it. Metcalf:
I'm not bored with the show, not at all. I'm going to be really depressed when it's over. ROSEANNE:
I will too, but like I said, I can't think of anything else to say lately. Maybe I'm just getting burnt out. EW:Are you worried about your drop in the ratings? ROSEANNE:
Well, everybody drops after six years. I love how they hold this show up to impossible standards that nobody .
else has to keep. Maybe I'll get really pissed off in the next five shows and come back fightin'.
I feel really happy that I'm pregnant and coin' really well and I'm not pissed at anybody. GILBERT:
I feel that this show has moved television in certain ways and addressed certain issues.
But the fact is, after seven years, that voice gets tired, and it's time for a new voice. ROSEANNE:
I'm going to [savor] next year and enjoy every minute of it. GILBERT:
Wow, I just got this flash that it's really gonna end. ROSEANNE:
Big bummer, ain't it? But it's a good thing, too. That's how I felt all the way through the show, when
[to Gilbert] you went to college and [to Metcalf] you got pregnant, Michael [Fishman, who plays son DJ.] got bigger,
and especially when Lecy [Goranson, the original Becky] left [in 1993]. EW:There has been more backstage drama to this sitcom then to any other show. ROSEANNE:
It was the vision I brought to the show, which has never been done before and never will be done again.
No matter how much they try to copy it, and no matter which chick they get that tries to be me,
they're never gonna do it because they don't get it. EW:You also made your own headlines. ROSEANNE:
Anything I did made headlines. They took the smallest fuckin' stupid thing I did and made it a huge controversy.
Because they do that to women. I saw the tabloiding of the press, and it began with me and Oprah. EW:You didn't go out to embrace it? ROSEANNE:
No, I didn't. I just played it.
I'm really appalled by the fact that everybody with their enquiring minds feels they should know the color of my
underwear and how much I weigh, but if you say, "Don't you want to know what we did in Iran?" they don't fuckin'
have the enquiring mind for that. EW:Laurie, as Roseanne makes news, do you feel the effects? METCALF:
The first question everyone asks is, "What's she really like?"
I don't know how to make her sound as interesting as she is in real life. I feel protective of her. GILBERT:
Nobody wants to hear that she's really great and that I love her to death. They're like, oh, well, is she fat? ROSEANNE:
There's a real political point to make here, which is, nobody came to television or anywhere near the media with
the idea that I came with, which is a pro-woman idea. And They don't get that here. They don't dig that in the press,
they don't dig it at the networks, and they never will. So that's how Roseanne got to be such a big personality and
celebrity. If Roseanne came here and weighed 120 pounds and wanted to show her tits, nobody would have said shit. EW:But we know about the state of your marriage, for instance, whether we want to or not. ROSEANNE:
Well, you want to. GILBERT:
I have something to say. If anybody's attacking you and in this case, it's the press that's attacked her incessantly
you have two choices: You either take cover, or you can fight back. And the way you can fight back is by playing
their game. And that's what I see Roseanne has done. ROSEANNE:
Everything I do is from a commitment to feminism. And because I have faith in God
which nobody in the press can handle. When I realized the powers that the press was giving to everything I did,
just because I was a big, scary, fat woman and also a big, scary, fat, Jewish woman, I was like everythin' that
fuckin' everybody feared I said, my God, I'm gonna be able to work it even more for women.
And that's why I talk about everything that I talk about. It wasn't to, like the press said, to boost my ratings.
It was because, shit, if I got the spotlight, then let's bring it all fuckin' down. [She pauses.]
Why are we talking about me? EW:Because you're a forceful person. ROSEANNE:
No, I'm a forceful woman, and no one can fuckin' dig that. They're scared shitless of it. EW:Laurie, Sara, you're just standing back now? METCALF:
You go, girl! EW:We can't bond as women without discussing one of the trademarks of Roseanne over the years -- your changing haircuts
Are the annual changes a choreographed move? METCALF:
No, it's just part of our sad little lives. GILBERT:
Oh, you mean the fact that I have three bands of color in my hair at all times? I'm thinking of making my hair
really trashy and punk. ROSEANNE:
One time Lecy wanted to cut her hair short, but [executive producer] Marcy Carsey said she had to keep it long.
So I got the scissors and I just cut her hair to here [she points under her ears],
and I go, "Just tell them that I did it." METCALF:
That was so fine! ROSEANNE:
I feel like, with people working this hard, they ought to be able to have the goddamn hair they want.
It's not like we're trained monkeys. We do have our humanity. Which is a novel idea here in Hollywood.
I always like anything that causes trouble. You know, I got really stirred up during this interview.
Now I realize that there's a ton more shit that I can get pissed off about!