The discussion around the Roseanne revival hasn’t so much been about how the hell they could bring back Dan (John Goodman), but rather, how the show can expect audiences to separate its creator and star Roseanne Barr from her character, Roseanne Conner. The real Roseanne has gone from demanding personality to vocal Trump supporter—who also happens to share his penchant for mindlessly spreading hateful nonsense on Twitter—and though her character isn’t an exact copy of her persona, she also happens to have voted for Trump.
Whether or not you were a fan of the original, it’s hard to reconcile the image of a loving, if acerbic, TV mom with the person who retweets right-wing conspiracy theorists. Co-showrunner Bruce Helford is aware of that conflict (along with probably everyone in the cast, crew, executive producers’ chairs, etc.), but thinks we ought to just be able to separate the art from the artist. “There should be an understanding that there is a difference between people’s personal politics and what you present onscreen,” Helford tells The Hollywood Reporter.
Helford, who was an executive producer for the first season of Roseanne’s original run, says he hopes they’re “presenting a wonderful, balanced show that doesn’t have an agenda.” Besides, he insists, there are totally skeletons in everyone’s closets: “Anybody can dig into anybody’s stuff and find stuff.” Uh, okay. But, if you are struggling to keep up with the show because you take exception with Barr’s politics, “then they shouldn’t watch the show.” Helford says the cast and crew “consider ourselves guests in the public’s home and as guests we know that people have the option to turn it off if they don’t want to watch.”
Viewership is down a bit in the second week of the revival—the premiere scored 18.4 million, while the third episode brought in an audience of 15.2 million last night. Whether the red hats lost interest or liberal fans gave up after that premiere is debatable, but THR did ask Helford about Trump taking credit for the premiere’s strong showing in the ratings (“everybody wants to be part of a winner, so everybody sort of jumps in”) and concerns that the show is monetizing Trump’s base (“just keep watching the show”). And when asked if Barr’s social media activity in any way undermines the balance the show is attempting to strike between progressive and conservative viewers, Helford insists “Roseanne Barr and Roseanne Conner both happen to be Trump supporters, [which] has been borne out to be pretty realistic, in terms of the demographics of that area [the Midwest]. But aside from that, there’s a big difference between anyone’s personal politics and what the show is about. They’re not meant to be interrelated in any way.”