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The Conners Star Michael Fishman Talks Life After Roseanne, Norman Lear, and More

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As The Conners returns for its second season on ABC tonight, the beloved family is continuing to move on through life following the loss of their beloved family matriarch, Roseanne (Roseanne Barr).

Tonight’s episode features Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) taking a more paternal role in light of Emilio’s (Rene Rosado) deportation; first up, is a plan to create a detailed birth plan for pregnant Becky (Alicia Goranson). Meanwhile, Darlene (Sara Gilbert) is caught in a complex triangle with David (Johnny Galecki) and Ben (Jay R. Ferguson).

Entertainment Hub caught up with series regular Michael Fishman (D.J.) at the recent ABC summer TV press party to talk about what it’s like doing the series without Barr (who once appeared on General Hospital), meeting legendary Norman Lear (All in the Family; Maude; Good Times), rumors D.J. might be gay, and more! Read on to get the scoop!

What’s it like doing the show without Roseanne?

It’s a really interesting thing. We’ve all felt a need to honor all the stuff that she’s done. It’s complex. I don’t think anyone understands the full grasp of it. We’ve all loved someone or cared for someone who said or did something we didn’t agree with. And you don’t forget all the good of the person and you don’t condemn everything they’ve ever done.

That’s an area that we’ve all been honest about. We all have a lot of affection for Roseanne. I admire her. That being said, there were parts that I wasn’t okay with… Life is complex. People are never all one thing.

What was it like meeting Norman Lear at the ABC summer TV critics press party?
It was a dream come true. We were talking about nothing being off-limits [for stories on shows] and no idea is outside of parameters. Once you establish that, you can hone in on how issues affect society. I’m socially aware in my writing. It’s important to me to follow that guideline.

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Were the writers going to reveal D.J. is gay?
There was a rumor going around that between Seasons 7 and 8 of the original Roseanne run that my character may be revealed as gay. As someone who grew up in show business, I knew a lot of gay people so, for me, it was a non-issue, but for D.J. it would [be a journey].

Roseanne called [me] to let me know they weren’t doing that, but that the show would be touching on subjects that are real. That’s the beauty of the show. We’re eternally grateful to our fans for being such advocates for the show and also to ABC to not have it end abruptly. It’s important for both the legacy of the show and the progress we’ve made socially. We don’t want to lose any of our traction.

What keeps you busy during hiatus?

[My writing partner and I wrote] four comedy pilots, two dramas, and some movies. I’m getting ready to direct a couple of shorts. I have two kids – a 19-year-old and a 16-year-old. I became a parent at 18 and was lucky in that I had a lot of really great adults in my life. I’m also a travel softball coach. I spent the summer helping kids chase their dreams.

Might the issue of parental caretaking eventually come up on The Conners?
I know that Roseanne at one point had pushed that with the character of Bev (Estelle Parsons). There’s a dynamic that could or should become an issue. Dan’s not the only adult male in this family. He has support. But there are new dynamics. One of the pilots I’m writing is about older parents who end up taking care of their grandchildren. [The Conners airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.]

Video Credit: Law&Order:SVU

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