Interviews

Fan Fest Exclusive Interview: Michael Fishman Discusses the Road to the ‘Roseanne’ Revival Season

ROSEANNE - ABC's "Roseanne" stars Michael Fishman as D.J. Conner. (ABC/Robert Trachtenberg)

Thirty years ago this year, the legendary sitcom Roseanne graced our television screens for the very first time.  Now, the entire Conner family is back for an epic revival season which fans are going to love!

We recently had the pleasure of chatting with series star Michael Fishman who will be reprising his role as D.J. Conner on the upcoming revival season of Roseanne.  We spoke with him about returning to the iconic sitcom after all these years and what fans can look forward to from this new season ahead.

Photo: Bjoern Kommerell

Denise Caputo: First and foremost, congratulations on the Roseanne revival! Personally, I was a huge fan of the series back in its first run.  I used to watch it every week with my family, and I’ve had the privilege to preview the first couple of episodes. It’s fantastic, absolutely fantastic!  Before we get into talking about the revival, let’s talk a little bit about the original series. How did you get involved with the series at such a young age?

Michael Fishman: My sister had started trying to earn money for college. She is one of those forward thinkers who think long-term. When she was young, she was already picturing college, and she’s only two years older than me! She started going out for commercial auditions because someone told her she was cute. I went with her and decided I’d like to try it. It was 1988, and there was a writer strike. There weren’t a lot of auditions or work, and that’s when the audition for Roseanne came up.

My parents didn’t want me to do anything long-term. They were only okay with me doing commercials because they could rearrange their work schedules for a day or two. The audition for Roseanne came up and the agent said, “Well, he’ll never get it. They want somebody with experience, but you could just take him.  It would be a good experience because there aren’t a lot of auditions and he just got started.” I went to the very first audition and just knew. I started calling it my job, and my parents were horrified. Then, there were seven auditions spanning six months. It was a long process.  What we didn’t know is that they had already shot a pilot and it was for 13-episodes going straight into the show. At the second audition, I met Roseanne. She and I just hit it off from that first moment and she pushed for me. The network wanted another kid and the production company wanted another kid.  I’m the first thing she ever won, and it’s changed my life.

DC: Wow. That’s cool. You guys hit it off from the second that you were on set? Did that type of feeling carry over to the new episodes that you filmed for the revival as well?

MF: Yeah! It’s funny because Roseanne has continued to be an instrumental part of my life. From that first audition where she pushed for me, to make me feel at home on the set, and then she and I have worked a lot together over the years. I’ve been involved in a lot of her projects after the original show. I worked on her talk show, on the technical side. I did a lot of behind-the-scenes work in between the old show and the current show. So, I’ve worked on her talks shows, I’ve worked on bits and pieces for her reality shows, and she did some kid music videos. I’ve become a default family member that they call in when they need help and need an extra set of hands.

Photo: ABC/Robert Trachtenberg

DC: When you first heard about the possibility of a Roseanne revival, what was going through your head? What did you think about it, and was it an easy decision for you to say, “Yes, I want to do this”?

MFSara Gilbert contacted me, and our very first conversation was early on.  She asked me, “What do you think about this idea?” And, “do you think other people would be interested?” And, “would you be interested?” For me, I’ve kept in contact with everybody and I’ve known Roseanne has always had ideas about things she would like to address if given the opportunity. I knew there was some interest on her part and then to hear Sara putting things together – then, when she came back to me and asked if I was interested, I thought, “if everybody’s in, there’s no way you could not be in.”

DC: Right. And everybody was in?

MF: Yeah, everybody pretty much jumped at the chance to get back together. It’s a unique experience because we’re all still friends and we’ve kept in contact through the years. In my case, being the young guy in the group the first time around, I tried hard to stay in contact with everybody. I’ve seen and have talked with everybody all the way through the gap between the two shows, so it’s amazing. It feels a lot like we didn’t take any time off. It feels like there was a big hiatus and it was a break, not like we’ve been gone for years.

DC: Going back to you being the youngest on the show, you did essentially grow up on the show with this other TV family in your life. What was that like, and then what was it like now coming back as an adult all these years later?

MF: It was incredible growing up on the set. For me, I had such a great experience. I was lucky because I feel like our cast, crew, writers and all of the staff who worked on the show embraced me. I was always fascinated by what everybody did and I kind of everybody’s little brother or cousin. It felt like I had a couple hundred extra aunts and uncles. It was really lucky for me. They took a great personal interest in me, so being that kid and having a good experience, especially when you hear of other people in this business sometimes who don’t have as good an experience, I’m very uniquely aware of just how fantastic mine was and just how much I enjoyed it. I think a big part of it is choices.

Now, coming back as an adult, it’s really funny because I feel this desire and responsibility to make sure that it’s that same kind of experience for the kids who are on the show now. I’ve tried hard to connect with Ames [McNamara who plays Darlene’s son Mark] and Jayden [Ray who plays D.J.’s daughter Mary] and even reached out to Emma [Kenney who plays Darlene’s daughter Harris] a little bit, even though she’s an adult. Having these kids on the show, it’s my job to make sure that transition is good and positive for them.

DC: That’s so great of you. That’s solid of you to take on that responsibility.

MF: Well, it’s important. I felt like that was an important part of my enjoyment and I feel that as a person, developmentally, that was important. I’m hoping I’m doing a good job of that as an adult.

DC: If they haven’t complained yet, I think it’s safe to say that you’re doing a good job.

MF: (laughs) Well, so far so good then.

Photo: ABC/Adam Rose

DC: That’s good! Now, I did get to see the first few episodes of the new season and I loved them. Part of the show’s charm has always been its approach to dealing with topical, and even at times controversial, content but, at its core, it has always been about family values, love, and heart. That very much carries over into the new season. With all that in mind, why do you think in this day-and-age, right now, this year, it’s the right time for Roseanne revival to come out?

MF: There was something unique in 1988 when we came out the first time. There were a lot of people in the middle of the country in particular, but all the way across the country too, that were struggling. There was a transition, economically, in the country and a transition in technology too. Right now, we’re experiencing almost the same kind of thing. Technology has advanced so much, and now we’re dealing with smartphones and social media and all these different contexts that bring people together, but we’re not having as many authentic and honest conversations, particularly in media.

That’s where the show has always been brave, starting from Roseanne and all the way through the writers and producers. That’s always been the goal – to be brave and to be painfully honest.  I’m proud of the new show. We have a benefit, unlike other shows that are trying to go back and re-create something they had in the past because we know each other so well. We have 30 years of history with each other, 30 years of friendship. We don’t have to go back and dwell on those things. We just get to move forward. It makes the show timely and fans are going to get to know 30 years of history very much like they would with their real family. To see Sara [Gilbert] and Lecy [Goranson] play Darlene and Becky as adults and my interactions with them. To see siblings as adults now that were once kids, and to see Roseanne and Dan Conner now as grandparents. It adds a special, extra layer to the show.

Photo: ABC/Adam Rose

DC: In the revival season, your character D.J. has just returned home with his daughter after spending some time in the Armed Forces with his wife remaining overseas. What else can you tell us about your character and how he has changed for the new season? Can you tease anything about what we can expect to see D.J. go through in this new season?

MF: I think people are going to be a little surprised by D.J.’s reactions to things. He’s gone through a lot and you’ll see how that is impacting him. He’s finding himself as a dad. One of the really exciting things about my character is that he’s the one that can change the most because I was so young when the show ended. It left this open place for the writers to take different paths. John [Goodman] and I have a great scene in the garage in one of the episodes talking about trying to be a dad and some of the frustration over trying to get back into regular society when you’re a veteran and returning. Those are very real things that you just don’t see a lot in the media. I feel really lucky that I get the opportunity to have that, and anytime you get to pair off one-on-one with John Goodman, that’s a pretty epic opportunity for any actor.

DC: Absolutely! So, here at Fan Fest News, we celebrate things that we love and that we’re fans of in pop culture whether it’s music, film, television, books, etc. Right now, in today’s pop culture, what are some things that you fanboy over? What do you love about today’s pop culture?

MF: Oh, my goodness. (laughs) With all of the cable channels that are now up and running, there are so many good and exciting shows.  Then you add in Netflix and Hulu!  We’re at an amazing time for creativity. Shows are so different now. You can be bold and daring. It’s even funny, the things we couldn’t say back in the day with Roseanne that we can say now. There are times when I’ll look at a script I think, “Oh, okay. Yeah, we can say that now!” (laughs) Our standards and practices would have been all over us in the past.

For me, I’m a big sci-fi fan. I don’t know if people realize, but on the original Roseanne show, we had DC comic books on the table in the family room. I grew up reading about the DC comic characters and I was a big comic book fan including Marvel and all of those universes. It’s appealing to me to see them now on the big screen. Not to mention, there are just so many great shows out there!  There are all the super popular ones like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. There are just so many epic things on right now. There are almost too many things to geek out about. I’m a video gamer too, so I find myself just trying to keep up. My kids smoke me in video games now, and that’s kind of frustrating for me. (laughs)

DC: That’s what happens. It comes full circle.  In addition to Roseanne, are there any other upcoming projects or anything that you’re working on that you’d like to share with our readers?

MF: I’ve been doing a lot of writing over the last couple of years, and I have a bunch of projects that we’re pitching and seeing if we can sell to networks. Some are a little more altruistic and some are a lot more drama, probably than people would expect from me. That’s the beauty of life and as you grow and develop, other things take your interest. There will be things that will come out and I’m going to continue to work because this is what I love to do.

DC: Great! Lastly, is there anything else that you’d like to tell your fans about the upcoming season of Roseanne?

MF: Yes.  People should come with an open mind. Bring your kids and your family, because I think it’s one of the few shows that everybody can watch and laugh about together. Don’t be surprised if we push your buttons a little bit, and if ideas get challenged. The show will definitely do what it’s always done which is push boundaries and start conversations.

Photo: ABC/Robert Trachtenberg

Thank you, Michael Fishman, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us here at Fan Fest News! We can’t wait to see more of the Roseanne revival season!  In the meantime, you can check out our spoiler-free advance review HERE.

In addition to Fishman, the revival season of Roseanne will reunite the original cast including Roseanne Barr (Roseanne), John Goodman (Dan), Laurie Metcalf (Jackie) and Sara Gilbert (Darlene), and Lecy Goranson (Becky).  Fans can expect guest appearances by Sarah Chalke (the second Becky), Estelle Parsons (Beverly Harris), Sandra Bernhard (Nancy Bartlett), Natalie West (Crystal Anderson) and more.  In addition to starring in the series, Barr and Gilbert will be executive producing along with Bruce Helford and Tom Werner.

Roseanne will premiere on ABC with a special hour-long episode airing on March 27th at 8 PM.  Each following episode will be a half hour long and will also air at 8 PM on Tuesday nights – the same timeslot the original series ran in through the final two and a half seasons.

Are you excited about the Roseanne revival season?  Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

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A karaoke junkie, craft beer enthusiast and lover of all things pop culture, Denise enjoys all facets of entertainment from Broadway to box office blockbusters. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, concerts (lots and lots of concerts), volunteering, reading and playing with her rescue kitten, Samantha (who rescued who, right?). Denise currently resides in New York and is honored to be a part of the Fan Fest News team!