While all of the original cast of Roseanne is back for the blockbuster revival, only Lecy Goranson, who originated the role of Roseanne Conner’s oldest daughter, Becky, has the distinction of returning to the show for the second time. Goranson played Becky for the first five seasons of the show before leaving to attend Vassar. She was replaced by Sarah Chalke for seasons six and seven, but returned for season eight, and now, once again, for the show’s tenth season, 11 years after its first run. We got a chance to talk to Goranson minutes after she learned that the series was picked up for an 11th season, after its two-hour premiere clocked a whopping 18 million viewers.
Congratulations on your renewal. How do you feel?
I just feel so excited. You know, I was just spending a few days with my TV family doing press in New York. We love being together. What can I say? We love each other’s company and we have so much fun. This is what we were hoping for. The ratings have been such an unbelievable delight for us. But, in addition, in just a couple days, getting picked up for another season is pretty fantastic.
So are you ready to dedicate all of your life to Roseanne?
I’ve already done that. Well, I guess I had a long break there but I’m used to it. We used to do 20-plus episodes a season, so 12 is not easy, but it’s certainly not the work haul I had as a teenager.
Like you said, the ratings have been huge. What do you think has been behind the popularity of the show coming back?
Well, I think people just relate to things that are authentic. I think that’s what people crave in terms of entertainment. It’s the human condition to feel lonely and confused and maybe disenfranchised, or feeling like you don’t fit in. Our show says, “Hey, we don’t fit in,” and, “We have some big problems.” It’s like catharsis almost, for people to see people who are like them.
What was it like for you the first time you came back onto the set?
It felt like going home to my parents’ house or what I used to feel like when I would step into my grandparents’ house. It was just being totally surrounded by familiarity and of course, I was on set with Michael Fishman and Sara Gilbert, my TV siblings, so there was that feeling of being kids again. Then seeing everybody, all the crew who were back and some of the writers and directors that were back. It reminded me that I had this big family.
This is the second time you’ve come back to the show. How was this time different from the last time?
Well, the last time, I would say things on set were pretty tense. The climate on set these days has been so different. Everyone’s really mellowed with age in a positive way and cultivated parts of themselves that and nurtured parts of themselves. It makes it less intense in terms of the fame elements or the pressure. I feel like everyone can weather the sitcom storm more effectively now.
The first time I came back, I was hoping I would have some kind of resolve from when I left. But I guess I felt like I had already moved on from it.
What did you think was unresolved from the first time you left?
It was like leaving a family, so when you think about what happens when that happens, it’s not just, “Oh, we’ll miss you. Bye.” It’s sadness, it’s loss, it’s frustration. I think rightly so, people were concerned about the show itself and missing such an integral character and energy, so it was all those things. It’s not like I felt guilty going to college. I didn’t feel I made the wrong decision, but maybe I wanted to check in with that other life and revisit it.
This time was totally different. It felt like a clean slate, even with all the familiarity. I just really felt loved and appreciated by everybody. That’s really reflective of the show. Whatever happens with the Conners, they have each other, for better or for worse.
You finally got to share a scene with Sarah Chalke, who played Becky when you were gone. What was it like acting together for the first time?
It was really fun. I mean, Sarah is great. She’s a sweetheart and she has a great sense of humor. Once we were on Amy Schumer together and we went out to dinner afterwards and we talked about our experiences, and I was really curious about her experience after I left and what it was like for her. She was really honest about everything. Because of that, we already had a bond and an understanding of each other and where we were coming from.
How do you think Becky has changed over all of these years since we’ve seen her last?
Well, she’s really tough. I think of her as a very strong woman and I feel like she’s gone through a lot. She’s lost her husband and, as America will see in upcoming weeks, that really took a toll on her. Part of how that has manifested is that she hasn’t really dealt with the pain of it. As a result, she’s a little bit of arrested almost to the time where Mark passed away. I really feel like that happens to people. Facing pain is a very hard thing to do. Sometimes the only way we can move forward in life is if we really face some of that sad stuff, you know?
Has that pain made her a more interesting character to play?
She’s always been a really interesting character. It’s funny because part of the process is the fact that the show is on constantly every day. Sometimes I’ll be clicking through the channels and I’ll see my scrunchy and pink pants run by. Even though Becky is kind of goofy and she’s a little bit of a nerd, she’s always been complex. That’s one of the wonderful things about our show, you get to play a real person with so many different personality traits.
One of my favorite things about the new episode was seeing that the dynamic between Becky and Darlene was exactly the same as when we left them. Did you two just fall right back into that pattern?
That is not only something that is fun for Sara and I, but also Michael Fishman. It’s just classic Roseanne. You’ll see in this season and I imagine in the next season too, because Sara and I really realized what a big part Becky and Darlene’s relationship really is. As adults, they need each other more as people to get through life. They really aren’t happy about that. They’re so used to being at each other’s throats and constantly bickering, then to have to come around and say, “I need you,” let alone, “I love you.”
Since the show started, that’s probably the primary thing I’ve heard from women who come up to me — the relationship between Becky and Darlene is always, “I was Becky and my sister was Darlene,” or “I was Darlene and my sister was Becky.” I hear it all the time and I’ve been hearing it for years.
Roseanne was famous for its Halloween episodes. Are we going to get another Halloween episode?
There are some relics from Halloween past this year, but there’s not a full-throttle Halloween episode. At least from the cast’s point of view, we were wildly disappointed about that. I just don’t know if we could do two seasons without a Halloween episode — it’s not like us.
No, you absolutely cannot! There should be a law.
It’s almost like why even bother without one? I don’t feel that way, it’s not that extreme. Our inside joke with the cast is that the Conners are always poor, but somehow $100,000 dropped from the sky around Halloween so they can have all their candy and their costumes. You know, their makeup artists come.
A lot has been made about the politics of the show and Roseanne being a Trump supporter, both onscreen and in real life. How do you feel about all that political attention surrounding the show?
Well, I actually wrote an article about it. Basically what I said in it is that I disagree with Roseanne’s politics in that regard. I voted for Hillary. I’m a Democrat, but I respect her as a person, and as a feminist and as an American citizen, I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion.
I also think that just because you voted for Trump doesn’t mean you’re a bigot or a racist or someone who hates homosexuals. I don’t feel you can equate a vote to all those other things. To me, the reason some people voted for Trump is because he thought if you were wealthy, he would save you money in taxes, but if you weren’t wealthy, people thought he would get you a job. I don’t think those things have anything to do with bigotry but I feel like we live in a very knee-jerk society where it’s all about soundbites. People like to say, “Roseanne’s a Trump supporter” because they don’t want to say, “Roseanne, who voted for Trump, who disagrees with many of his policies, but agrees with the fact that the working class should have more job security” is not as fun for people.
People are angry. People are clinging to anger. There’s a rigidity on both sides and my argument is our show has always been a source of social dialogue. It’s a reflective show that makes families look and reflect on their own lives, but it’s also about talking about things. Roseanne didn’t want the show to come back to spread her own propaganda. She wanted the show to come back to create a dialogue among these two rigid sides. I know for people who hate Trump, they don’t want to think that someone who voted for him would have that intention, but that’s the truth.
And I think what’s really interesting about the show is that, like you said, it has always been provocative and political.
And she has been.
At least in the first two episodes, a lot of families are struggling with what Roseanne and Jackie are struggling with — that we have these different political ideas, but we still love each other and we’re still family. How do we get past that and how do we go forward with these differences?
Exactly. Whether you’re a liberal or you’re conservative, I just don’t understand how you feel like someone else would understand your point of view if you’re stuck in anger and you’re not open to another view. How could there be progress?
Even for me, people call me and say, “Oh, did you hear that Trump called Roseanne?” and I said, “Yeah, well people call each other.” Who knows what their conversation is? Each little thing is blown up or used towards this anger. I’m not fond of him. I’m not fond of our president. I feel like we could do a lot better. That’s my view, but does that mean I’m furious about the woman who plays my mother on a TV show? No.
This interview has been edited and condensed.