34 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets From The Set Of Roseanne

Any of us who grew up in a working-class family identified with classic ‘90s sitcom Roseanne. The show revolved around Roseanne Barr’s life as a working mother and her average, Midwestern family. Her stories were not glamorous, but her struggles were mighty relatable for most.

The series would go on to run for 222 episodes over a span of nine seasons and become the #1 most-watched television show in 1989. However, things were tumultuous behind the scenes as real-life Roseanne often battled against everyone for full-control. If you’re a huge Roseanne fan, here are some things you never knew about the award-winning series.

34. Roseanne was known for being very ~particular~ backstage.

Roseanne was constantly pulling for creative control during the run of the show. She was allegedly rude and condescending to the writers — going through phases where she referred to them by number instead of name when she felt they became too entitled. (OMG.) She wanted everyone on set to feel like equals, which is interesting because she was so passionate about her vision for the show that she was known for starting fights when she didn’t get her way.

33. Roseanne put up a fight for her choice of actor for DJ.

In the pilot of the show, Roseanne’s on-screen youngest child DJ was played by a different actor than Michael Fishman, who would go on to play him for the duration of the show. Both the network and the production company wanted a different actor, but Roseanne raised hell. Roseanne felt Michael was different than all the other kids that auditioned, and she loved that he actually looked like he could be her son. This was one of the first fights on set between Roseanne and the producers, and she eventually won.

32. Two of the central actors were hired for a specific reason.

Roseanne was known for being a comedian, not an actor. For this reason, the producers were a little worried about her acting chops and felt it best to make sure the supporting cast was quite talented. John Goodman was cast as her husband Dan, and Laurie Metcalf was cast as her sister Jackie. Thankfully, Roseanne had great chemistry with both actors, and it did help improve her acting abilities by having their talents to bounce off of.

31. The show launched some huge careers from behind the scenes.

A few writers got their start on Roseanne and went on to have colossally successful careers. Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Amy Sherman-Palladino (Gilmore Girls), and Chuck Lorre (The Big Bang Theory) all cut their teeth in the Roseanne writing room, which was known for being a notoriously difficult job. Perhaps it was the tough love approach of the Roseanne set that prepped them for such big careers.

30. The Conners didn’t visit The Happiest Place on Earth by choice.

The Conners were known for being cynical, smart-mouthed, and sarcastic, and they hated wholesome family fun. This is why it came as a bit of a shock when the family decided to visit Disney World in the eighth season over a two-episode arc.

As it turns out, Roseanne‘s network, ABC merged with the Walt Disney Company in 1995, making all the channel’s shows feature the parks. This was the same year that Step By Step, Full House, Boy Meets World, and Family Matters all had Disney vacation episodes as well.

29. The Conner house wasn’t even in Illinois.

Since the show takes place in the fictional town of Lanford, Illinois, obviously the exterior shots had to be filmed someplace real. The actual Conner house is located in Evansville, Indiana, which seems totally random until you hear that co-executive producer, Matt Williams grew up there. Perhaps he drew inspiration from the modest Indiana home.

28. There was a good reason for the switching of the two Beckys.

Lecy Goranson played the eldest daughter Becky Conner from the pilot through the fourth season, when Sarah Chalke suddenly took over for most of the remainder of the show. Lecy wanted to attend college, so when she went off to Vassar, Sarah took her place. In the eighth season, they share the role and switch back and forth depending on the episode and the actresses’ schedules. The characters on the show often make jokes about the switch, which is pretty meta.

27. The show was never nominated for its own Emmy.

Despite the booming success of Roseanne, the show itself was never nominated for Best Comedy Series. Though John Goodman was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor for seven years in a row, he never managed to win. Laurie Metcalf, however, won Emmys three years in a row for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

26. There’s a corn motif.

Look closely the next time there’s a Roseanne rerun on TV. If you pay attention, there’s a visual or a reference to corn on every episode. Whether it’s canned corn for dinner, a prominently displayed box of Corn Flakes, or decorative dried corn in the kitchen, it’s always there. Perhaps this is supposed to be a nod to the Midwestern locale of the show.

25. There was a lazy reason for fading out the character of Crystal.

In the early seasons of the show, Roseanne is often hanging out with friend and co-worker, Crystal (played by Natalie West). The writers intended for her to be Rosanne’s main sidekick, but as the show goes on, the character continues to be absent from episodes until she stops appearing altogether. The reason? The writers ultimately preferred writing the dialogue between Roseanne and Jackie. Since they were sisters, the two could be together during most episodes for really no reason at all, making storylines much easier to write.

24. The executive producer finally quit over a specific line in the script.

Right off the bat, Roseanne was prone to arguing with the show’s creator, Matt Williams. Matt lasted thirteen episodes before finally reaching his limit in dealing with Roseanne. After weeks of fighting each other for creative control, he finally quit when Roseanne refused to say, “Well, you’re my equal in bed, but that’s it” to her husband, as it was written in the script. She felt Matt was trying to turn her character into something that was incongruent with her own personality, and she gave him a hard time about it until he ultimately quit.

23. The show originally had a different name.

Matt Williams had wanted to call the show Life and Stuff, as it was meant to be a sitcom ensemble. However, Roseanne saw it differently and wanted the show to be named after her since it was based on her own life. Ultimately, she won the argument, which helped paved the way for a slew of other comedians getting their own namesake shows.

22. The character of Roseanne was meant to be a female Archie Bunker.

The Conner family was based on Roseanne’s own family, just as many aspects of the show were based on her life pre-fame. To enrich the character of Roseanne, she took inspiration from All in the Family’s Archie Bunker. She wanted to be the sharp-tongued and quick-witted head of the household, which she achieved.

21. There’s a literal wardrobe Easter EGG hidden throughout the series.

After Roseanne’s divorce from Tom Arnold in the early ‘90s, she was thrilled to finally be free and regain control over her own show (he had come on as both an actor and writer while they were married). One of the ways she exerted her freedom was by unearthing a piece of clothing he hated — a white t-shirt covered in cartoon roosters and eggs. After their divorce, the shirt can be seen in every episode. It is worn by almost every character, and can often be spotted in the laundry. Despite its frequent appearance, it’s never acknowledged directly on the show.

20. There was a real life “Lanford Lunch Box” restaurant.

On the show, Roseanne, Jackie, their mother, and their friend Nancy open a diner together called the Lanford Lunch Box, famous for its loose-meat sandwiches. While Roseanne and Tom Arnold were married, they decided to open a real version of the fictional diner near his hometown. They called it Roseanne and Tom’s Big Food Diner, and it closed shortly after their divorce.

19. Roseanne fought with the crew but always stood up for the kids.

Everyone on set knew Roseanne could be impossible to deal with. With the actors that played her kids, however, she was a completely different person. After winning her fight for Michael Fishman to get the part of DJ, she went on to fight other battles for the kids as well. When Lecy Goranson wanted to cut her hair between seasons and producers nixed the idea, Roseanne cut Lecy’s hair herself. And when Sara Gilbert, who played Darlene, wanted to go away to college in New York, Roseanne made the writers incorporate her absence into the script and shoot scenes for her remotely so she could still appear when necessary.

18. All of Roseanne’s real-life husbands appeared on the show.

During the show’s nine-season run, Roseanne was married to three different men, all of whom made a guest star appearance on the show. Her first husband, Bill Pentland, appeared during season 1 of Roseanne. Her second husband, Tom Arnold, who was also a producer and writer, appeared in 20 episodes from 1989 – 1993. Lastly, her third husband, Ben Thomas, appeared in a couple of episodes towards the end of the series. Leave it to Roseanne to make sure each of her real-life husbands got some airtime, too!

17. Macaulay Culkin auditioned for the role of DJ.

Can you believe it? Before his – now-infamous – role as Kevin McCallister in both Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Macaulay Culkin auditioned for the role of DJ, which eventually went to Michael Fishman. Producers really considered him, but Roseanne decided against it. “I wanted Michael Fishman because he looked like my family and he was a little Russian boy,” she said during a reunion show. She has a point considering Macaulay is blond haired and blue eyed and Michael is the complete opposite.

16. An animated version of Roseanne exists.

An animated spinoff named Little Rosey aired on TV before ABC canceled the show ahead of its second season. It was actually pretty adorable! The show revolved around the adventures of an 8-year-old Roseanne, her sister Tess, and best friend Buddy. Although it was short-lived (only 13 episodes), it had very high ratings. So why was it canceled? Roseanne believes it had something to do with her terrible rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1990.

15. There was a slew of now-famous celebrities who guest starred on the show.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tobey Maguire and George Clooney all appeared on Roseanne pre-fame! How cool that they all grew up to be successful actors, one of which has an Oscar under his belt. Leo played Darlene’s home-ec classmate (on the episode “Home-Ec”), Joseph played DJ’s friend George on four episodes in Season 4, and Tobey appeared in season 3 as a high-schooler named Jeff (in the episode “Valentine’s Day”). Meanwhile, George’s role as Roseanne’s boss from 1990-1991 was one his very first major acting roles.

14. Roseanne and Tom Arnold got into an argument with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

Wait… what? Julia Louis-Dreyfus wasn’t even on the show. She wasn’t, but the set of both Seinfeld and Roseanne were right next to each other. Apparently, Julia unknowingly parked in Tom’s spot, so he decided to leave her a rude note. Julia, Larry David, and Jason Alexander then confronted Tom about it, which led to Roseanne’s involvement. Long story short, it all ended up blowing over.

13. Roseanne was one of the first shows to feature an openly gay character.

Roseanne was ahead of its time! Although ABC wasn’t too crazy about the idea, Roseanne made sure to let the world know that everyone was the same no matter their sexual orientation. Also, her brother and sister are gay in real life and the show was about her life, right? So, the comedian had one of the show’s main characters, Nancy Bartlett (played by Sandra Bernhard), come out in the episode “Ladies Choice.” She even locks lips with Roseanne! Until this day, fans still consider the show to be one of the first to say that being gay is okay.

12. Johnny Galecki’s character initially had a different name.

David had a different name!? He sure did. When Johnny Galecki‘s character first appeared on Roseanne, his name was Kevin. However, the next time he appeared as Darlene’s boyfriend, his name had been changed. Obviously, the change was never mentioned, however, Roseanne did manage to poke fun of it during a later episode. While speaking about Darlene’s controlling behavior, Roseanne yells, “David’s not even his real name, Darlene made it up!”

11. David Never Referred to Roseanne by Name on the Show.

Speaking of David… despite the fact that he appears in 93 episodes of the show, he never actually calls the titular character by her first name. Just a weird little fact! He refers to Dan and Roseanne as “Mr. and Mrs. Conner” every time. Mark, on the other hand, calls them by their first names.

10. Two How I Met Your Mother stars made cameos on the show.

Before starring in How I Met Your Mother together, both Neil Patrick and Alyson Hanigan made cameos on Roseanne. Now famous for their roles as Barney Stinson and Lily Aldrin, the two knew they had more in common than just getting the part on the CBS sitcom. Neil appeared as Doogie Howser in season 4 (crossover!), while Lily played Becky’s friend in season 3.

9. On the episode “Deliverance,” there’s a major goof.

Roseanne had a couple continuity errors and filming goofs throughout the series, including several shots where the boom falls into view. But perhaps the biggest one is on “Deliverance” when you can see the crew through a reflection in the diner. That just goes to show that everyone makes mistakes.

8. Roseanne earned big bucks during the show’s final season.

Roseanne earned $650,000 per episode during the show’s final season – and that was back in 1997, so you can imagine how much money that was. Today, Johnny Galecki earns $1 million per episode of The Big Bang Theory, which makes Roseanne’s earnings at the time a big achievement. Not bad for a woman who based her show on the struggles of being a blue-collar mom.

7. Jerry Garcia was initially supposed to be a girl.

Roseanne made quite a few last minute changes, huh? In season 7, Roseanne and Dan announced that they were expecting a baby girl. That’s why when he was born a boy, some people were confused. A lot of fans thought they changed the baby’s gender to pay tribute to the Grateful Dead singer who passed away around that time. Although that was technically why they chose the name Jerry Garcia, it’s not why they made him a boy. It’s because Roseanne had a baby boy in real life, so she decided she wanted her show to reflect her actual life. Hence, the switch up!

6. The sitcom almost went to another network.

ABC wasn’t the first network to be offered Roseanne. It turns out that producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner pitched the show to NBC, who rejected it. ABC later picked it up, but funny enough, it wasn’t the first time that ABC and NBC shared rejected sitcoms. ABC passed on The Cosby Show and 3rd Rock From the Sun, both of which went on to be incredibly successful shows. Luckily, ABC played it smart and stuck with Roseanne, which stayed on top for nine seasons.

5. Season 9 was considered the worst season of the series.

The show had high rating every season, except the last. Season 9 was the only one that was not included in the top 20 rated shows. Fans of the series thought it was a huge letdown. Not to mention that the finale was awful, too, despite Roseanne’s efforts get it right. Unfortunately, people weren’t crazy about Roseanne and her family winning over $100 million on the lottery and the storylines that followed suit.

4. Laurie Metcalf fell in love with Matt Roth on the show.

After appearing in season 5 as Jackie’s abusive, younger boyfriend, Laurie Metcalf and Matt Roth hit it off! However, their on-screen romance was nothing like their real-life relationship. The couple eventually got married and had three children together. Unfortunately, they separated in 2008 and finalized their divorce in 2011.

3. Grey’s Anatomy‘s Dr. Richard Webber appeared in 19 episodes.

Long before he played hospital chief Dr. Richard Webber on ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, James Pickens Jr. appeared on Roseanne from 1990 to 1996. He played the role of Chuckie Mitchell, Dan’s friend and the husband of Anne-Marie Mitchell. He’s definitely come a long way!

2. This is what “happened” to Roseanne and her family after the show ended.

Years after the show was over, the real Roseanne shared a blog post, describing what happens to her fictional-ish self and family after the series wrapped up. “D.J. gets published, Mark dies in Iraq, David leaves Darlene for a woman half his age, Darlene meets a woman and they have a test tube baby, Becky works at Walmart, Roseanne and Jackie open the first medical marijuana dispensary in Lanford, Illinois, and pay off the mortgage before the house is foreclosed on, Arnie becomes the best friend of the Governor of Illinois, Mom sells a painting for ten grand, Nancy and Arnie remarry, Jerry and the grandsons form a band like the Jonas Brothers, Dan shows up alive after faking his death, Leon has a sex change op, [and] Bonnie gets busted for selling crack,” she wrote in post titled “Reunion Show.” We dare you to try to read that aloud in one breath!

1. A Roseanne reboot is happening… with the whole cast returning!

Okay, if you’re a fan of the show then you know this already. But since we’re in the era of reboots, it was the perfect idea to bring back Roseanne — and the fact that the whole cast is coming back is even better! All of our faves, including Roseanne, John Goodman (Dan), Sara Gilbert (Darlene), Laurie Metcalf (Jackie), Michael Fishman (DJ) and Lecy Goranson (Becky) are coming back. Although we don’t have an exact date, the revival season is set to air on ABC in 2018.

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