Pasadena, Calif. • Almost three decades after she exploded into sitcom stardom, Salt Lake City native Roseanne Barr is back — older, perhaps wiser and seemingly more mellow as ABC prepares to revive “Roseanne” for a nine-episode run.
She’d pretty much have to be calmer this time around. From 1988-97, her battles with the show’s writers and network executives were legendary. She screamed. She fired people. She ranted to the press.
“It was really hard … 30 years ago,” Barr said. “It was very difficult at the time. And, looking back, I was kind of in there alone. There were a lot of battles.”
Things have changed with the revival.
“Oh my God, it’s like night and day,” Barr said. “I have nothing but support. It’s just such a relief.”
She’s mostly a kinder, gentler Roseanne. Back in 1988, Barr harbored considerable resentment against the people in her hometown. Speaking to members of the Television Critics Association, she referred to Mormons as “the Nazi Amish.”
She’s considerably less combative today.
“I’ve grown up,” she said. “I’m a grandmother now. I have six grandchildren. And I’m 65 years old. And I’m so happy that I have Medicaid. Or is it Medicare? I mix them up.
“But, yeah, I think that I’ve mellowed … but I think everybody who hits 65 is more mellow than they were in their 40s.”
Executive producer Bruce Helford attributed the change, in part, to the fact that “she’s in a relationship that she’s very happy with.” (She’s been with boyfriend Johnny Argent since 2003.) “She’s older. I think she’s deeper and richer and wiser and all those things.”
Barr didn’t take any shots at Utah when she appeared before the TCA earlier this week, but the session was not without sparks.
In the first of the new episodes (which begin airing Tuesday, March 27), we learn that Roseanne and Jackie have been estranged since the 2016 election because of Roseanne’s support for Donald Trump — which mirrors Barr’s real-life support for the president. But Barr tried to deflect questions about her politics and her fictional counterpart’s political views, dragging Helford into the discussion.
Sara Gilbert, who’s an executive producer in addition to starring as Roseanne’s daughter Darlene, jumped into the fray, offering platitudes about how love can overcome politics. Michael Fishman, who stars as Roseanne’s son, D.J., pretty much did the same.
Eventually, Barr explained, “I have always attempted to portray a realistic portrait of the American people and of working-class people. And, in fact, it was working-class people who elected Trump. So I felt that, yeah, that was very real, and something that needed to be discussed.”
Barr created controversy last year with her passionate defense of Trump on Twitter. But, as the return of “Roseanne” approaches, she’s no longer online.
“Actually, it was my children took my Twitter password away from me,” she said, “which is kind of disturbing, because there’s so much going on this week. But I did not want it to overshadow the show, so I’m taking a little bit of a break.”
Barr insisted she is “not a Trump apologist” and acknowledged that he “says a lot of crazy [expletive].” She also pointed to a report indicating unemployment among African-Americans is down. “That’s a great way to fight racism, is for everybody to have a good job.”
Like taking her off Twitter, there was a concerted effort to keep Barr from saying anything controversial in front of the TCA audience.
“Speaking of racism,” she said, “I mean, I’m just going to say it.”
“Uh, are you sure?” Gilbert interrupted.
“Thank you and good night, everybody,” interjected executive producer Whitney Cummings.
Barr could not be dissuaded. “I appreciate your concern, but I am going to say that a large part of why I could not vote for Hillary Clinton is because Haiti,” she said.
“And we’re out of time,” said the ABC publicist moderating the interview.
Barr apparently was referring to a discredited conspiracy theory that, as secretary of state, Clinton worked to lower Haiti’s minimum wage as part of a larger plan to benefit the Clinton Foundation.
Even the kinder, gentler Roseanne Barr just can’t avoid controversy.