ABC president Channing Dungey is speaking out on Roseanne Barr.
During interviews with various outlets at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Dungey opened up about pulling the plug on the “Roseanne” revival following Barr’s racist tweet directed at Barack Obama’s former White House adviser, Valerie Jarrett, in June.
When asked by The Hollywood Reporter how difficult it was to cancel TV’s No. 1 comedy, she said “it wasn’t that difficult,” because “it felt like a line had been crossed and we needed to stand by our values as a company.”
“It’s not a secret that she has had a tendency in the past to be sort of outspoken and go off-book,” Dungey explained. “We’ve had multiple conversations about wanting to keep the focus on the show and not to let some of the other stuff eclipse the show. So, in some ways, this was a last straw. But it was also such an egregious tweet that it felt like no matter what, there would have been some action that we would have taken.”
“[The decision] was actually made very swiftly, and what I’m going to have to say is that it was nice that it was so clear to everyone that there wasn’t a lot of debate and discussion about it,” she added, in an interview with Deadline. “We knew what we wanted to do, and we did it. For us, we have had multiple instances with Roseanne, and certainly this tweet crossed the line that cannot be crossed, but it was for us a sense of enough is enough and something had to be done.”
While Dungey felt that canceling the show was the best decision at the time, she admits it was “disappointing” to think about what would happen to the rest of the cast and crew. Luckily, the idea of “The Conners” — a spinoff show featuring the original cast, minus Barr — was developed quickly and ordered to series at ABC just a few weeks later.
“What I’m so thrilled about is that we were able to bring the whole cast back and most of the crew to work on “The Conners”, so that feels like a real victory,” Dungey explained. “Literally the next day I was on the phone with [executive producer] Tom Werner, and he was asking whether we would be open to the idea, and about a week later, I was on the phone with Tom and [fellow executive producers] Bruce Helford and Sara Gilbert, talking about the general shape of what they might want to try to do, and we had a real conversation in another week or two after they had time to break it out. But it was one of those ideas that they came in with [a clear intention to make it work]. I was very excited about the idea of keeping people working, and I also thought there were more stories in that universe in Lanford for us to tell.”
“What I can tell you is that, thematically, we will be focusing on a lot of the same themes that we were in the first nine episodes — what it’s like today for a family to make ends meet in a world where they might be going into foreclosure, where work is scarce, where there are a lot of different challenges in terms of raising children as a single parent,” she continued. “All these issues are going to still be at the forefront.”
And when asked if she thinks the “Roseanne” spinoff will be successful without Barr, Dungey gave an honest response: “Obviously remains to be seen.”
“I have seen three outlines for the new season, and I’m really encouraged by the creative material and what we wanted to do is, we wanted to be able to put a lens on a certain type of working class family in America which we are still able to do,” she said. “I’m excited about it. I think the audience will be too.”
In another interview with The Wrap, Dungey revealed that although she’s seen three outlines for “The Conners”, she has yet to see a script. She also said that production will begin at the end of August.
Hear more on “The Conners” in the video below.
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