In September, Roseanne Barr said of the spin-off, 'I’m not going to curse it or bless it'

By Emily Zauzmer and Natalie Stone
October 16, 2018 09:56 PM

Roseanne Barr spoke out about The Conners on Tuesday after the spin-off of her canceled Roseanne reboot premiered without the franchise’s former star.

In the premiere, the Conner family addressed Barr’s absence in the opening scene. As the family gathered in the kitchen mourning the loss of “Granny Rose” three weeks after her death, a concerned Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) asked to speak to Dan (John Goodman) alone outside.

While the family initially thought she suffered a heart attack in her sleep, they find out Roseanne died of an opiate overdose.

During the episode’s airing, Barr, who won’t appear in the spin-off, addressed her character’s death.

“I AIN’T DEAD, BITCHES!!!!” she tweeted.

She later put out a longer, more eloquent joint statement with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach regarding the show’s spin-off and decision to kill off her character.

Boteach, who bills himself as “America’s Rabbi,” is best known for his high-profile connection to Michael Jackson, to whom he served as a spiritual adviser. He has also been connected to former reality star Jon Gosselin.

“While we wish the very best for the cast and production crew of The Conners, all of whom are deeply dedicated to their craft and were Roseanne’s cherished colleagues, we regret that ABC chose to cancel Roseanne by killing off the Roseanne Conner character,” the statement began.

“That it was done through an opioid overdose lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show.”

“This was a choice the network did not have to make. Roseanne was the only show on television that directly addressed the deep divisions threatening the very fabric of our society. Specifically, the show promoted the message that love and respect for one another’s personhood should transcend differences in background and ideological discord,” they continued.

Roseanne Barr and Sara Gilbert
| Credit: Adam Rose/ABC/Getty Images

“The show brought together characters of different political persuasions and ethnic backgrounds in one, unified family, a rarity in modern American entertainment. Above all else, the show celebrated a strong, matriarchal woman in a leading role, something we need more of in our country,” the joint statement continued.

“Through humor and a universally relatable main character, the show represented a weekly teaching moment for our nation. Yet it is often following an inexcusable – but not unforgivable – mistake that we can discover the most important lesson of all: Forgiveness.”

“After repeated and heartfelt apologies, the network was unwilling to look past a regrettable mistake, thereby denying the twin American values of both repentance and forgiveness. In a hyper-partisan climate, people will sometimes make the mistake of speaking with words that do not truly reflect who they are. However, it is the power of forgiveness that defines our humanity.”

“Our society needs to heal on many levels. What better way for healing than a shared moment, once a week, where we could have all enjoyed a compelling storyline featuring a witty character – a woman – who America connected with, not in spite of her flaws, but because of them. The cancellation of Roseanne is an opportunity squandered due in equal parts to fear, hubris, and a refusal to forgive.”

In May, Barr, 65, wrote a racist, since-deleted post about Barack Obama‘s former adviser Valerie Jarrett. Barr tweeted, “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj,” and she retweeted a number of conspiracy theories.

In the aftermath of the tweet, ABC dropped the revival of Roseanne, which was the no. 1 scripted series of the season. “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment, said in a statement.

During the fallout, Barr claimed that she was using Ambien that caused her to tweet and that she did not know that Jarrett is black.

Weeks after the cancellation of Roseanne, PEOPLE confirmed that ABC was moving forward with a spinoff for a 10-episode, straight-to-series order. The Conners, which Barr has no involvement in, started production in August.

Roseanne Barr
| Credit: Vera Anderson/WireImage

In September, Barr said on the Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Podcast of the spinoff, “I’m not going to curse it or bless it.”

RELATED VIDEO: Sara Gilbert, John Goodman & Laurie Metcalf Speak Out Together for First Time Since Roseanne Barr’s Offensive Tweet

She continued, “I’m staying neutral. That’s what I do. I’m staying neutral. I’m staying away from it. Not wishing bad on anyone, and I don’t wish good for my enemies. I don’t. I can’t. I just stay neutral. That’s what I gotta do. I have some mental health issues of depression and stuff. I got to stay in the middle or I’ll go dark, and I don’t want to go dark again. I’ve done it. After all, I was married to Tom Arnold.”

Barr said that she would be in Israel during the premiere. “I have an opportunity to go to Israel for a few months and study with my favorite teachers over there, and that’s where I’m going to go and probably move somewhere there and study with my favorite teachers,” she said. “I have saved a few pennies and I’m so lucky I can go.”

In October, Sara Gilbert, Goodman and Metcalf opened up to PEOPLE about Barr’s absence in the spin-off.

“We have to react to what’s missing, but everything else is pretty much the same,” Goodman said.

Roseanne Barr and John Goodman
| Credit: Adam Rose/ABC/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

“It was awkward but not awkward,” Metcalf said of the first day on the set of The Conners. “It was right but not right, wrong but not wrong. We were sort of looking at each other like, ‘How do you feel? How is everybody?’ Checking in.”

“Sara and I had this scene in the first show where we addressed the grief,” Metcalf continued. “Sometimes when you’re an actor and you have to go to that place, you substitute something, but in this case there was no need to do that, because it was there. And it was real. And still makes me choke up, because that part of it’s been really hard.”

“Any sadness that we feel over what we’ve lost we’re hopefully channeling in an honest way into the show,” Gilbert said. “And our show has always been able to deal with heavy topics, particularly for a sitcom. It’s been kind of built into the mix.”