October 05, 2018 08:20 AM

As they prepare for the premiere of their Roseanne spin-off, The Conners, Sara Gilbert, John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf are grateful to their former costar, Roseanne Barr, for allowing the show to proceed without her.

“That was a very big deal,” Goodman, 66, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “To give us a chance.”

Barr agreed to have no involvement with the spin-off after the hit Roseanne reboot was canceled by ABC in May following a racist comment she made about a former White House advisor.

Jeff Lipsky

While the new show will address the absence of Barr’s character, who reportedly will be killed off, in a manner befitting the original series, the loss has been a process for the cast both on-screen and off.

“Sara and I had this scene in the first show where we addressed the grief,” recalls Metcalf, 63. “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.”

  • For more of the exclusive interview with Gilbert, Goodman and Metcalf — including behind-the-scenes photos — pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
Jeff Lipsky

Although none of them have spoken to Barr since her tweet in May, both Gilbert and Metcalf have reached out to the comedian but haven’t heard back “yet,” says Metcalf.

Gilbert, 43, hopes any sadness the cast feels will be channeled “in an honest way into the show,” she adds. “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.”

Eric McCandless/ABC

RELATED VIDEO: ABC Announces Roseanne Spinoff Without Roseanne Barr 3 Weeks After Revival’s Cancellation

In a new promo for the series, Gilbert and Metcalf’s characters are seen in the kitchen discussing the upcoming holidays.

“I thought we should talk about a game plan for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas,” says Metcalf’s Jackie.

“Oh, I say we follow the Conners’ traditions and spend every dime we have on Halloween and have nothing to be thankful for or buy gifts with,” replies Gilbert’s Darlene.

Jeff Lipsky

Now the cast is hopeful fans will tune in to see the Lanford, Illinois-based family reacting “to what’s missing but everything else is pretty much the same,” Goodman says. “There was a debt owed to this fictional family. We want to finish telling this story.”

The Conners debuts Oct. 16 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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