(KGET) — The pandemic has had a dramatic effect on “The Connors.” It started with the cast and crew of the ABC comedy going back to work under strict safety guidelines after the quarantine shut down productions. And it continues with the world’s battle with COVID-19 coming to the small community of Lanford. Storylines for the third season will look at how the Conner family is dealing with the pandemic.
The season opener at 9 p.m. Oct. 21 on ABC starts with the future of their iconic home hanging in the balance. This means that the Conners must come together stronger than ever to help each other through some of the toughest times they have faced. And this is a family that has dealt with everything from parenthood and pregnancy to financial and family pressures during the past two seasons.
Executive producer Bruce Helford points out dealing with a pandemic makes sense for the series. Facing family problems has been the cornerstone of the series since it was called “Roseanne” when it launched in 1988.
“The characters were built for disaster, and we’ve been following their life and their trials through all the things that have been going on since the 1980s,” Helford says. “It just seemed natural that we would be in the middle of this and do it.
“I know there are a lot of shows that probably aren’t going to be reflecting what’s really going on, but we felt that it was an obligation to our viewers and to stay relevant and to show them what it’s like for a family that knows how to get through hard times but is thrown a curve like never before.”
Telling the pandemic world stories falls to the cast that includes John Goodman as Dan Conner, Laurie Metcalf as Jackie Harris, Sara Gilbert as Darlene Conner, Lecy Goranson as Becky Conner-Healy, Michael Fishman as D.J. Conner, Emma Kenney as Harris Conner-Healy, Ames McNamara as Mark Conner-Healy, Jayden Rey as Mary Conner and Jay R. Ferguson as Ben. They have been carrying the load since Roseanne Barr’s association with the show ended two years ago.
Along with all the safety protocols put in place to deal with because of the pandemic, the cast had to adjust to a very different performing environment. The series has been shot in front of a studio audience in the past but that wasn’t the case for this third season because of safety precautions.
Sara Gilbert, who is also an executive producer on “The Conners,” explains that there were long discussions about whether or not to have a studio audience.
“We feel that the risks aren’t worth the benefits even if we’re testing people. We’re just dealing with safety issues. And as an actor, I can feel insecure or feel like it affects my performance, but the producers swear it doesn’t,” Gilbert says.
It wasn’t an easy decision for the actors to come back to work. Metcalf felt nervous the first day but that quickly passed after she say the safety precautions that had been taken. The more she talked with her fellow cast members and the crew, the more Metcalf realized how seriously everyone was taking the safety precautions.
Just like with most people, the Conners don’t wear masks when they are at home. The strangest moments for Metcalf was when it was time to film a scene and she had to remove her mask. She describes that moment as feeling “very naked.”
Fishman has been dealing with the mental and emotional elements of the pandemic. He found it difficult to leave the quarantined world of his own family to be with his TV family.
“There is a psychological toll, and I think what we’re showing is the strength and the ability to depend on each other but also the way a family comes together on screen in the way hopefully families are coming together at home,” Fishman says. “You love your family, and by now they’re driving you absolutely insane.
“So, what you have to do is find small breaks, ways to take a break, ways to connect with people and focus.”
And for him and the rest of the cast of “The Conners” that means working in a strange new world.