The sudden death of ABC’s “Roseanne” reboot was a plot twist many staffers didn’t see coming, even with such an unpredictable star, one insider says.
“Everybody is still in shock at how quickly this all went down,” writer and executive producer Dave Caplan told The Hollywood Reporter.
“It’s unfortunate because the writers did pass on other jobs to take this job, and nobody really knows yet what kind of compensation they’re going to get. Everybody is a little bit on edge about how it’s going to turn out,” he said.
Caplan described the stunned atmosphere inside the writer’s room Tuesday as staffers who signed on to make a comedy dealt with heartache instead.
He said the group assembled in the morning for what was supposed to be their first day drafting the show’s 11th season. Instead of storylines, they shared their disgust at Barr’s toxic tweet comparing Obama aide Valerie Jarrett to an ape.
“The reaction was universal disgust. That tweet doesn’t reflect anything to do with our show, which was built on trying to explore a universal humanity that everyone goes through during hard times and difficult circumstances,” he said.
“We all felt the same thing about the tweet: we were horrified by it and we also knew what it meant for the show. So, there was a sadness about it too for us,” Caplan said.
As some writers were still walking in the door, the group learned the show had been canceled the same way everyone else did.
“We found out first through the press. We weren’t sure if it was accurate. But then we heard from (Executive Producer) Tom Werner that the show was canceled,” he said. “We all knew it was a possibility, but the suddenness of it was a shock.”
In his own statement, Werner said he supported the decision to cancel the show and believes Barr needs professional help.
He called Barr’s racist twitter rampage “reprehensible.”
“I hope the good work done (on ‘Roseanne’) is not totally eclipsed by these abhorrent and offensive comments, and that Roseanne seeks the help she so clearly needs,” he said.
A source told CNN that ABC executives considered Barr’s racist rant “unsurvivable.”
The view was that Barr had crossed the line several times before and seemed to be getting worse, not better, in terms of understanding what was acceptable and how her Twitter presence reflected on the network.
The executives who woke up to Barr’s Jarrett tweet and saw she also attacked Chelsea Clinton and called billionaire George Soros a “Nazi” decided “enough was enough,” the source told CNN.
Barr tweeted out an apology and reportedly was “contrite” on a conference call with show brass, but it was too late. Wanda Sykes, a consulting producer, quit around noon Eastern time, and ABC pulled the plug on “Roseanne” with an announcement shortly before 2 p.m. Eastern.
Caplan told THR that no one on the show heard directly from Barr in the aftermath.
He said his hope going into the show’s revival was that Barr had “matured” and could learn from her mistakes, but that clearly wasn’t the case.
“Roseanne’s previous behavior had been concerning, but we thought it fell under (the) umbrella of politics and the crazy conspiracy theories that she likes to traffic in. Some of that we thought was her own private opinions that she was entitled to. But when it came to something like racism, there was no longer any way to accept what she was saying,” he said.
For her part, Barr went into overdrive on Twitter again late Tuesday and early Wednesday.
She tagged Jarrett in a direct apology and said she didn’t know the former White House senior adviser was black, claiming she believed Jarrett was actually “Jewish and Persian.”
“Ignorant of me for sure … but I did,” she tweeted.
She also urged fans not to defend her and said she blamed herself.
But then she also blamed Ambien, as well as Sykes, claiming Sykes’ departure from the show made ABC too nervous to continue.
And Barr retweeted multiple messages from supporters who continued to attack Jarrett, Soros — even ABC.