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How The Conners' Ames McNamara Feels About Mark's Shocking Reveal And Its Roseanne Connection

Spoilers below for The Conners Episode 410, so be warned if you haven't yet watched!

 The Conners and its predecessor Roseanne have never been ones to shy away from any particular kind of subject matter, from the sudden deaths of loved ones to any and all stages of romantic relationships to struggles with substance abuse. The latter somewhat surprisingly played into the latest episode, "Spills, Pills and The Midnight Lasagna,” because even though pills were teased in the title, the shock value came from the rule-following Mark being the one getting his first taste of addictive tendencies. Like grandmother and aunt, like grandson and nephew, I suppose.

Ames McNamara spoke with CinemaBlend ahead of the episode, which revealed that Mark was taking Logan’s prescription meds for ADHD in order to cope with the stresses of competitive learning at the magnet school he’s attending. Not that he was very good at hiding it from anyone in the family, considering many of the Conners are only too familiar with dependencies of various kinds. And even though his character unexpectedly veering away from the path of drug-free living isn’t a positive thing in and of itself, McNamara was excited to take things in new directions, saying:

I think for one, it was really fun for me to sort of bring this different side to the character, and to get to showcase that there's more to Mark than what we've been seeing. And I think he's dealing with a lot of stress right now with school, and just all the other Conner problems are impacting him as well. I think that, even though, obviously what's happening is what's happening, there's still motivation — this honest motivation behind it — to really try and make a better life for himself.

When set up alongside Darlene’s frustrations with post-Ben relationships and Harris secretly being without a stable home, Mark relying on medication to try and help achieve his educational goals is weirdly aspirational when viewed through a very specific lens. But of course, it’s hardly the most constructive way to go about doing such things when he’s not currently diagnosed with having ADHD. And even though Mark doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would immediately branch off and become a coke fiend, if largely because nobody in the family could afford it, stranger things have happened. 

Plus, it’s not like Mark can seek out help specifically with his school issues, since it doesn’t seem like anyone else in the family ever hit the Dean’s List like he did. (Or made a lasagna as good as the one he made.) But when I asked about Mark’s pill (and then caffeine) issue connecting back to Roseanne’s death by opioid overdose and Becky’s struggles with sobriety — a point that came up during Darlene’s conversation with Dan — McNamara talked about how the Conner family is actually a good source of support in just such a situation. Also offering a positive update about the character’s future, he said: 

I think that's a good point. Because, you know, it seems like addiction and substance abuse problems are something that can generally have a family history. But I think that one thing that will really help Mark is that he does have this strong family support system, and that can help him sort of overcome the stresses that he's dealing with right now, and the problems that he's facing. But I think that this won't be a long-term problem for Mark. I think this is just a phase of him growing up and trying to find independence, and trying to find his way in the world. But it's unfortunately turning him to some bad things.

While he doesn’t exactly say that Mark will be paving the road to redemption for all of his days to come, Ames McNamara does make it sound like things will be slightly less stressful for the teen in the rest of Season 4, regardless of whether or not Darlene actually takes him out of the magnet school. 

Mark and Darlene having argument in bedroom on The Conners

(Image credit: ABC)

Speaking of the moment when Darlene made her threats about Mark’s growing romantic relationship with Logan, along with sending him back to public school, that major third act scene featured McNamara's most dramatic performance yet, while still being played for laughs through Sara Gilbert's reactions and Darlene's pragmatic dialogue. And even ended with the relationship-fracturing declaration of “I hate you,” which itself inspired another Roseanne reference. So of course I had to ask McNamara about that hectic scene, which he described as The Conners being The Conners. In his words:

Yeah. [Laughs.] I think there's always so many emotional scenes between Mark and Darlene in Mark's bedroom where they're talking about all these serious topics. So it's always great to work with Sara. I think she's such a great team partner, and I really enjoy doing these type of things with her because it makes it easier for me. But I think, like you're saying, playing it for laughs: that's sort of what the Conners do. In spite of all this adversity, they are trying to make light of it and trying to make the best of it through humor.

The family that makes it through Dan's terrible Dad jokes together stays together, and nothing is going to split the Conners up for good. I mean, if Mark gets a scholarship to some banging college far outside of Lanford, Illinois, that would probably do the trick, but we're not at that point yet.

The Conners airs new episodes every Wednesday night on ABC at 9:00 p.m. ET, but we hopefully won’t need to worry too much about Mark’s life going any further downhill. Unless Ames McNamara is just that good at pulling the wool sofa covering over my eyes. In the meantime, head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see when more of your favorite shows will be debuting soon! 

Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.