The Conners' Ames McNamara And Christopher Lloyd Talk Lou's Post-Roseanne Return And Mark's Music Goals

Mark Conner playing contrabassoon, and Christopher Lloyd holding an album on The Conners
(Image credit: ABC)

Spoilers below for The Conners’ latest episode, so be warned if you haven’t yet watched!

When it comes to landing a wide variety of top-notch guest stars, The Conners and its sitcom predecessor have been known for pulling off home runs over the years. (Who else is eagerly awaiting the return of Joe Walsh as Aldo’s drippy dad in Episode 419?) I think anyone with a pulse would agree that TV and film legend Christopher Lloyd is an A+ addition in any given situation, and he made a welcome return to the franchise in “The Best Laid Plans, A Contrabassoon and A Sinking Feeling” to provide some musical guidance for Ames McNamara’s Mark. And CinemaBlend was lucky enough to talk to the two actors about the episode.

For Episode 418, Mark’s efforts to set himself up for college led to the teen taking up the contrabassoon, as one does. Jackie, whose memory can be magically precise when the situation needs it, recalled her mother’s ex-boyfriend Lou was learned in such things, and bing, bang, boom, Christopher Lloyd was back in the Conners’ household. (Though without an appearance from Estelle Parsons this go-around.)

Christopher Lloyd first appeared in Roseanne’s tenth season for the episode “No Country for Old Women,” and when I asked what led him back to showing off more of his sitcom skills, the Emmy-winning Taxi vet spoke plainly and amusingly, saying:

They offered. I mean it was quite a while ago when I did an episode, and Roseanne was still there and everything. And it was kind of dim in my mind exactly what that guy was like. . . . But I really enjoyed it the second time round. I began to find the character, and different aspects of the character. Of course, he's in love with this instrument - what is it? - the contrabassoon! I've always wanted to play one of those, so... [beat] No I didn't.

Christopher Lloyd

Ever the jokester, the actor almost had me convinced for a second that perhaps his adoration for the double-reed instrument was part of why he decided to return. In any case, he had a good time getting into a bit of an argument with John Goodman’s Dan, as well as acting opposite Ames McNamara’s Mark for his guidance-fueled role.

To be expected, Ames McNamara was also enthused about getting to work with Christopher Lloyd for the episode, and lamented not having been able to share scenes with him during the actor’s previous guest spot.

Yeah. it was awesome. I really, really enjoyed working with Christopher. And like you were saying, the last time he was here, I wasn't in any scenes with him. Obviously, you know, I said hi and all that, but I didn't really get a chance to work with him. So I was super excited to find out 1) that he was coming back, and 2) that we were going to have a storyline together. So yeah, it was awesome. I really enjoyed the storyline. It was different, and fun for both of us to do.

Ames McNamara

While arguably most known for his unforgettable film work in projects like Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and The Addams Family, among many other projects, Christopher Lloyd is no slouch when it comes to TV acting, even beyond the aforementioned award-winning work on the classic Taxi. In the past few years, he’s popped up on NCIS, 12 Monkeys, A.P. Bio, and the animated series Big City Greens, while also serving as a co-presenter opposite Josh Gates for the miniseries Expedition: Back to the Future.

When I asked the actor how the process changed for him, going from dramas to sitcoms to voice-acting roles, he once again spoke with sage practicality, saying:

I like to work, you know, so whatever medium invites me. I'm happy to accept the invitation. . . . I'm not very well aware of the technology that goes on. But for me, it's basically learn my lines, figure out the character and do it. However you think it works, regardless of a medium - I mean even stage - it's trying to find the truth of what's going on with the character and the story, and make happen, make it real, and make it relatable.

Christopher Lloyd

Lloyd is also set to appear in another Disney-backed project, as he’ll appear in The Mandalorian Season 3, though details are slim regarding that role. When I asked if there was any talk about slipping a Star Wars reference into his appearance on The Conners for synergy’s sake, he dutifully said he was not aware of any allusions being made in that capacity. 

mark playing contrabassoon as family watcheson the conners

(Image credit: ABC)

“The Best Laid Plans, A Contrabassoon and A Sinking Feeling” put some of The Conners’ focus back on Mark after he’d been missing for a scattered handful of episodes lately. While that’s par for the course for a show with a larger ensemble like this, it was curious in the sense that Mark’s early-season storylines played into the character’s goal-oriented academic lifestyle causing him to make some wrong decisions, such as popping ADHD pills without a prescription. So the fact that he was totally gone so soon after was just a tad suspicious, even though one of those instances was covered in-narrative, as he was explained as being away on a school trip during the neighborhood shooter episode

As such, I bemusedly posed the question to Ames McNamara whether or not Mark spend some of that time committing bad-boy behavior. But it sounds like he's likely back on the straight and narrow path for more a permanent basis after his previous setbacks. In his words:

No, I think, hopefully, Mark is past some of some of the earlier events that happened in the season. But I think also that just came from the same thing that this is coming from, which is his desire to get into college, and his desperation in facing the adversity that the financial situation of the family is presenting him. But yeah, this definitely was more lighthearted and fun storyline, perhaps, than some of the some of the other ones. [Laughs.]

Ames McNamara

To that end, I also asked McNamara if he thought Mark would continue to strive to become a quality contrabassoonist, or if this would possibly be another interest he took on for a short while before moving on to something else. And while he didn't confirm that Christopher Lloyd would be back as a long-term music teacher, he did suggest that it'll continue. He also suggested viewers could possibly see him laughing during the episode, despite his best efforts to keep a straight face while acting opposite Lloyd. 

I think Mark will stick with it. I certainly hope he sticks with it. Like I said, it was just so fun. For example, playing the controversy and learning how to do it was it was hard, but what was harder was trying to keep a straight face and act scared when Christopher is saying these lines. On the first day of rehearsal, entering the table read, I was laughing so much. Depending on how they edit it, probably you'll see me trying to hide a smile in the edit.

Ames McNamara

I really hope if Darlene and Ben do go through with their wedding, that we'll get to see a band performance with McNamara on the contrabassoon, Joe Walsh on guitar, and John Goodman on harmonica. Lou even brought up Dan's harmonica playing skills during Ep 418, so it's like fate or something.

With two episodes left two go in Season 4, The Conners airs Wednesday nights on ABC at 9:00 p.m. Its finale is set for May 18, and you can head to our rundown of all the other big TV finales on the way, as well as checking out everything yet to show up in our 2022 TV premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

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.