The Conners EPs On Katey Sagal's Louise Bringing Roseanne Vibes To Relationship With Jackie

Louise smiling on The Conners
(Image credit: ABC)

Some spoilers below for the latest episode of The Conners, so be warned if you haven't yet watched.

Of all the character dynamics at play amongst The Conners’ main characters, one that has seemed extremely natural since the start has been Katey Sagal’s Louise and Laurie Metcalf’s Jackie. The two award-winning actresses are endlessly watchable when apart, so it seems like a match made in sitcom heaven to have them share the screen together for the ABC comedy. But before their relationship could hit smoother waters, Jackie had to first become self-aware about seeing Louise through Roseanne-colored glasses, so that she could move beyond that trauma-originated hump.

Following the big Halloween episode, which featured Jay R. Ferguson’s stellar Frankenstein’s monster, The Conners set up a situation where Louise and Jackie would necessarily be in close quarters more often, with Louise bringing her innovative ideas to The Lunch Box after her old job went belly-up. And while it seemed like Jackie was just humoring her sister-in-law regarding her business suggestions, an all-too-public outburst made it clear what Jackie’s issue really was. And when CinemaBlend talked to showrunner Bruce Helford and executive producer Dave Caplan about the characters’ relationship, here’s how the former spoke to the Roseanne-ness of it all:

Yeah, it's a natural combination. We started with them being at odds with each other, when when Louise first kind of showed up in Dan's life. We thought, you know, we didn't want to keep them always at odds, but we knew there were certain areas. And then we started thinking about you know, she's a little bit older than Jackie, because she's Dan's age and Jackie is a little younger than Dan and Roseanne. She's a strong woman, and there are many similarities between the Louise character and Roseanne in certain areas - strength, certainly. So we thought there's something about that relationship that would probably reflect that, and that was really exciting and interesting to explore.

By all means, Jackie and Roseanne’s relationship was anything but streamlined and predictable. While things were friendly most of the time, they could go from casual sibling rivalry issues to super-specific problems regarding Jackie’s relationship choices, and then any number of directions beyond. And given it’s been a handful of years since Jackie was able to hear her sister’s more nagging tone, I don’t think anyone would blame her for falling back on her mental instincts upon having a strong slightly older female around again. Especially since she’s prone to some baffling mental instincts anyway. 

Louise in Chicago Bears shirt at the Lunch Box on The Conners

(Image credit: ABC)

While Louise could never wholly fill out the void left by Roseanne’s death, it’s not really her place to, since she brings a completely different sense of love and respect to both Dan and Jackie. And the relaxed pace with which Jackie has warmed up to her is an intentional long-form initiation for Katey Sagal’s character to join the fam. Here’s what Dave Caplan had to say on that front:

It was also natural for us, because Jackie's a little territorial about the family, and Louise is the newcomer. So it's part of this continuing arc that we have for Louise have ingratiating herself into the family and getting to be a piece of something that's been that's been a tight knit group for as long as anybody can remember.

Both Helford and Caplan talked to CinemaBlend in the past about not viewing any Roseanne references as off the table necessarily, and viewers have seen the various characters reflect on moments from their shared past with her, with Darlene calling up (or down) to her mom ahead of marrying Ben in the Season 4 finale, which paid homage to Roseanne’s props and set decorations that are still being used today. And we’ll no doubt get similar nods of that kind in the future, though Jackie may want to keep her Freudian slips limited to more private interactions. 

Bruce Helford also gives a lot of credit to Katey Sagal herself, and to co-star Jay R. Ferguson, for having the skills to cement themselves within this fictional family. In his words:

It's a very tough family to break into. If you look at the history of people who have married Jackie - [Laughs] - or anybody else, they don't usually get to stick around too long. Eventually, the family body rejects them. We've been very fortunate with Jay Ferguson, and with Katie. They're so wonderful, and the chemistry is so good with them and the family that they've stuck, which is great.

It’s been nearly 30 years since Roseanne’s infamous pot episode, with a very pregnant Laurie Metcalf playing into the bathroom scene, and The Conners only recently delivered its own weed-laced episode with Dan being introduced to the world of high-potency edibles. Just don’t expect Jackie and Louise to bond over such things, at least when there’s all kinds of booze around. 

The Conners airs every Wednesday night on ABC at 8:00 p.m., with new episodes available to stream the next day with a Hulu subscription. And head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see everything that still has yet to debut this year.

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.