The Conners EPs On Latest Guest Stars Making Set An 'Actors' Paradise,' And Darlene Being Called Out On Her Snarkiness

Darlene in job interview on The Conners
(Image credit: ABC)

Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn’t yet watched the latest episode of The Conners, so be warned!

The Conners’ first post-Valentine’s Day episode certainly wasn’t interested in any post-romantic glowing, with Darlene struggle-adjusting her way through job interviews while Becky took a legally questionable crash course in Workman’s Comp fraud with the goal of wanting to be a more present mother for Beverly Rose. But there were certainly some sweet guest stars popping up as instant finalists for Lanford’s Best Smiles — an unofficial contest (for now) — Mom’s Jaime Pressly and 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer, who helped make for a fun week of filming, even if their characters put Darlene down the awkward road to self-realizations about how others perceive her.

Showrunner and executive producer Bruce Halford and fellow EP Dave Caplan shared some insights with CinemaBlend via email about Episode 514, “Adding Insult to Injury,” and I think it’ll surprise no one to learn that McBrayer and Pressly were pure delights. 

Darlene meeting with Jaime Pressly's tire shop manager in The Conners

(Image credit: ABC)

The Conners Welcomed Jaime Pressly And Jack McBrayer To Lanford

Some of The Conners’ best guest stars come when the actors are given material that goes against audience expectations, such as casting rock legend Joe Walsh as Aldo’s one of a kind dad in Season 3. That wasn’t exactly the case with Jaime Pressly and Jack McBrayer, who both got to flash their pearly whites while portraying genial characters. But both scenes did hinge on the diea of Darlenes' snarkiness managing to sour two of the more beaming personalities that have peopped up in Lanford. (I think any random people on the street, when asked to picture the current manager of a family-owned candy factory, would picture McBrayer at least 50% of the time, and maybe that's not a good thing?)

When asked about bringing those two in particular to the midwestern world of Lanford, here’s what Dave Caplan and Bruce Helford had to say about landing the Hello, Jack! The Kindness Show star and the Not Another Teen Movie vet.

  • Dave Caplan: We've done interview scenes before with Sara and they've always provided a really nice showcase for a co-star.  Jaime and Jack were two names we've had on our list for a while and when the opportunity arose we thought we'd go for it.
  • Bruce Helford: We love Jack and Jaime and when we knew we’d have multiple interviews, we just took a shot and we got lucky. They’re always so busy. There’s so many regular characters on our show, it isn’t often that we have a few spots open for guest stars. It was pretty much actors’ paradise that week.

The Conners recently gave the world William H. Macy’s latest killer mustache as one of Roseanne's former boyfriends, but while he was mostly used in group scenes, "Adding Insult to Injury" utilized both of its guest stars for one-on-one scenes opposite Sara Gilbert. As it usually goes with the show's interview scenes with Darlene, the performances were at the forefront, so it's easy to imagine those scenes being fun to see come togther on the day. 

That said, Jack McBrayer's Mr. Futterman did make a second appearance during the episode's final scene to have a quick battle of polite personalities with Nat Faxon's Neville. I noted to the EPs how amazed I was to see that the episode managed to grant my wish, made just minutes prior, for Faxon and McBrayer to share the screen together to see if they could cause a black hole of niceness to form in the universe. (Which might very well have happened had the latter not hilariously called Jackie a bitch.) Here's what Caplan and Helford said about that scene, while also touching on the possbility of Jaime Pressly's character potentially showing up at the Lunch Box one day:

  • Dave Caplan: Yeah, I think that was all Bruce's idea. They just seem like they had such complementary personalities. We knew we wanted to do a Chip and Dale sort of thing. . . . We'd love to have Jaime back if it worked out.
  • Bruce Helford: We’d love to have Jaime back any time, so yeah, a visit to the Lunch Box would be totally her kind of place. As you saw in the tag, Jack found his way there because we really wanted him and Laurie and Nat to have some kind of scene together. Comedy magicians. We had the same wish as you :) 

As much as I thought Jane Curtain as Katey Sagal's fictional mom might be the match most made in heaven, Nat Faxon and Jack McBrayer's pie anti-argument might seal the deal. 

Darlene after makeover in kitchen on The Conners

(Image credit: ABC)

Darlene Realized People Don't View Her Snark The Way She Does

After derailing both of her early-episode job interviews by (perhaps justifiably) pointing out what she perceived to be problems with how her potential bosses conducted themselves during the interview. A bold approach, certainly, but one that obviously came up short by way of landing her an actual job. Which led to her having a hilarious, though purposeful, chat with Dan and Harris about in which they directly adressed how her surly attitude works against her in such situations. When I asked about the idea behind Darlene going this far in life without being aware of such things, Bruce Helford noted that she is aware of certain ways she comes off as negative, just not necessarily all of them. In his words:

Darlene is aware of her negativity - she worked hard last season to become more positive - but she wasn’t aware that she comes off as having a chip on her shoulder in interviews. What she thought was being refreshingly forthright and funny was actually being perceived as snide and kind of arrogant or as Dan put it, 'put up your dukes.'

By all means, I'm sure we can all think of someone from our lives who has remained oblivious to their most damaging instincts. The Darlene in our lives, as it were. Or weren't. Though her points may not have been objectively wrong, she just voiced them in the worst kind of context. And Dave Caplan pointed out that this isn't a trait that's limited to the worst of us. 

We figured that even smart and thoughtful people can have self-awareness blind spots. Darlene has always fancied herself a straight shooter, so it was easy for her to write off people's reactions to her a 'not being able to handle the truth.' But the truth is, we all have things we can work on or, in fact, decide we're not going to change.

In the end, Darlene probably didn't learn any hard lessons, and I don't think that Dan and Harris' advice to fake one's way into success is on the money, either. Everything in moderation, be it snark sharing, beer swilling, weed toking, or candy eating. I don't know how to overdo something with tires, so I can't bring Jaime Pressly's character into this analogy.

The Conners delivers new episodes every Wednesday night on ABC at 8:00 p.m., and fans can find them streaming the next day with a Hulu subscription. There are still quite a few episodes left in the season for even more guest stars to drop in on the sitcom clan, so stay tuned for more updates!

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.