The Conners Showrunner On Bringing Katey Sagal's Louise Back During Such A Tragic Episode

Spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t watched The Conners’ episode “Triggered,” so be warned!

While The Conners often keeps its emotional drama locked into personal struggles for the various characters — Darlene’s relationship woes and Becky’s dedication to sobriety, for instance, although Becky’s own questionable relationships certainly count here — the ABC sitcom opted for trauma on a different scale with its recent episode focusing on gun violence and its aftermath. Strangely enough, that also happened to be the installment highlighting the long-awaited return of star Katey Sagal, who was largely sidelined from filming after being struck by a car back in October 2021. And as one might have imagined, things weren’t exactly planned all along to play out that way. 

CinemaBlend spoke with The Conners showrunner Bruce Helford, executive producer Dave Caplan, and star Lecy Goranson about the neighborhood shooter episode, and I asked about the timing behind Katey Sagal’s Louise returning from her band’s tour right in the midst of such a dark narrative. Here’s how Helford explained it:

That was a bit more happenstance. We obviously didn't anticipate her getting hit by a car, so it was a matter of time till she could [return]. She did an episode earlier where she sat down, but she couldn't really walk without some kind of a cane, so this was the first time that she could actually come back and physically be mobile. So it timed out that that was the episode, so we thought, 'Well, alright, she gets a special return.' [Laughs.] Not so glamorous and glorious. But yeah, it worked out okay.

 Definitely not the most fancy-free and lighthearted episode to welcome back a recovering cast member, but there’s no denying how memorable that storyline combo was. I mentioned that it served as a solid balance, giving viewers something to celebrate before the hectic situations kick into high gear. And Helford agreed, comparing how things worked out both in front of and behind the camera to how unexpected occurrences pop up in everyday life.  

I think it's one of those things where it gave us a place to go to kind of catch you off-guard when something happened. The way things happen in real life, you're in the middle of one thing and then something else just kind of pushes its way in. So that's kind of what happened.

Surely, had there been any major issues with bringing Louise back during this particular episode, the creative team would have figured out a way to hold things off. But no such issues occurred, and Sagal was thankfully back in the lives of her fictional family and her non-fictional fanbase. 

Louise bringing guitar case into the house in The Conners

(Image credit: ABC)

Which isn’t to say that Katey Sagal was back at 100% physicality and agility, and the episode seemed to immediately start poking fun at the actress’ still-recovering nature by having the rest of the family hide from Louise instead of helping her carry her luggage and things inside. But Dave Caplan said that scene was written without thinking about the ramifications, and said the writers took extra care after that in handling Louise’s scenes in ways that wouldn’t demand much of her, movement-wise. In his words:

No, we were all pretty cognizant of not making her do too very much. There was an early moment in that show where she had to carry some things in the front door. And we thought, 'Oh, God, what did we do? We have to make all of that stuff light, or we're gonna make it so much worse for her.' So we were really trying to baby her and be really careful with her.

Perhaps one day fans will see Sagal’s Louise running a marathon or doing jumping jacks in the middle of the kitchen, but we probably shouldn’t expect to see such actions for a while yet. I joked that the star’s body pains were the real reason why Louise told Dan she wanted to get rid of the waterbed, and Bruce Helford chuckled in saying the bed also entered the cautionary talks about handling Sagal’s comfort. 

There was a quite a discussion about that, actually. [Laughs.] Like, if she gets on a waterbed, can she ever get up? You know, her hip was fractured, so yeah, we had to think about a lot of stuff like that.

It’s great to have Katey Sagal back in primetime, especially considering how strange it’s been for Dan to just be hanging out by himself all the time following that chaotic wedding episode. Here’s hoping she stays safe and healthy, and will be around in full for the rest of Season 4 and beyond!

The Conners airs new episodes every Wednesday night on ABC at 9:00 p.m. ET, hopefully without any more mall shooters lurking around Lanford. While waiting for the next ep to come along, head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see all the new and returning shows popping up elsewhere on the small screen.

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.