The Conners' Showrunner Talks Estelle Parsons' Return As Bev, And Introducing Another New Family Member

Bev sitting in living room chair on The Conners
(Image credit: ABC)

Primetime TV has been all over the place as of late, from World Series preemptions to Election Night takeovers and beyond. ABC’s Wednesday night comedy lineup took a break this week for the 2022 CMA Awards, so viewers had to miss out on new episodes of The Conners, among other shows. Thankfully, there’s lots more to look forward to from Season 5, which will be the sitcom’s biggest batch of episodes yet, and fans can look forward to seeing another familiar face in the form of Estelle Parsons’ Beverly Harris.

The Conners sparked speculation from viewers like yours truly when putting out the foreboding synopsis for its Thanksgiving-geared ep, which taps into Jackie coming to terms with Bev getting ill in some way. While it’s not exactly confirmed when Bev will be bring her motherly, grandmotherly, and great-grandmotherly judginess back to the small screen, CinemaBlend spoke with showrunner Bruce Helford and executive producer Dave Caplan following Season 5’s Halloween fun, and he talked about the show lucking out into landing the 96-year-old Estelle Parsons’ latest guest appearance. When I asked if we’d possibly be seeing Bev soon, he answered with:

We'll see. With Estelle, it's just that it's always [a risk]. We've got an episode coming up with her very shortly that we're shooting, actually, this week. And there's some dramatic developments in the life between Jackie and Bev. And with Estelle, it's always a matter of, our first concern is for her safety. Like, if there's a surge, then we won't bring her out, you know? Right now, it felt like a good time to do it - she was anxious to do it - and we felt it was a good safe option to have her come out and work with us and work on the stage. So we just take it week by week. We'd love to have her back. We love having her on this show always, because she's wonderful. But we have to honor her years, and the circumstances.

Even though COVID-related filming precautions have been loosened as of late, it's no mystery Estelle Parsons warrants as much care and safeguarding as possible. Less than a year after bringing the then 83-year-old Christopher Lloyd back to reprise the role of Lou Vitore, The Conners' cast and crew is well aware that they need to give such living legends as much of a safety bubble as possible. Hopefully nothing too terrible comes of this impending illness.

Louise in denim shirt on The Conners

(Image credit: abc)

Speaking of upcoming episodes, The Conners is also gearing up to introduce another new member of the extended family. Not long after meeting Louise and Neville's nephew Caleb, as portrayed by Emma Kenney's former Shameless co-star Ethan Cukosky, audiences will soon get to meet the woman who birthed the all-star siblings. According to Bruce Helford:

There's, there's an episode coming up where we will meet Louise's mother, as a matter of fact. It hasn't been cast yet.

When I joked about them just using Estelle Parsons in a wig to play Louise's mom, the EPs laughed, and Helford showered praise on the Bonnie and Clyde star while saying they're hoping to cast someone in the same talent ballpark. In his words:

There's only one Estelle Parsons. Who, I gotta say, at 96, she astounds. I mean, it's phenomenal. The energy and everything else. We all should have that gift. I mean, it's pretty amazing. But we are looking for someone who is as strong and interesting as Estelle has has been as Bev for sure.

The next episode, airing on November 16, will also feature Darlene attempting to find a new job after getting shafted out of her previous position. I honestly can't tell whether it'd be more stressful to deal with a job hunt or a sick mom (specifically where the mom is Bev).

The Conners airs Wednesday nights on ABC at 8:00 p.m. ET, leading off the network’s night of primetime comedy, with episodes available to stream the next day with a Hulu subscription. While waiting for new episodes, head to our 2022 premiere schedule to see what’s coming soon, while our 2023 TV schedule will allow for long-scale planning purposes.

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.