Major spoilers below for the doubled-up airing of The Conners, featuring both “An Old Dog, New Tricks and a Ticket to Ride" and "A Fast Car, A Sudden Loss, and A Slow Decline,” so be warned!
Though Becky's growing troubles with alcoholism were a major focus on The Conners during the back-to-back episodes airing Wednesday night, her drunk actions around her baby daughter somehow didn't supply the most surprising disturbance the sitcom had in store for viewers. (Okay, so Jackie's "joke" about Beverly Rose being stuck between the mattress and the wall probably wins that one.) In any case, The Conners welcomed Roseanne vet Danielle Harris back to reprise her long-absent role of Molly Tilden for Episode 315, only to turn around and kill her off in the beginning of the next episode.
Right offhand, I can't think of any other Conners moments from these first three seasons that shocked me the way Episode 316 did when Molly's mother calmly revealed to Darlene that Molly died of brain cancer, an ailment she didn't bring up at all as she and Darlene were reconnecting. But as sad as that whole ordeal was, actress Danielle Harris shared a particularly hilarious behind-the-scenes story with CinemaBlend about being oblivious to her character's eventual fate until midway through shooting the episode. Here's what she told me:
Man oh man oh man oh man. Is there a worse realization to arrive at when it comes to guest-starring on a TV show than being in the middle of production and learning that your character's death is hyper-imminent? Granted, Danielle Harris fully understood that she wasn't signing on for the long haul or anything, so it's not like she had far-flung expectations about her future on The Conners. But still, it definitely helps for an actress to know if her character has cancer and is standing firmly at death's door. It sounds like Harris was rehearsing the material in a more naturally straightforward way, without grasping the meaning behind the subtext in the script. Ah, the power of hindsight.
Considering how Episode 315 ended, with Molly buying first class plane tickets to Hawaii to share with Darlene, Danielle Harris can't be blamed for having an iota of hope that her character would have more of a presence in the future. In her words:
Danielle Harris is a bona fide scream queen seen in many different horror movies and franchise, so deaths and other foul-minded atrocities are definitely in her wheelhouse. She's arguably most known for portraying Jamie Lloyd in the original Halloween films, and for returning as a new character in Rob Zombie's reboots, but she's also been in Urban Legend, Left for Dead, the Hatchet films, Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 and more.
When I asked if she thought the showrunner and producers had intentionally kept her out of the loop about Molly's death in order to inspire a more natural performance, Danielle Harris said she believed it was all accidentally due to a missed connection somewhere along the line.
That whole experience is enough to inspire me to want to ask "Is my character going to die immediately?" right after getting a script. So I guess it's lucky that nobody ever sends me scripts for anything where I'm included as a character, even if it doesn't feel like luck.
With hopefully fewer deaths (either real or fictional) and crying babies involved in future episodes, The Conners airs Wednesday nights on ABC at 9:00 p.m. ET. Stay tuned for more exclusive Conners coverage, and let us know in the poll below how you felt about the back-to-back episodes.
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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.