Michael Fishman Opens Up About Leaving The Conners, And It Sounds Like There’s More To The Story

D.J. at the kitchen table in The Conners
(Image credit: ABC)

When The Conners returns to ABC for the start of Season 5, the family-geared sitcom will be nestled into its new time slot as the lead-off for the network’s Wednesday night comedy block, with The Goldbergs shifting forward a half-hour. Of course, that won’t be the only major change that fans will notice, as it was revealed this week that O.G. Roseanne star Michael Fishman has exited the show ahead of the new season. But even though the announcement came without any preloaded drama attached to it, Fishman’s comments after the fact seemingly hint at there being more to the story. 

In a statement shared with People after the shocking Conners news initially went public, Michael Fishman shared his thoughts in the polite and respectful manner that fans have come to expect from him. He spoke of playing D.J. Conner as a great honor, and he was proud to play a military vet raising a bi-racial daughter with a Black wife. But in addressing the topic of his future beyond The Conners, Fishman appears to imply that exiting the ABC hit was not his choice to make. In his words:

I have a number of projects I am pitching as a writer, and am negotiating my next directing opportunities. Although I no longer have the privilege to portray D.J., my desire, passion, and skill of bringing characters to life as an actor continues. I appreciate all those who support and have supported my work. While I was told I would not be returning for season 5, Lanford was a valuable place to grow up, learn and develop. I was incredibly lucky to return home and demonstrate my expansion. As I venture into the world to build the future, I send tremendous love and success to everyone involved in production.

Maybe it’s just me, but not many people who intentionally quit a job immediately reflect on it by saying they “no longer have the privilege” of doing that job. As well, Fishman notes that he “was told” he wouldn’t be back for Season 4, which is about as direct a sign as any that the decision was allegedly out of his hands. So why would the powers that be opt to cut out another original Roseanne star at this point in the spinoff’s run? Especially when it was also confirmed that star Jayden Rey, who portrays D.J.’s daughter Mary, will remain a series regular, which comes with its own questions. (Not the least of which is: “Does this mean former star Maya Lynne Robinson is returning in full after appearing in Season 3’s finale?”)

Earlier in his reaction statement, Michael Fishman addressed expanding his role behind the scenes on The Conners as a director on multiple episodes — something he spoke with CinemaBlend about ahead of the Season 4 premiere — and started off speaking about his own professionalism. In his words:

I pride myself on professionalism, building lifelong connections and meaningful friends through production. Demonstrating my skills through the first few years of The Conners culminating in the opportunity to Direct 'Halloween' and 'The Election vs. The Pandemic.' That successful collaboration earned me four more opportunities as a Director last season. I achieved a dream with lifelong friends, propelling me toward another aspect of my career that comes with endless possibilities.

Given the context of his thoughts, and no other reports following the news, it wouldn’t seem as if Michael Fishman’s behavior on the set is a factor here. It’s possible he was just getting ahead of such suspicions by saying that, trying to distance himself from the recent news involving former Conners guest star and ep director Fred Savage being fired from The Wonder Years due to accusations involving his behavior on set, and alleged sexual harassment.

In the scheme of things, given that D.J. didn’t factor so heavily into many ongoing storylines, and wasn’t at the center of any himself, it’s certainly possible that The Conners’ budget for Season 5 required corner to be cut, with Fishman serving as the least detrimental sacrifice. Whatever the case may be, The Conners fans will certainly be missing D.J. being the relatively sane and successful one within the titular fam. Now it’s up to Mark. 

The Conners Season 5 will premiere on ABC on Wednesday, September 21, at 8:00 p.m. ET. Head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to see when all the other primetime hits will be popping up in the coming months.

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.