Whitney Cummings knew Roseanne Barr's tweets were bad news for the Roseanne reboot — and now she says they were behind her decision to quit the show just over a week prior to it all coming to a head.
Cummings was the co-showrunner of the ABC reboot, but as a hugely successful first season, which ran from March to May 22, 2018, came to an end, she abruptly quit. The reason given was that she was “too busy.” Less than two weeks later, on May 29, ABC canceled the show after Barr posted a racist tweet comparing Obama aid Valerie Jarrett, who is black, to an ape.
In an interview on Daily Beast’s podcast The Last Laugh, Cummings reveals for the first time why she left. It had nothing to do with her busy schedule and everything to do with Barr’s tweets.
“I wanted her to get off Twitter,” Cummings said of the show’s star. “I felt like it was going to come to a head. It was like whack-a-mole.”
Cummings, who said she was unaware of Barr’s long history of offensive tweets prior to signing on as showrunner, called the situation “a nightmare" and said she “was pissed” at Barr for her behavior.
"We all worked really hard on that show and it's just a shame,” Cummings said. “You put your heart and soul into something for 12 months and it's just for nothing."
Cummings said that she had been a Barr fan prior to getting involved in the reboot — and a big fan of the original show.
“I grew up poor and that was the first show that looked like my house,” she said. It was “the first show that didn’t make me feel bad about myself,” compared to Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place and shows of that era.
As Cummings notes, Barr’s tweets were an issue behind the scenes before her firing. It has since come to light that in the the fall of 2017 — before the reboot even premiered — ABC execs were monitoring Barr’s tweets and meeting with her to discuss them. And a report called “Roseanne Barr’s Anti-Trans” record was put together by the network as the show explored an LGBT storyline but had concerns due to Barr tweets. (An example the document cited was that Barr “tweeted story that Obamas killed Joan Rivers for saying Michelle Obama is a tranny.”)
In fact, Barr had posted other racist tweets, conspiracy theories and Islamophobic comments prior to her firing. Barr also questioned whether the Parkland shooting survivors were child actors.
However, Barr tweeting that Jarrett looked like the “Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby” was the final straw. Wanda Sykes quit the show and Barr’s co-stars Sara Gilbert, Michael Fishman and Emma Kenney spoke out against her. (Barr, who has apologized for the tweet, has said she’ll never forgive Gilbert.) The network called Barr’s remark “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values” and the show was canceled.
The show, in a new form — The Conners — lives on, of course, without Barr. Her character was killed off after suffering an opioid overdose. It was renewed for a second season and will return in Sept. 24.
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