Miss Independent: Lecy Goranson Talks Character Evolution On The Conners

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ABC’s The Conners stars Lecy Goranson as Becky Conner. (Photos by ABC/Robert Trachtenberg)

Tough, clever, earnest and independent. Those are the words that best describe Lecy Goranson’s character Becky Conner-Healy on ABC’s popular sitcom The Conners, which was formerly called Roseanne, and was lauded for its realistic portrayal of a working-class all-American family, until one little tweet by Roseanne Barr derailed everything, plunging the show’s fate into uncertainty at one point.

Like all of the Conners, Becky hasn’t always had the easiest go at life. Just this past season and this current season, Becky is already a widow, has struggled with her sobriety and with paying her bills, has given birth to a baby girl and her baby’s father, Emilio, is deported back to Mexico, leaving her to become a single parent. It’s hard to imagine what’s next for Goranson’s character.

“Now that Becky has a baby, she’s kind of shifted and she’s sober, so she’s still trying to maintain her sobriety, which is tough, but she’s doing it and the baby, I think, is a lot of incentive,” Goranson said. “This season, I think she’s going to try to get herself in a position that feels a little more stable. I think she wants some solid ground under her feet and so I think she’s going to start looking for work since she definitely knows she has a ton of bills. She’s still working at the restaurant, but I think she’s going to be more ambitious with work and I think now that Emilio is deported, she’s going to potentially start looking for a partner who’s more stable to help her, but that’s a very new thing for her I think.”

Growing up just outside of Chicago, Goranson became involved in a local arts center that was three blocks away from her home when she was a child. Partaking in dance classes at the center, Goranson decided to take an acting program that was in the same building. The rest is history.

“It was a place called the Piven Theatre Workshop, which was started by Byrne and Joyce Piven,” Goranson explained. “It was mostly improv-based work and John and Joan Cusack went there and Lili Taylor and Aidan Quinn [too]. Jeremy Piven is Byrne and Joyce’s son. So they were affiliated with an agency in downtown Chicago and sometimes the agency would have people come in from Piven to have a local Chicago flare or something like that. So I did one audition, my parents would drive me downtown for the movie My Stepmother Is an Alien and then the second audition I did was Roseanne, so that’s how I got started. I was in the school play at the time and I was playing Baba Yaga, the Russian witch, so I sadly had to decline my theater role.”

For years, Goranson portrayed eldest daughter Becky on-and-off during the first iteration of Roseanne, which aired on ABC from 1988 to 1997. Looking back now, Goranson feels that Becky has only gotten stronger as the years have gone on.

Lecy Goranson (Photo by ABC/Andrew Eccles)

“I think she’s definitely become stronger,” Goranson said. “I think losing her husband really kind of made her feel arrested in life. I think in a lot of ways she was on a path that got sidetracked, including her intentions and I think that happens to a lot of people when you don’t have money or when you don’t have someone who bails you out or you don’t have a nest egg or enough money to go to a great college. I think despite that, she has become stronger and that she’s still been really independent. I think she’s also pretty resourceful. When I said that she was clever, I think Becky is always coming up with new ways to get by.”

When Goranson found out that Roseanne, and ultimately The Conners, was coming back as a reboot, she wasn’t sure what to expect at first.

“I don’t think I knew what to really expect,” Goranson said. “At the time, because things have changed so much in the industry with comedies, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a multi-cam sitcom. I thought maybe it was going to be a single-cam. I had no idea what the new vision would be, but then I found out that it was going to be like the old show and then after I knew that, then I thought what’s next in terms of the characters and the trajectories and the plot lines and all that. That’s one of the most exciting things about working on the show is that every week you’re handed these scripts that show you what’s next. That’s why when people ask me what’s going to happen in the season, I really don’t know. The writers are still trying to figure that out. They have general ideas, but they don’t share that with us. We find out week by week.”

ABC’s The Conners stars Michael Fishman as D.J. Conner, Jayden Rey as Mary Conner, Lecy Goranson as Becky Conner-Healy, Sara Gilbert as Darlene Conner, Emma Kenney as Harris Conner-Healy, Ames McNamara as Mark Conner-Healy, John Goodman as Dan Conner, and Laurie Metcalf as Jackie Harris. (Photo by ABC/Andrew Eccles)

The Conners, which manages to pull in millions of viewers every week, has an advantage that most regular sitcoms don’t already have due to its nostalgic effect.

“I think part of that is that they know us and the characters,” explained Goranson about why she thinks the show resonates with so many. “There’s a history there, but I think that the quality of writing and acting together is what makes it unique. I think it’s the fact that the Conners aren’t intimidating because they’re people that look you in the eye rather than look down on you. There’s not much for the Conners to lose so they’re not very intimidating. I think there’s an emotional journey to the show, which I think is unique for comedies, that’s very gripping. You’re kind of rooting for these characters. We all know life is hard. It’s like when there are two teams and you know one team hasn’t been winning, that’s the team you root for.”

Although the success of The Conners speaks for itself, the fate of the show was in danger after Barr sent out that infamous racist tweet to her followers causing a social media firestorm, ultimately causing the show to lose writers, directors and stage space.

“Last season, we started off with a lot of, frankly, trauma,” Goranson said. “Our whole show was taken away from us and the journey of getting that back was not easy. It was brought with difficulty and indecision. It wasn’t a no-brainer that we were going to pick right back up. It was kind of reinventing the show again and dealing with the loss of Roseanne on the show, so all of that at the same time and us being underdogs, we came back and we learned how to laugh again and made it happen.”

Now that Goranson is back working with the likes of John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert, she said it’s just like working with family, which makes her job all the more easier.

Becky (Lecy Goranson) and Aunt Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) (Photo by ABC/Mitch Haaseth)

“It’s wonderful,” Goranson said. “I feel like I’m working with the best of the best. We all know each other so well. I feel like I didn’t play a ton of scenes with Laurie [back then], Sara and John more, but there’s just more space to establish those relationships, which I feel really lucky that I get to do that with such great actors.”

So who is the biggest jokester amongst the cast?

“The first thing that pops into my mind is Laurie because she knows what will make me and Sara laugh,” Goranson said. “There are certain moments and it’s just absurd because she’ll push jokes to their absolute limit knowing that we have no power. We are powerless when it comes to her and how crazy it can be, so that happens often. Some of the stuff that’s pretty funny this season, there are these moments where Becky and Jackie team-up on Darlene. They get kind of wacky and Darlene is pretty straight up, so the combination is pretty great.”

So what’s next for Goranson after she finishes this season of The Conners?

“I have an idea for a show that has been on my mind for a while, but I have to do a lot of research about it,” she said. “I do live on the East Coast so inevitably once we wrap here, I’ll go back. I’ve done a lot of theater in New York so that is always something that I’d love to do if it was the right role.”

Catch The Conners on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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