NEW YORK – Laurie Metcalf smiles and laughs as she thinks about her character, Jackie, and her various mishaps while founding “Roseanne”, “The Conners”.
Jackie dates back to her introduction to Roseanne Barr’s sitcom in 1988 and has reinvented herself many times. She was a police officer, truck driver, factory worker, co-owner of the Lanford Lunch Box (which reopened in “The Conners”) and was, as the character describes it, “Lanford’s lead life coach” for a while.
The role earned Metcalf three Emmy Awards while “Roseanne” aired, but she’s happy with Jackie playing a supporting role.
“A little Jackie goes a long way, so I’m always the crazy B story. Too much of Jackie would just be an overdose.”
While the overall personality of the character has remained unchanged in both series, it offers an opportunity to grow as an actor. When “Roseanne” started, Metcalf was a stage actor with no television experience.
“Everything was new to me. I had a long learning curve jumping into a multi-camera sitcom. The writers started writing on each of our different strengths,” recalled Metcalf.
“I assume that one of my strengths was being that victim-loser who had no idea what to start with,” she said with a laugh. “But (Jackie) just went out every day with her head up, determined to do something great or to do something. And then everything would collapse around her. But she had certain, firm opinions about things. And they still up to today interferes with the rest of the family business even though her own life is crumbling around her. “
That sometimes includes Jackie’s romantic interests, played by actors like George Clooney, Jim Varney, and Matthew Broderick. She also tried a throuple, but it was short-lived because Metcalf says, “Jackie was clueless.” Her current love interest is Neville, portrayed by Nat Faxon.
“It’s so fun now when we go to work because we wear masks all week and we don’t see each other until they say ‘action’. We drop our mask and record the scene and then put it back on So I didn’t even know what Nat looked like for the first episode we did together until they said “Action” and then I saw his whole face. “
Filming has completed season three of “The Conners,” and the cast is waiting to see if ABC renews it for a fourth season. Metcalf said there is more to be seen of Jackie, including whether or not she actually has experience as a life coach.
“One of my regrets was that you never actually saw her at work to advise anyone. In hindsight, there’s a little piece of me who wonders if she was just lying about the whole thing,” Metcalf said. “There’s no proof, is there?”
Metcalf will soon begin production in New York, directed and starred by Ray Romano, about a large Italian family in Queens. She worked on her accent with a dialect coach.
“I never thought I’d be very good at it, so I’ve always shied away from accented roles, but I’ll tackle this one. I hope once we’re all on set and I’m surrounded by it, me will start to absorb it. “
As a two-time Tony winner, Metcalf is keen to see the theater reopen because it’s her first love. When Broadway closed because of the pandemic, Metcalf had nine previews of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
“‘Society’ with Patti LuPone was on the same block as me and we saw her lights go out but everyone was like, ‘Oh, two weeks, you know, we’ll be back.’ It was like having the carpet pulled out for sure. The entire theater community has been in turmoil for more than a year now. I can’t wait to be in a rehearsal room doing a play again. “