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March 2004
Home on the Range: An Interview with Roseanne

By Todd Gilchrist

Home on the Range: An Interview with Roseanne

Like many single-monikered celebrities, Roseanne is a larger-than-life personality, having experienced more ups and downs in her career than most of her contemporaries. Having emerged from a successful television career (as the star and producer of her self-titled sitcom), the actress has been taking a break from the entertainment industry. Her newest effort, Home on the Range, is an animated film from Disney- the last of its kind, in fact- in which she plays Maggie, a prize-winning cow who sets off for adventure when her farm threatens to be sold.

Roseanne recently sat down with Blackfilm.com for a conversation about developing a cartoon alter-ego, and the intense and sometimes difficult process of growing up- even after you’ve become an adult.

So how did you initially get involved with "Home on the Range"?

R: "Well, they called me up and I was replacing somebody, which they wouldn't tell me who it was. I was like, "well who is it?" and they said "you don't know her."

Never found out?

R: "No. I tried to, but no. They called and said you have the opportunity to go and they want to see if they like you, so I went down there and I read and they liked me, and they kind of tailored it to me over like a two year period."

Do you know how they changed it from the first person?

R: "No. They totally changed it. When I first read the script it was kind of a much smaller character part. I don't really know. You'd have to ask them, but I know that over the years and over time, they'd been stretching it (no idea if this is right)."

How interesting?

R: "So interesting, yeah. It was very interesting and very fun, and I liked it because they babied me all the way and they pampered and babied me so I really liked it. It wasn't hard work at all- it wasn't even like work- it was such fun and they were so nice. It's a great machinelike process; you know, they'd get me like four lines and they were all really funny, and I'd get to choose the one I like best. God, it was a dream, it was just a dream. I loved it."

Did you make suggestions?

R: "Yeah. I'd go, "what about this?" They'd keep it if they liked it. There was a lot of things in there I made up although I'm not a person that remembers anything. I can't specifically- there are a lot of things they cut."

What's next for you?

R: "Porn." (Laughs) "I say that in every interview. Um, well, you know, I'm just interested in things with kids. I'm real interested in entertaining kids, you know, because that's an honest laugh. There's no politics in it. All of that other stuff, I've already done. It's like the joy of performing- I'm interested in stuff like that now."

Would you go back to TV?

R: "No."

How much was the movie like standup?

R: "It was totally like standup. You know, it was delivering the line, and that's why I liked it so much, because I didn't have to worry about all that other- I didn't have to go to make up, I didn't have to stand on a mark, I didn't have to smell anybody, all that crap, because I have like germ things. But while I was doing it I was like, man, it kind of reminded me how much I love standup and that's where I started so I was like, I'm gonna think about doing standup again, and so it just inspired me and I'm doing standup. I'm doing a few dates around the country in a couple of countries, and I'm loving it. It's like going back to your roots."

Some stuff.

R: "There's been a few years that I've been doing other crazy stuff, like I was in a punk rock band and stuff. I just did what I wanted for a couple of years and it was so fun. But then I reconnected with what made me famous was that show and that woman and that family and now I kind of crafted my new standup act to kind of remind people of that, and not try to get all the way away from it, like playing at CBGB and stuff. I tried to come back a little bit centered."

How difficult has it been to retool your career as a less confrontational person?

R: "I'm much less adversarial, but I still want to say something. I think figured out after all these years how to do it in a way that's like me but it's a little more mature. I'm a grandma now, so I don't want to have to pay for- I have an eight year old son and a grandson. I don't want to pay for their therapy bills like my other kids."

How has your new material developed?

R: "Well, it's like so new I've only done one or two [dates], and looking out, it's not who I thought, so it's kind of neat. There's a lot of old people- my age, I call them old people. It's a baby boomer show, but there's a lot of young people, a lot of cross-cultural people, and of course the gays. And we love the gays. It seems to be an intelligent audience. They weren't expecting Roseanne Connor, and my stand-up, it's been ten years since I did it, so it was people who were friends of mine who were in stand-up, so that's like a whole new thing to reconnect with other than television."

Was it difficult getting up in front of a live audience again?

R: "Yeah, it was nerve-wracking. It was really scary. It's taken me like years, like, okay, you can do it, quietly going to clubs over maybe two or three years and going, just get over it and get up there. After you get real successful and then you do something new, you get afraid, because you're kind of a target, but I just worked through it and said, okay, they're going to say this, but I have to do it because I'm lazy."

How do you feel like this film turned out?

R: "I love it. It's so cute, and I took my son and his friends and they loved it so I thought it was really cool, and my nieces and nephews are coming to see it. It's good for, it's a good, it's just cute, and good, and fun. I like it."

Do you want to do more animated characters?

R: "I wish. I told those guys if there's like a fat Persian cat, I look in the mirror going, yeah, I should play the big, fluffy cat in the neighborhood that goes around spying on everyone or something. I don't know- maybe I'll write that or something. Probably not. I like pretending and I like being in a creative, free space, and this really gave me the opportunity to do it because it wasn't me, and they didn't see me so I got a little bit of protection being behind the animation. I like it."

Would you be interested in returning to live-action films?

R: "Yeah, I like to act, but it's hard to like go in a trailer for like seven years. I have a little boy so I can't do a lot. I would for a couple of weeks or something. I wouldn't mind."

Did you ever try to figure out why you were, and are, a role model for strong women?

R: "Yeah, but you just drive yourself crazy. I don't know. People who like me are all different, so no rule works at all, to go, oh, they like me because of this. I guess I don't really know why, and trying to figure it out has driven me over the edge. I did for years so, what was it? I don't know. Kinda like, what should I do now? Kind of thing, and I kind of came to a thing where I should just do what I'm supposed to do as a human being and forget all this other nonsense."

Like what?

R: "Oh, like doing homework and clean my house, just be a human being. Yeah, the real human stuff. All this other stuff I think is, I had it and did it, and this is a great thing to come back with, but I won't be out there too much any more, unless Disney gives me a movie every so often, because that was just painless and fun. I'm good at my real life- that's the thing I've done best. My kids and my real life stuff, not my relationships. With my kids I'm real proud of and that's what I'm best at. I'm not good at schmoozing and wearing the right clothes. I'm not good at it. I am doing stand-up and I am making a kids record, CD, of kids songs, and I'm thinking like a grandma, although a young, hip, sexy one."

How much of your personality carried over on screen in "HOTR"?

R: "Oh, a lot of it. I mean, it's me, melting with a cow. She's in me, and we became as one."

What was the process like?

R: "It was great, because first of all it new, I hadn't ever done it, but just the whole process of watching the artistry of it, watching these people. They would film us while we were saying our lines, and then these artists would animate your facial mannerisms into the character. But that's really about art and drawing, and the whole movie is hand-drawn, so it was really cool to think about this artistic process. It was neat- it's different."

You're creating a lasting piece of work?

R: "Yeah. My son will show his grandson, and it's just awesome. I loved to do it, and would love to do it again."

This supposed to be the last cel animation movie for a while.

R: "That's what they say. Yeah, watching it, you get that feeling, like it was the Disney movies I saw as a kid, instead of the kinda new, modern computer stuff."

How do you feel about the move to computer animation?

R: "I think computers are the spawn of Satan (laughs). I think it's cool that they can create on the computer. My daughter's a graphic artist and she gets on there and she's there for months. It's just not my generation, so I don't know."

How much do you feel like you've changed?

R: "I still feel like I'm brash, but in a different way, where I don't attack. But I like to break down or deconstruct ideas rather than people and the way they look and their body type and not their race. I hate all that crap and I hate all that stuff about body fluids. I don't think any of that's funny, but I think it's funny to make fun of the way we all think, and I always have, but on a bigger scale."

How far do you think the pendulum has swung since you were talking about relationships when you began your career and now?

R: "It was a great time when I did it a generation, twenty years ago, for God's sake, to talk about how it was for women of a certain class, which I was a part of, but now I kind of want to go back and say, but don't forget that we're screwed up too, because I think it went a little too far on the blaming men thing, so now I'm like going, 'man, I actually was an asshole.' women are assholes, and saying that side of it, because I kind of left that out. Because I did terrible things in the name of thinking I was whatever. Now I just want men to like me. We chased them all away. I'm trying to get them to like me now. I'm more comfortable with the man thing than ever before, I wasn't reallt comfortable with it ever in my life, but now I'm like, 'oh yeah, they're like half of the human race.' so I have to remember that."

Do you have any regrets?

R: "I can't regret. I mean, I do have them, but what can I do? Now I'm like, choices I make, I don't know why I always have to do what I do, but I'm better now. Like now I know that when you love someone you're supposed to be nice to them. I get that now? I was laboring under many misconceptions."

What were some of the things you learned about?

R: "Just me, and all the wrong thinking. I just had a lot of wrong thinking, and I didn't think it was wrong, either. Like I didn't know that eating way too much food makes you like really fat. I didn't get that either. I just wanted to eat. I didn't understand cause and effect so much (laughs)."

What was the recording schedule for this movie?

R: "Those other characters, they had already done theirs, sothey played it and I knew how to react to it, like it was an actor there. They played the Judy Dench thing so then I knew I could make fun of her, the Cuba Gooding, all hyper, so I could hear how to do it. It was as if the other characters were in there- in voice."

What do you think contributed to your spiritual growth and personal development?

R: "I've done a lot of work. I just have to say I've done the work, I'm actually looking at what it is I do and changing it. I cried the tears, I did the stuff I was supposed to do, I made the amends, I did the work, and you know, I earned it. I can say that, and I don't think before I ever felt like I earned it, but I did do the work. And I recommend it to everybody, it was successful, and they keep going."

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