Secrets the cast of Roseanne tried to hide

After the premiere of the ABC sitcom Roseanne, most members of the show's cast became huge stars, cementing themselves as fixtures in Hollywood for the entire nine-season run of the show from 1988 to 1997. And then again in 2018 with the series' well-received reboot, which quickly scored a second season shortly after its premiere. Comedian Roseanne Barr along with her co-stars John Goodman, Sara Gilbert, Johnny Galecki, and Laurie Metcalf, among others, transformed into public darlings, and, understandably, people wanted to know everything they could about the actors and actresses behind the entire extended Conner family. Nevertheless, there were all kinds of secrets and stories that the stars didn't care for the public to know too much about.

From behind-the-scenes drama to scandalous details about the stars' personal lives, here are some of the tales that the cast of the beloved TV show would rather have been kept under wraps.

Roseanne wasn't the first cast member Tom Arnold pursued

Most Roseanne fans are aware of the show's tumultuous backstage atmosphere, in which Roseanne Barr fought with producers for creative control and pushed around writers. But things got especially tumultuous when Barr married comedian Tom Arnold, who was also an aggressive presence on the show's set. However, Arnold didn't just swoop in and claim power because he was married to the boss — he was around during the early stages of the show. 

In 1988, Arnold dated Laurie Metcalf, who portrayed Aunt Jackie. While discussing the 2018 Roseanne reboot for The Hollywood Reporter, Arnold told a story about riding in a car in 1988 with Barr and John Goodman. "Roseanne, who was in the front seat with Goodman, noticed me holding Laurie's hand in back. The next morning she called me into her office and told me, 'Writers cannot date actors. That's a rule of show business.'" So Arnold and Metcalf split up … only for Arnold and Barr to hook up and then marry about two years later.

From Beverly Hills to Lanford

About the only major cast member from old Roseanne who didn't show up for the revival was Irish actor Glenn Quinn, who played Becky's ne'er-do-well husband. The reason why Quinn didn't come back is a tragic one: He died of a drug overdose in 2002. However, Quinn's presence is felt on the new episodes — Becky laments never having had children with Mark before he passed, and Darlene's son is named after his late uncle.

Still, it was a twist of luck and fate that Quinn wound up on Roseanne at all. Not too long before he won the role of Mark, he was really trying to be a teen idol. Quinn's first speaking role was on the first episode of Beverly Hills, 90210, and it was something of a consolation prize. According to The Independent, Quinn just barely missed out on the roles of both Brandon Walsh and Steve Sanders, which went to Jason Priestly and Ian Ziering, respectively. But had Quinn won a part on the long-running teen soap, he probably wouldn't have been free to do Roseanne. 

Johnny Galecki's private on-set relationships

Johnny Galecki will probably always be best known for being a part of two of the most memorable TV sitcom couples of all time: As David opposite Sara Gilbert's Darlene on Roseanne and as Leonard opposite Kaley Cuoco's Penny on The Big Bang Theory. Perhaps those couples are so beloved because of the intense chemistry between Galecki and those co-stars, chemistry that led to real-life relationships with both actresses. During the run of Roseanne, Galecki dated Gilbert for a spell, before the pair ended things (more on that later). He and Cuoco also dated for about two years during the first few seasons of The Big Bang Theory. 

What's truly interesting and surprising about that is how Galecki and Cuoco kept their romance completely secret. In 2010, long after the two split, Cuoco revealed their relationship to CBS Watch! (via Us Weekly). "It was such a huge part of my life and no one knew about it," she said. Galecki added to CBS Watch! that he and his ex remain friends, but that he doesn't like to talk about the relationship "not because I'm trying to be enigmatic; I just worry that it will conflict with people's acceptance of Leonard and Penny."

Sara Gilbert realized she was gay while filming

Today, Sara Gilbert is a proudly out lesbian, but she wasn't always. She realized she was gay when she was a teenager … while she was dating her Roseanne co-star Johnny Galecki. "We started dating and he would come over and we would, like, make out, and then I would start to get depressed," Gilbert said on her show The Talk (via Today) in 2010. 

Fortunately, when she explained to a slightly hurt Galecki what was really going on, he totally got it. She explained, "I eventually told him I thought it was about my sexuality, and he was super sweet about it." 

Gilbert said they remained very good friends, to the point where, when Gilbert decided to publicly come out on The Talk, she asked Galecki if she could relay her "moment of realization" story, as it involved him, and he was fine with it. Gilbert shared that he'd said, "Of course. I love you, and I think it's really important and I'm so proud of you. If you want, I will be there, and I will hold your hand."

Second Becky's medical nightmare

Before her work on Scrubs and Rick and Morty, Sarah Chalke was best known for being "Second Becky" on Roseanne. For those unfamiliar with the show, original Becky, Lecy Goranson, left the show to attend college, but producers didn't want to get rid of the character, so they re-cast the role with Chalke. (Both Goranson and Chalke appear on the Roseanne revival, with Chalke playing a woman looking to hire Becky as a surrogate mother.) 

While Chalke's comedy career may be all laughs and sunshine, off-screen she's a single mom who has endured a frustrating medical ordeal. Her son, Charlie, suffers from Kawasaki Disease, a difficult-to-diagnose childhood condition in which the body's blood vessels become inflamed, which can lead to major heart problems. 

In 2013, Chalke successfully pitched (and guest-starred on) a KD-themed episode of Grey's Anatomy.  Chalke wanted to share her experience with the world while also raising awareness of the condition, as she'd initially had trouble getting doctors to not dismiss her son's symptoms. "The one thing that was important to me was that the symptoms would be mentioned and shown so that as a parent when you're watching, you're able to see the symptoms and have this visual trigger," Chalke told The Hollywood Reporter. "There's a message to parents: Fight for your kid, don't be scared to get a second, third, sixth opinion or go into an ER and put your foot down."

John Goodman vs. booze

Dan Conner was often be seen knocking back a couple of cold ones either at the end of a long day in the family kitchen or while hanging out with his poker buddies. His drinking was casual and controlled, unlike actor John Goodman's own experience with alcohol. While portraying the beer-swilling patriarch on Roseanne, Goodman battled alcoholism, and he often lost. His drinking got so out of control during his last four years on Roseanne, he said he secretly drank while shooting episodes. "I was drinking at work," Goodman said in a 2018 episode of Sunday Today with Willie Geist. "I was ashamed of myself, but I couldn't stop. My speech would be slurred. I thought I was fooling people. My cheeks would turn bright red when I was liquored up. I just looked like a stop sign." 

One person he wasn't fooling: Roseanne Barr. Goodman said that Barr's experience in dealing with an alcoholic ex-husband made her "scared" and "confrontational," and she urged him to seek help. Goodman finally did in 2007, a decade after Roseanne went off the air. 

Fred Willard's embarrassing arrest

Comedy icon Fred Willard — he of the Christopher Guest stable that made Best in Show and A Mighty Wind — was once best known for playing sidekick Jerry Hubbard to Martin Mull's mock talk show host Barth Gimble on Fernwood 2 Night in the 1970s. Mull and Willard reunited for Roseanne, portraying Roseanne's boss Leon and Leon's partner Scott, respectively, who marry in a groundbreaking 1995 episode. Willard later went on to big things, of course, but he faced an embarrassing scandal in 2012 when he was arrested for some inappropriate self-touching at a seedy Hollywood porno movie theater. 

After completing a diversion program, Willard avoided trial, which marked the end of the legal affair. Nevertheless, Willard had to go on the ol' public apology tour, making fun of himself and the incident on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Willard attested that he "did nothing wrong," but that the whole thing was "embarrassing as hell."

Roseanne's father became a bad guy for good reason

In a couple of appearances in the first few seasons of Roseanne, Roseanne Conner's father, Al Harris (John Randolph), was a decent, likable guy. Then in the 1991 Thanksgiving episode, "Thanksgiving '91," it was revealed that he was actually a bad dude — he'd been carrying on a years-long affair, and his wife knew about it. About a year and a half later, Roseanne writers killed off Al and revealed more family secrets. When Jackie laments not spending more time with her beloved father, Roseanne quips, "When did you love him more? When he'd come home and beat us with a belt, or when he didn't come home at all?" (via A.V. Club). 

Why the sudden, shocking changes to Al? Because Roseanne was always a show that aimed to present the truth, from the general realities of being a working class family to the specific experiences of Roseanne Barr herself. As the actress told People in 1991, her then-fiancé Tom Arnold's recollection of a repressed memory of childhood abuse triggered the surfacing of her own long-buried memories of physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. "My mother abused me from the time I was an infant until I was 6 or 7 years old," Barr wrote, adding that her father "molested [her] until [she] left home at age 17." When she realized how horrible her real parents had allegedly been, particularly her father, Roseanne's TV father became a monster, too.

Nancy may have caused the end of a stormy celebrity marriage

Roseanne Barr wasn't the only iconic stand-up comedian in the cast of Roseanne. In 1991, Sandra Bernhard joined the cast with a recurring role as Nancy Bartlett. Bernhard's character was, at first, the girlfriend of Arnie (Tom Arnold), one of Dan's poker buddies. They got married, she helped Roseanne and Jackie open the Lanford Lunchbox loose meat diner, and then she divorced Arnie when she came out as a lesbian, one of the few openly gay characters on American television in the '90s.

Bernhard was already extremely famous, and she had lots of famous friends. In 1988, when Madonna starred in a production of David Mamet's play Speed-the-Plow, she and Bernard tore up New York and playfully suggested they were something more than friends on Late Night with David Letterman. They wore matching outfits and were all over each other. Bernhard even joked about going to bed with both Madonna and Madonna's husband, Hollywood hot-head Sean Penn. "She's using me to get to Sean," Madonna also quipped. 

Well, all that apparently made Sean Penn quite upset. At a party after the premiere of Penn's movie Hurlyburly, Madonna showed up late with "Sandra Bernhard glued to her side," as reported by People. That's when Penn reportedly screamed, "You [expletive withheld], how could you do this to me?" A few months later, Madonna filed for divorce.

We still think he's a Babe

By 1992, John Goodman had parlayed his success on Roseanne into major roles in major films, such as Barton Fink, King Ralph, and The Babe. He played Babe Ruth, arguably both the most famous and best baseball player of all time. Goodman shared Ruth's charisma and regular-guy likability as well as physical type — both men were heavyset. Goodman weighed nearly 300 pounds in the early '90s, which he tried to avoid. 

"I lose it, I gain it back, no big deal," Goodman told Entertainment Weekly. "I dance better when I'm thin." He was also required to shed some poundage to portray the Bambino, who was as well known for his frame as he was for his game. "I'm the only actor around who had to lose 40 pounds to play Babe Ruth!" Goodman quipped.

Live from New York, it's not Laurie Metcalf

Not everyone who joins the cast of Saturday Night Live becomes a star on the late-night sketch comedy institution. Many struggle for screen time and get cut from the cast after a season (or less), including future big-timers such as Ben Stiller and Damon Wayans. And then there's Roseanne's Laurie Metcalf, who, due to a series of odd circumstances, is an SNL veteran of exactly one episode.

In 1980, SNL creator and producer Lorne Michaels put an inexperienced producer named Jean Doumanian in charge. She bungled things so badly that near the end of the 1980-81 season, NBC kicked her out and installed Dick Ebersol, who fired most of Doumanian's cast and brought in new performers, including Metcalf as a featured player.

In her first episode, Metcalf appeared on screen once — as an interviewer in a pre-taped "man on the street" bit for "Weekend Update" in which she asks real people if they'd take a bullet for President Reagan. (He'd survived an assassination attempt a few weeks earlier, so it wasn't the most tasteful sketch.)

The tweet that doomed the show was part of a pattern

In May 2018, ABC abruptly and shockingly canceled the Roseanne reboot after star Roseanne Barr made some racially-charged comments on Twitter about Valerie Jarrett, an advisor to former President Barack Obama. Barr suggested that Jarrett had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, which some call a terrorist organization, and compared the African-American woman's appearance to that of an ape. 

Barr profusely apologized and sort of blamed her ill-conceived tweeting on Ambien, but the damage was done. However, Barr's tweet about Jarrett was not an isolated incident. In a 2013 tweet (that was later deleted), she called National Security Advisor Susan Rice, another African-American woman who worked in the Obama administration, "a man with big swinging ape b***."

Barr has also used Twitter to do things like share the name and address of the parents of George Zimmerman, the man who shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin (Barr was sued for that); call out what she pegged as "Islamic rape pedo culture," label Israel "a Nazi state," and call for the execution of underhanded Wall Street financial types. This makes that time she sang the National Anthem poorly on purpose seem rather tame, doesn't it?