Hit sitcom “Roseanne” was canceled by ABC in 2018 after a racially-charged tweet by Barr about Valerie Jarrett, an African American woman who was a senior adviser to Barack Obama throughout his presidency. Barr later apologized.
Later that year, Goodman told the Sunday Times: “I was surprised at the response. And that’s probably all I should say about that … I know for a fact that she’s not a racist.” He added that Barr was “going through hell.” Barr then thanked Goodman “for speaking truth about me.”
At the Monte-Carlo Television Festival this week, where he served as president of the fiction jury, Variety sat down with Goodman in the Blue Gin Lounge of the Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel, overlooking the Mediterranean.
Does Goodman regret speaking up for Barr? “No. At the time I remember going to some kind of junket where they saw the pilot, and then the interviews, and it just turned into attack. And that made me very uncomfortable with them just attacking Roseanne.”
He adds: “Yeah, I felt bad for her. I just feel terrible about the whole thing. We had a great time. And I love her. She’s just her own person.”
Would he work with her again? “I don’t know. If she’d liked to… I just don’t know. I miss her,” he says. “I wish her well.”
John Goodman, Roseanne Barr in Season 8 of “Roseanne” Courtesy of Carsey-Werner/Paramount Television/ABC/Everett Collection
Reflecting on the success of blue-collar comedies “Roseanne” and “The Conners,” which is a reboot of “Roseanne” but with Barr’s character killed off in an early episode, what does Goodman see as their strengths?
“A lot of people have tied into the struggle of living paycheck to paycheck. And we try to handle it with humor,” he says. “Roseanne said something very early in the process: ‘Just because we’re poor doesn’t make us stupid.’ And I think that has a lot to say for the series, but it’s a struggle that’s handled with humor.”
Goodman says there are not many shows that treat blue-collar families with that level of respect.
“The Righteous Gemstones” is another success, with some saying it is a worthy successor to “Succession” for HBO. Asked what its winning qualities are, Goodman says: “Its outrageousness and the bizarre characters that are somehow grounded in reality. The lust for money and power. The insecurities. You know everybody’s got insecurities, but for these people they’re blown up to Godzilla proportions.”
Asked whether he still enjoys working in comedies, Goodman says: “Oh, yes, very much so. I’m more of a straight man in ‘The Righteous Gemstones,’ so I get to sit back and watch a free show.”
Goodman doesn’t believe he’ll appear again on “Saturday Night Live”: “No. My time may have passed. Yeah, it might be a generational thing. I know Steve Martin still goes on and does things.” Does he have any desire maybe to play Donald Trump on the show, for example? “Oh, no, there’s too many Trumps out there. We’re over-Trumped,” he says.
What are his views on the former President? “I’ve become weary of him,” Goodman says. “He is so corrosive and it’s just rotten from the inside-out.”
John Goodman and Jeff Bridges in 1998’s “The Big Lebowski” Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures/Everett Collection
He looks back at the period when he worked on several Coen brothers films with fondness. “I used to hang around on the set on my days off just because I liked being there. They made me laugh,” he says. Asked why they kept casting him, he says maybe they shared “a Midwestern sensibility.”
Reflecting on what makes the Coen Brothers stand apart from other directors, he says: “They strike a more personal note with me. It’s just their writing is superior and their sense of humor and their vision. And maybe it’s the fact that we are Midwestern transplants to New York. Perhaps it has something to do with it. But I hit it off with them as soon as I met them. We had a grand old time at my audition for ‘Raising Arizona.’ Yeah, I feel like my tickets have run out on the Coen brothers because I haven’t seen them for so long and haven’t worked with them.”
Having spent a week watching series from around the world, he judges the quality of the non-U.S. shows as “very good.” Does he see many differences between U.S. and foreign shows? “Not especially. I mean, both sides have mandatory fucking now.”
He enjoys watching British series in particular, even when he’s not on a jury. “More than half the stuff I watch is British or British-influenced with British writers,” he says. After Monte-Carlo, he heads to London, but not for work. “Just to hang out. I love going to the theater there. For me it’s very special. The British actors are just crackerjack, just top hole, and the theater is great. I just love being there and walking around.”
“Technically,” he says, New Orleans is his home, “but since I’m always either in L.A. or Charleston, I’m rarely there.” Has he considered retiring? “I did, a couple of years ago, but I really enjoy acting so much that, yeah, it wouldn’t kill me to do like one or two things a year. I’ve just been going nonstop.”