Whether on the right or the left, many in this country are recoiling at Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett. Alongside the disgust with the tweet is a growing defense of her after the comedienne’s popular sitcom was axed by ABC. Regardless of what side of the debate you land on, the description of Roseanne by one of the show’s writers’ assistants is sure to rile you up even more.
In an interview with HuffPost, Ryan Kemp details what it was like working with a woman whom much of Hollywood now reviles as a racist. The interview starts off with Kemp’s assertion that Roseanne was intended to preach tolerance. Within that context, and speaking of the tweet and Barr’s firing, Kemp says:
This is what we were preaching — or not preaching, but this is what we were going for ― tolerance and understanding and trying to bring an end to the division. This goes right in line with what the show was about. It basically proves that ABC is putting their money where their mouth is.
Even though he states that the in-person Roseanne is nothing like her online persona, Kemp still believes that the cancelation of the show was the right thing to do. However, he was not shy about speaking positively about Roseanne to HuffPost.
Everyone told me she was going to be difficult to work with and that she was very rigid about the way she wanted things. But she seemed very grateful. I never knew her in the first run, but other people said this was a 180 for her.
She seemed down-to-earth and concerned with the show and the messages and the people working on the show. She wasn’t out there trying to cause waves. I know she has a big personality, and she would make little jokes here and there, but not at anyone’s expense. When it comes to opinions regarding politics, we tried to keep it out of the workplace — but, you know, it’s “Roseanne.”
When asked about the mood in the writer’s room, Kemp gushed:
We wanted to have the discussions. We didn’t want to just put things in a box and say, “This is what it is,” and label stuff as right or wrong. We wanted to have the discussions people are having at home, and how to understand how something like this could happen — how we could elect [Trump] as a president. It was a very open forum. It was very tolerant. We did some great work and explored some interesting things. I’ve worked on a lot of shows: “Scrubs” and “Outsourced” and “Undateable” and “2 Broke Girls” and tons of pilots in between. [“Roseanne”] was really, truly, a great experience.
The interview touched on Roseanne’s support of Trump, of course. Reiterating what she has frequently said about her reasons for making the character a Trump supporter, Kemp defends the decision:
We didn’t want to make a show about a Trump supporter. We wanted to make a show about what’s happening in America and why there’s such division. You can’t be like, “Hey, we think [Trump voters are] wrong, so we’re going to shut them out and hopefully they’ll go away.” It doesn’t work like that. We have to understand where people come from and why people feel this way. These are the conversations we’re having at home with our families, and we wanted to bring that tolerance, because you can’t have tolerance without understanding.
That’s what we wanted to provide. I loved that. America needs help right now, and that’s all we were trying to do.
Even though Kemp has publicly stated that he agrees with ABC’s decision, it remains to be seen if his positive words about Roseanne Barr will prove to be detrimental to his career in Hollywood.