Interview: Michael Fishman (D.J. Conner) on returning to ‘Roseanne’


(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Michael Fishman, who plays D.J. Conner on the show ‘Roseanne’, will be making his return with the rest of the cast to the rebooting of ‘Roseanne’.

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I grew up on ’80s television and, even though my wife feels that I probably watched too much TV, I can at least tell you my absolute favorites. Shows such as Cosby, ALF, Growing Pains, Night Court, Cheers, Family Ties and Wonder Years were part of my regular schedule, however, none of these shows grabbed me as much as Roseanne.

I am so very thankful that I found my way to it. The show challenged and changed the way television came across our screens. I don’t think for a moment that Ellen DeGeneres would have the platform in her show Ellen to come out of the closet if it weren’t for Roseanne and the episode entitled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” There were several other episodes detailing real life social moments paving the way for other shows to do the same.

Jackie and domestic violence, Darlene and her depressive mood in adolescence, Dan being out of work while Roseanne works two jobs were some of the themes. It also tackled teenage sex and teen pregnancy. It wasn’t immune to any of the characters, something always hit, such as D.J. discovering his sexual maturity through habitual masturbation. Yes, it was a show about real people, dealing with real problems and, through that, it made our lives just a little bit easier.

Over the last three years or so, I have had the pleasure to speak with Michael Fishman on several occasions. He is extremely humble and is always looking for a way to give back. One quick glance at his Twitter or his Facebook timeline tells all.

It was my honor when Michael Fishman said “Yes” to an interview to share his experiences a main cast member on one of the most pivotal shows in television history.

Hidden Remote: Why did you audition for Roseanne?

Michael Fishman: My sister had been auditioning for a while, and I decided I would like to try too. It was 1988, during a writer’s strike, there was no work so when the audition for Roseanne came up my agent requested I go. My parents initially said no thank you until the agent insisted, “Don’t worry, they want someone with experience. He will never get it. It’s just good experience.” That started a seven-audition process spanning six months that turned into nine incredible years.

Hidden Remote:  Was it hard growing up on a television show?

Fishman: I was lucky enough to grow up with great people in front and behind the camera. I was fascinated by everyone. Still am. I loved the crew, never became aloof or jaded. Occasionally you get aggressive or antagonistic haters. It is an occupational hazard, but one I always felt was worth it. It did make me take things slow though when my kids were little. Everything I did was public. I grew up that way. I started at six, it was part of most of my memories and when the show was ending [that] was actually the hardest part.

Hidden Remote: What was your relationship like with Roseanne, John Goodman and the rest of the cast?

Fishman: Roseanne and I connected immediately at my second audition. When many in the world have walked away from me, she has been my champion. I hope to repay that now as an adult. John is a mountain of a man. Reserved off stage, effervescent on it, he has been truly kind. Laurie {actress who played Jackie} was the perfect mom. Her daughter Zoe and I grew up running around the studio lot. As much as Jackie is neurotic, Laurie is authentic and dependable. Sara Gilbert {actress who played Darlene} has one of the best hearts. Smart and strategic, she is a quiet powerhouse. Lecy {actress who played Becky} is a truly free spirit. Hopefully, I am the loyal, empathetic admirer who supports them all encouraging their greatness.

Hidden Remote:  What do you find common about you and DJ?

Fishman: D.J. was more pugnacious. I suppose we are both odd in our own ways. I would say D.J., and I share an open, accepting heart. We can be outspoken but kind. D.J. always had an openness I cultivated. His acceptance of different people, ideas or positions. I’d say we are most alike in our curiosity.

Hidden Remote: What was the hardest part about being DJ?

Fishman: I loved playing D.J., that’s part of the reason I am willing to come back. I went to public school on hiatus (from the show) which never failed to be a “delicate” topic. Never forget the day after the masturbation episode, halls were a little extra lively. I would say the hardest part for most people is growing up famous. Fame is a magnifying glass. Even more so nowadays. I loved every day at work. When jobs end {show ended after nine seasons}, people are scattered in every direction. As a kid that is harder to accept.”

Hidden Remote: If you could take DJ in any direction what would you like to have seen him done before cancellation?

Fishman: Before the show ended, I would have liked to see DJ jump toward adulthood. I don’t really have a specific for then, but that is what I am hoping for now. Like him to have kids, be a good dad, be moral, honorable but realistically flawed.

Hidden Remote: What are your favorite episodes about?

Fishman: My favorite episodes involve social relevance. Humor can be more powerful than drama because you can disarm people. You can make someone laugh and open their mind, softening their heart. I hope that is what we do again in our second stint. Be daring, take chances and shine a light on how real people are struggling to get by. Most of us work to maintain, to provide the necessities for our kids, with the occasional “want” among the “needs.” Having kids is a comedy of errors.

Working to keep up with the changing times, a masterful high wire act most families experience every day. We undoubtedly will have jobs and struggle which is what most of America does. Real families dream, work, fight, joke and at our base love each other. I want more of that on TV. Add in social issues most companies are too timid to touch. That is the beauty of what Roseanne forced into the show. I am grateful every day for her willingness to be painfully honest.

Hidden Remote:  What made the show unique enough to last

Fishman: I believe Roseanne remains unique. We had a very authentic family feel but with intelligence. Our writers wrote great family dynamics that captured our chemistry, combined with humor and truth. It is a massive challenge to do all those things well at once, then wedge it into 22 minutes. Roseanne rarely took an easy joke. Then every week we had a new legend joining a cast. I was standing among legends daily, they can make the mundane electrifying.

Hidden Remote:  What is the hardest part about being part of a hit TV show that most people don’t know?

Fishman: Hardest part. Firstly, I try not to complain because I love acting! I love this business!!! This is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I study, I train, I seek new skills. That said boundaries can be hard. People feel like they have a right to your privacy. Others are angry, jealous and can occasionally be violent. That is primarily why when my kids were young, I so preferred to stay behind the camera.

Life After Show

(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Hidden Remote: What did you do after the show canceled?

Fishman: After the show, I went back to public high school. I did some small parts on Seinfeld, A.I., and others. Then I chased being a baseball player. Finally, I started helping with my little brother which led to me meeting my wife. I decided if I wanted to be a producer, writer-director I needed to know more so I went behind the scenes to expand my knowledge and skill in the business. My sports and production skills brought me to Sports Science. Then I became a dad – that changed everything. I had a new top priority which is working hard to take care of my wife and kids.

I spent the next few years playing baseball, then coaching and giving back. Over the 16 years, I have coached baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, and hockey. All the while I have been making notes, writing down names, sketching out stories. I always knew what I wanted. I just thought it would take me a little longer for the opportunity. In the meantime I have also been taking acting classes, doing improv and some stand-up. I have been building toward my dreams while supporting my kids in theirs. With our new staff writers on Roseanne, I am spending my time getting things to make this a beginning, not an end.

Hidden Remote: You mentioned that you gave back. I am curious on if you can expand on that statement. What did you do to give back?

Fishman: It sounds cliché, but I believe my job is to make a difference for others. I’ve worked with groups to feed the homeless, volunteered at hospitals and working with poor and underprivileged kids, mostly from the inner cities to create access to sports. I have been a tutor for struggling kids, worked at multiple high schools, and coached every level of baseball from local T-ball through college and spent over six years as a high school baseball coach as well. I served as a safety diver volunteering to help keep people safe while diving and trying to be a supportive help to up and coming actors.

Hidden Remote:  If you would write a biographic novel, who would it be about and what would you title your own autobiographic tale?

Fishman: An amazing writer who worked on Roseanne in the mid-nineties once told me my autobiography should be called “D.J. runs out.” I ran everywhere at work, so every script said: “D.J. runs in / D.J. runs out.” Obviously, he is a great writer with quick wit. I think it would be called “Finding the Light” that is an acting term that saves production time and money and I like being professional and supportive. Everyone has trial and tribulation, I try hard to find the light. At my best, I hope to be someone else’s light.

Next: #WomanCrushWednesday: ‘Roseanne’ Conner

Hidden Remote: You are one of the humblest people I’ve ever met, how do you do it? Do you think it will be a lot harder now when Roseanne returns, and your name will be in the spotlight once again?

Fishman: THANK YOU! My humility started with my parents. It was shaped by our crew, who never let me be a “star.” Truthfully, I expect fame, I expect success. I work hard every day, but I don’t see myself as special. I see it as I have a more public job when I act and know what it is like to do manual labor. With Roseanne coming back I will be thrust back into a more public existence. I have struggled enough I don’t think I can forget. My real fear is I have seen fame change others from sports, music, and entertainment. My hope is my kids are old enough now I can keep it from altering them.

Hidden Remote:  Final question. How can I convert you to being a Giants fan?

Fishman: I do not hate your Giants, my friend. Rather I love my Dodgers, Pirates, and Angels. I respect many of the Giants. Posey is one of my favorites! I actually loved the time I shared with Barry Bonds and I love San Francisco. I just root for the Giants to lose 162 every year. Unless they are playing someone else closer to the Dodgers. We still need to get you a real Kershaw jersey. That will be part of my gift to you if I make it back toward the top. In the meantime, we can keep heckling each other via Twitter.

Roseanne is tentatively scheduled for early 2018. As for the reboot, at this time there no information yet about what the content or design of the show. However, the entire original cast will be returning.

On Twitter, you can find Michael Fishman @ReelFishman, and you can also locate him on Facebook as Michael Fishman and to look further into his career, I present to you, his IMDB page.


  • Michael has been a spokesman and volunteer for numerous charities including Make-A-Wish, American Red Cross, Special Olympics, MADD, RADD, D.A.R.E International, The Humane Society, and World Wildlife Fund.
  • Primary builder and a designer in the Art Department on Sport Science (2007) Emmy Award nominations for “Outstanding Production Design / Art “
  • Fishman played independent baseball with Mexican and Japanese teams.
  • Regularly visits sick kids at UCLA Children’s Hospital as a Rx Laughter Foundation
  • Graduated and regularly performs at Improv at iO West (Improv Olympics). Writes and performs at Second City.
  • In association with Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund, Fishman was an International Ambassador for UNICEF giving a United Nations presentation.
  • Habitat for Humanity volunteer regularly builds or fixes homes for the underprivileged.