Now in the back half of its third season, ABC's The Conners continues to depict the financial, physical and emotional struggles plaguing the titular family. One current arc features Sara Gilbert's Darlene helping John Goodman's Dan pay the mortgage, which is causing strife with Jay R. Ferguson's Ben. So here's hoping she'll be shaken out of her rut after Roseanne and Halloween franchise vet Danielle Harris shows up to reprise the role of Molly Tilden for the first time in nearly 30 years.
As a direct follow-up to the classic '80s and '90s sitcom Roseanne, The Conners occasionally brings familiar characters, actors (and Blockbuster DVDs) back into the fold, even if it's not always in person. But it was still an awesome surprise to very recently learn that Danielle Harris would be bringing Molly back to the small screen. CinemaBlend had the privilege of talking to Harris about her big return, and here's what she told me when I asked how this opportunity came about:
I know for the last couple of years once the show came back, and I saw they were bringing people back here and there, I was like, 'Oh, I wonder if we'll ever have Molly back?' And I've been asked for years by fans, like, 'Are they ever gonna bring you back on the show? Why don't you go back on the show?' Like, it's not because I don't want to go back on the show. [Laughs.] I just hadn't heard anything about going back on the show. So when I got the call a couple months ago, I was like, wait, wait, what? They're putting a pin in me for...it was like three weeks that I was on hold for, because they weren't sure when the episode was going to kind of fit into place. And I was like, 'Oh my god, I can't believe they're bringing Molly back. This is amazing!' And I had no idea [what would happen]. I was dying to get the script, and then I got the script and was like, 'Wow, this is really exciting.'
Without getting into any spoilers, it's safe to say that viewers will be talking about Molly's return for several different reasons, including how wonderfully bizarre it is to see Darlene and Molly together again for the first time since 1992. And it's not only fans that will be pumped when the episode airs, since Danielle Harris herself is enthused about taking part in a family-friendly, non-horror project that her children can watch. Here's how she put it:
I mean, I'm just happy that I get to finally sit down on my couch with my family and watch with my kids, who are two and four. They get to watch Mommy on TV, and it's just exciting. I haven't done a live audience, multi-camera sitcom since Roseanne. I think I did one episode of Boy Meets World after Roseanne, when I was 17, and that was kind of it, you know? I went to do single-camera stuff, so it was really nice to go back and to flex that side of my brain and to do some comedy that, you know, maybe people will see me in a different light for the first time. So it's gonna be really nice.
If Danielle Harris' Boy Meets World character T.K. had also shown up as an adult on The Conners, it might have broken some viewers' brains. (Remember all those bonkers TGIF crossovers on ABC?) But hopefully everyone will still be intact after watching.
CinemaBlend also spoke with The Conners showrunner Bruce Helford and executive producer Dave Caplan, who also shined a little light on the motivation to bring Danielle Harris back into the franchise. When I asked Helford if this idea was specific to Season 3, or if it came up before, here's how he answered:
We've got such a rich reserve of episodes from Roseanne that, you know, was like eight years of guest stars and wonderful appearances. And every once in a while, we think, 'Well, what if that person showed up?' We did bring back one of the original workers from Wellman Plastics who appeared in, like, the first year of the Roseanne show. So we have this pool. With Danielle Harris and the Molly Tilden character, that was the season that I was the showrunner on Roseanne, and that was the season we used her and [Molly's] sister, played by [Mara Hobel]. And we thought, wow, this would be fun to see what effect she would have on Darlene at this stage in her life, and especially with Darlene going through problems with her current boyfriend, because Molly made a pretty big move on David back in the early days.
It's entirely possible that The Conners viewers will one day be reconnected with Molly's sister Charlotte, but it doesn't appear as if that will be the case with the episode "An Old Dog, New Tricks and a Ticket to Ride." Not that it's needed, since Molly was the goal anyway.
When I asked showrunner Bruce Helford what it was like to reconnect with Danielle Harris as an adult after so many years, and he had nothing but good things to say.
I was surprised. You know, a lot of people from back then had not continued as actors. She's got a really nice career as a scream queen. So we were like, 'Oh, hey, she still acts. That's great.' It was really nice to see her, because she was a good actress as a kid – I hadn't worked with her since – and then she came back and she was really strong, really good. So it was fun to be able to kind of revive all that. For the fans of the show...it's all of a sudden, wow, you get to see somebody you thought you'd never see again.
For those wondering, I did indeed mention to The Conners executive producers that they missed the boat by not having Danielle Harris as a guest star during one of the memorable Halloween-themed episodes, considering she starred as Jamie Lloyd in both Halloween 4 and Halloween 5 in the '80s. (Not to mention her return to the general franchise for Rob Zombie's pair of remakes.)
The Conners airs new episodes every Wednesday night on ABC, with Danielle Harris' return as Molly kicking off a back-to-back airing on April 7. Fans still have yet to hear whether or not ABC will bring The Conners back for a fourth season, but be sure to tune into the Season 3 finale, which will feature a tribute to the crew worker who died during filming.