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Frankie Shaw Reveals Roseanne Barr Almost Co-Starred on ‘SMILF’

SMILF” creator and star Frankie Shaw revealed that the role of her mother Tutu, played by Rosie O’Donnell on the show, almost went to Roseanne Barr.

Shaw admitted “it’s been a secret until this moment” at ABC Studios’ For Your Consideration event. “We did offer Tutu to Roseanne, and she was going to do it and then she broke her knee and had surgery.”

Shaw’s costar Connie Britton reacted in shock to this announcement, pressing, “I didn’t know that, that would’ve been so fascinating. You and Roseanne, are you kidding me? Let’s talk about it.”

Shaw went on to tell the story of her casting Barr for the part, after a brunch in LA where “I was like, ‘You’re my hero, will you play my mom?’ And she said yes and I went to Boston and then I got this call that she had fallen in a park and had like 45 stitches and wasn’t allowed to travel. I sent her this package and I even wrote the character would be in a scooter. I was like, ‘She’ll be in a scooter, we’ll just scoot you around you won’t even have to walk.’ And her doctor said she can’t fly.”

Instead, with about two weeks before filming, Shaw met O’Donnell, who ended up taking on the bipolar woman who baptizes Bridgette’s (Shaw) son without her consent in the first season on Showtime.

Barr has been at the center of a recent scandal after she made racist comments against former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett on Twitter, causing ABC to cancel the “Roseanne” revival.  

At the FYC event, held on the Walt Disney Studios lot in Burbank, Calif., Shaw also spoke about the show’s timeliness with the #MeToo movement, particularly in a scene where a man grabs her character’s vagina and she punches him in the face. The scene, the actress said, was a response to Donald Trump’s comments about “grabbing [women] by the p—y.”

“What does it feel like for the woman when her p—y is grabbed? We’re deeply in her point of view. We started shooting the pilot the day the election was announced, and I feel like in one sense that gave me a lot more courage to explore the things that I really wanted to,” Shaw said. It was also based off of a time when Shaw herself had been grabbed herself by a man on the subway and was frozen.

“It was wish fulfillment,” she continued. “I was like ‘I’m going to punch him in the face for all of the women that have been grabbed’ instead of do what we normally do, which is freeze in shock.”

Production on “SMILF’s” first season was entirely completed by the time allegations against Harvey Weinstein set off the women’s empowerment movement and fight against sexual harassment, though.

“That was wild synchronicity, in the air, in the zeitgeist, it was happening, so it was important because I always knew this show was going to explore sexual violence and sexual abuse, that was always in the DNA of it, and have the approach of not having shame around it,” Shaw said. “Not having it be a show about that, but that it colors the experience of our characters, because those are the women that I know and those are the experiences that I hear about that weren’t out there like they are now. It was just a sort of perfect timing.”

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