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“Our audiences will go with us when we go a little dark,” said Laurie Metcalf.

In the Variety Streaming Room presented by ABC, hosted by senior editor Michael Schneider, the stars and executive producers of “The Conners” discussed writing COVID-19 into the show and the series’ emotional third season. The panelists included actors Metcalf, Sara Gilbert and Lecy Goranson, alongside executive producers Bruce Helford, Bruce Rasmussen and Dave Caplan.

Goranson, who plays Becky Conner, discussed the episode in which her character checks into rehab.

“It’s safe to say it’s been a really tough year. Everyone has been kind of on the breaking point, you know?” Goranson said. “So it wasn’t a surprise that Becky would kind of crack this season. We all felt it was a little unrealistic that she would just go cold-turkey sober when she got pregnant.”

As a spinoff of the sitcom “Roseanne,” which first aired in the ’80s, “The Conners” is able to explore long and emotional character arcs through various decades.

“Not only do we have actors that can pull off more nuanced material than you might normally see in the sitcom genre, but we also have an audience that will go with us on a more complicated journey,” Caplan said.

In incorporating the pandemic into the show’s storylines, the writers had to balance the series’ goal of accurately portraying real life for a middle-class family with the COVID fatigue felt by audiences.

“Part of the Conners’ journey is also the journey of trying to keep their heads above water economically,” Rasmussen said. “And like a lot of families in America, the pandemic hit families, especially families that didn’t have much of a safety net. It would’ve been easier, certainly, to pretend that we were a show that took place in the future or the past. But we felt like we couldn’t walk away from it.”