The realities of virtual school are no stranger to many us, and in an upcoming episode of “THE CONNERS” favorite mother-son duo Sara Gilbert & Ames McNamara address the issues many of us our facing. Thanks to ABC, I had the opportunity to participate in a virtual interview to chat with the stars about their own personal experiences, as well the episode, 'Cheating, Revelations and A Box of Doll Heads', which airs tonight 9/8c, April 21. In the upcoming episode, Mark is stressed and exhausted from studying for an important entrance exam so Darlene steps in to help, but her plan backfires.
The reality is, we are all doing the best we can with virtual learning. It was comforting for me to know that Sara was facing the same challenges I was as a parent, and that my kids could definitely relate to Ames' experience. In "THE CONNERS" they talk about the harsh reality of the digital and economic divide, which is also sadly relatable to many American families, and families around the world.
Whether it's Zoom fatigue because of screen time, technology issues, it's a struggle for so many. After over year, we are slowly getting back to normal. We'd like to think we are all doing the best we can, but some of us are definitely doing better than others.
I'm sharing some of the questions asked by my fellow bloggers during our interview, with by the responses from Sara and Ames.
Not everyone gets ahead just by working hard.
Chrysa (Thrifty Jinxy) In this episode, Darlene does a really good job of trying to blow up the myth of meritocracy during her school confrontation. In general, "THE CONNERS" addresses this idea often. And so why do you think it's important overall for the series to show that not everyone gets ahead just by working hard?
Sara: I think it's important to show because I think it's the only way we can change things is to first have some awareness around it and see the problem, be in touch with the problem and then hopefully be able to take some action. I mean, it is really unfortunate and something that I love about our show that we get to address the fact that this is obviously a fictional group that represents a lot of people who are very kind, smart, intelligent, funny, good people that cannot break the cycle of poverty, and cannot break through the levels of how unfair things can be in this country.
Ames: It's not like these inequalities did not exist before, but it's just widened the gap, in a way, and also it's brought more attention to it, which I think is a good thing and like Sara was saying, by doing what we do, that hopefully we can do something.
The pressures of virtual learning
Tania (Lola Lambchops) This is for both of you, but Ames, I feel like you'll really be able to speak to this, especially with your experience on doing learning on set. Do you have any advice for kids who are feeling the pressures of doing virtual learning and adjusting to this world?
Ames: I think probably my best advice would say is it's really tough now, but we've already lost a year of being able to hang out with friends and family, and socialize, and even though it's really not a great- it's not ideal at all to be doing schools long hours, and then homework on the computer, but I think there's light at the end of the tunnel.
I hope this is not going to be the normal thing for too much longer. I think that you just have to think the alternative of no school; just limited work is worse than staying engaged and staying online, and still seeing your friends and your teachers, although it's virtual.
Addressing real life issues
Tessa (Mama's Geeky) How important it is to you to address real-life issues in the show and with that, can we maybe talk about some of the other real-life issues that we address other than just the virtual learning?
Sara: I think for me, if you have such a large platform, it's so important to use your voice and, and talk about what's going on in the world. I don't think we directly go after every topic. It's more when you're talking about what's affecting the family, you naturally are going to be dealing with what's happening in our society, especially if you're dealing with a family that is lower-middle class, and struggling to get by, the day-to-day issues are going to affect them.
Tee (Thats it L.A.) In this latest episode, the Conners take on some tough topics, everything from addiction, to loss, and economic inequality in school systems. How do you feel TV shows can create healthy examples for their viewers, and who are the field experts consulted for accuracy when you need to in these types of topic?
Sara: Well, I think our writers are really excellent. They mostly all come from working class backgrounds. We have Dave Caplan on our staff, he has his Phd in psychology and when they don't know something, they end up doing a lot of research. I think they help us to stay informed and make sure that we're tackling things properly.
Di (FSM Media) and Jana (Whisky ana Sunshine) We'd love to hear what it's like playing a non-binary character on a TV show, and specifically when the show first started, there was a lot of positive, important conversations about how to talk to your kids about gender identity. And at that point, your character was very young and didn't identify any certain way. How has that changed over the last year since the show's progressed?
*Sara interjects that they see Ames' character Mark as gay, not non-binary.
Ames: I think it's great to have representation. It's bringing up conversations about how to talk to your kids about how they're feeling. And I think that's one of the great parts about playing Mark is that you can see someone who's coming to terms with himself and who he is, as he's growing up and how his family have really been super supportive of him, and how they're trying to navigate it, as well. I think that that's something that's sparked conversations. It's something that's really good to be shown on TV because it's definitely a part of peoples' lives who are, any person out there, questioning who they are as they grow up, you sort of find yourself. I think that that's one my favorite parts about playing Mark, and think it's also one of my favorite parts about the show.
Sara Gilbert and Ames McNamara Biographies
Sara Gilbert (Executive Producer; Darlene Conner on ABC’s “The Conners”)
Sara Gilbert endeared herself to millions of television viewers with her portrayal of the sarcastic yet loveable Darlene Conner on the long-running, hit series “Roseanne,” a role which garnered her two Emmy® nominations among numerous other accolades. Gilbert reprised her role as Darlene in the series revival in 2018, which premiered to record-breaking numbers, and she continues in her role as both Darlene and executive producer on ABC’s hit comedy “The Conners.”
Gilbert is the creator, executive producer, and former co-host of CBS’s award-winning talk show, “The Talk.” The show has won Daytime Emmy Awards for “Outstanding Talk Show / Entertainment” and “Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Hosts.” Sara most recently made guest star appearances on “Atypical,” a show following an 18-year old autistic boy who decides its time to take hold of the reins of his life and turn it into something amazing; and the YouTube Premium series, “Weird City.” The series co-created by Academy and Emmy Award-winning writer Jordan Peele and Emmy Award winning writer Charlie Sanders, centers around life in the not-too-distant future city of Weird.
Ames McNamara (Mark Conner-Healy on ABC’s “The Conners”)
Ames McNamara is a high-schooler from Hoboken, NJ. He has been acting in local musical theater since age 5 and professionally since age 8. He stars as Mark Conner-Healy on The Conners and also voices a lead role in a new animated show for pre-schoolers.
When he’s not acting, Ames likes to direct his friends in short movies, go on hikes with his family, read fantasy novels, and play tennis and soccer. He’s a huge Premier League and Formula 1 fan.
Besides continuing to act and direct, Ames hopes to work in environmental justice when he’s older, and ultimately to become president.
ABOUT “THE CONNERS”
“The Conners” follows America’s favorite family as they continue to face the daily struggles of life in Lanford. Dan, Jackie, Darlene, Becky and D.J. will continue to grapple with parenthood, dating, financial pressures and aging in working-class America. Through it all – the fights, the coupon cutting, the hand-me-downs, the breakdowns – with love, humor and perseverance, the family prevails. The series stars John Goodman as Dan Conner, Laurie Metcalf as Jackie Harris, Sara Gilbert as Darlene Conner, Lecy Goranson as Becky Conner-Healy, Michael Fishman as D.J. Conner, Emma Kenney as Harris Conner-Healy, Ames McNamara as Mark Conner-Healy, Jayden Rey as Mary Conner and Jay R. Ferguson as Ben. “The Conners” is executive produced by Tom Werner, along with Sara Gilbert, Bruce Helford, Dave Caplan, Bruce Rasmussen and Tony Hernandez. The series is from Werner Entertainment.
“The Conners” airs WEDNESDAYS (9:00-9:30 p.m. ET) on ABC.
Thank you ABC and Disney for the opportunity for this exclusive virtual interview.