While Michael Fishman is best known for portraying D.J. Conner in Roseanne, the character was portrayed by another actor and recast after the pilot.
Roseanne’s D.J. Conner was originally played by Sal Barone, though the young actor was quickly recast with Michael Fishman. Here’s the story behind the Michael Fishman Roseanne casting. Until the birth of Jerry in 1995, D.J. was Roseanne and Dan’s youngest and only boy, serving as a main character throughout all 10 seasons of Roseanne and the sequel series The Conners. Barone played 6-year-old D.J. in the show’s pilot episode only, with Fishman taking over for the remainder of the series and reprising the role as an adult in The Conners.
D.J. wasn’t the only original Roseanne character to be replaced with a new actor. The most notable recasting in Roseanne is with D.J.’s older sister Becky Conner, who was originally portrayed by Lecy Goranson, then Sarah Chalke in seasons 6-9, then Lecy Goranson again. But to make it even more confusing, Chalke returned as Becky in Roseanne season 10 and The Conners to portray a different character. The reasoning behind D.J. getting a new actor after the pilot wasn’t quite as confusing, mostly paring down to the actor’s age and on-set interactions.
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It was Michael Fishman who Roseanne audiences would eventually come to know and love. Sal Barone, who was only 7 years old at the time of the pilot, only has two acting credits including his one-episode stint as part of the Roseanne cast. Per Yahoo! News, the pilot episode was filmed back in 1988, but shortly afterward, the Writer’s Guild went on strike, meaning there was a considerable amount of time before filming Roseanne’s second episode. By the time the cast and crew returned, Barone had visibly and markedly grown, leading Roseanne Barr and the show’s producers to worry about the young actor being too old to play D.J. Since Darlene and Becky Conner’s actors were only 12 and 14, producers worried how long it would be before D.J. towered over the older characters. According to Mental Floss, Barone was already around 8 years old by the time the second episode was going to be filmed, with his mother agreeing that he was too old to play the 6-year-old character.
The Original D.J. Conner Aged Too Much During A Writers Guild Strike
While the age factor was clearly worrying for producers, there was also another behind-the-scenes issue that led to Fishman joining the Roseanne cast to take over the D.J. role. According to EW, Darlene’s actress Sara Gilbert, who was 12 when filming the pilot, recalled that she and Barone did not get along, with the two often fighting and even getting into physical scuffles on set. After realizing that her fighting with Barone was part of why he left the series, Gilbert feared that if she fought with the next actor portraying Dan and Roseanne’s son, she would be the one on the out. As such, she made it a point to get along well with Michael Fishman when he joined the cast.
Considering Michael Fishman bears a closer resemblance to Roseanne Barr, got along with Gilbert much better, and brought a more domineering presence to the young D.J. role, it worked out best for the series that the part was recast so early. Having portrayed D.J. since he was only 7 years old, Fishman turned the Roseanne character into an integral aspect of the show, hitting the comedic and dramatic beats while holding his own as the youngest Conner in the early seasons. When it came time to choose a new D.J. for the original series, Roseanne Barr even personally fought for Fishman to earn the role after he impressed her by telling a joke in his audition.
What Michael Fishman Has Done Since Roseanne
Michael Fishman has had a long-but-gap-heavy career since his time as a child actor on Roseanne. Perhaps his most known role as far as Roseanne fans are concerned is as the adult D.J. in the spin-off The Conners. That’s far from all Fishman has been up to though, and the former child star has been actively working throughout his life. He made a guest appearance on Seinfeld in 1997, as well as in a 1999 episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. His time on the big screen was less pronounced, but he did have a small part in Stephen Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence as “Teen in Van.”
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Fishman also worked with Barr on several projects around the turn of the millennium, including The Roseanne Show. He was less active during the later ’00s, although this was mainly because he was completing his education at the Orange County High School of the Arts. Fishman’s next notable role came in 2016, as Antonelli in the sports comedy Undrafted. This wasn’t the start of a Fishman comeback though – that wouldn’t come until 2018, when he reprised the role of the now-adult D.J. in the Roseanne revival and then, of course, The Conners.
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About The Author
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Jordan Williams is a Movie/TV Feature Senior Staff Writer for Screen Rant. She graduated from the University of Oregon in 2020 with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Media Studies.
Jordan is based in Seattle, Washington and enjoys exploring the natural beauty the PNW has to offer. She runs on coffee and classic movies, taking pride in having watched every film on AFI’s 100 Greatest Films list and every Best Picture Oscar winner.
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