Maya Lynne Robinson may be new to The Conners, but she’s here to stay.
The actress joined the series in September after DJ’s (Michael Fishman) wife, Geena Williams-Conner, was recast. The character was previously played by Xosha Roquemore.
During an interview with ET’s Courtney Tezeno on Wednesday, Robinson opened up about what it was like to join the comedy in the wake of the Roseanne Barr scandal, and admitted that at first, she felt like the “odd man out.”
“[The hardest part was] joining a crew that’s already established. You do feel like the odd man out a little bit, but you also want to allow other people the opportunity to breathe, or to feel, or to heal, or whatever the case may be,” she shared. “You don’t want to disrupt their process, but you also want them to embrace the change — and I was the change.”
“I would just say we took baby steps. Over the course of the season we’ve all gotten much more comfortable and familiar with each other,” she added. “Now it feels like a family unit.”
Robinson said that it was her on-screen husband and daughter, played by Fishman and Jayden Rey, who were really the first to make her feel at home. “And I also have to give it up to Sara Gilbert because she handpicked me and I’m extremely thankful and grateful for that, as someone who was unknown to everyone else,” she explained, noting her theater background. “I’m not new to this. I’m just new to you.”
While DJ’s wife is back in the picture on The Conners, the cast is gearing up for another new arrival, as Becky (Lecy Goranson) has a baby on the way. While the baby’s grandmother, Roseanne, won’t be there — the show killed off the character after Barr signed away rights to the series following her Twitter scandal — Robinson said it provides an opportunity for other characters to try to shape how the baby is raised.
“I’d like to see how all the Conners probably have different ways of raising, not just the Conner way and the Williams-Conner way,” she expressed. “We’ll have some conflict. Conflict equals comedy, and it’s nothing the family can’t handle together. What I’m looking forward to is more of the family time.”
“When you lose someone in your family, Roseanne the character or Roseanne the person, everybody kind of moves and takes on different roles to kind of fill the void, so to speak. You can never completely fill a void, and I find her to be an amazing artist,” Robinson continued. “I grew up watching this show, and I actually watched season 10 as well. I think everyone is just learning how to adjust to their new roles in the family.”
As the season continues, Robinson, who describes her character as someone who “comes full force,” said fans will also see how Geena and DJ co-parent their daughter. “Shes been in Afghanistan. There might be some PTSD, there might be some definite disciplinary issues that she has with how the Conners have been raising Mary,” she teased.
Robinson also hopes to continue exploring more of DJ and Geena’s backstory. “Even though I’m new to you, the character has been around for decades,” she noted, adding that it’s also a goal to explore more of the dynamics of a mixed-race family. “We don’t have all of our scripts yet, so there is still time.”
The Conners airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.