Alicia “Lecy” Goranson enters the room in what can only be described as a calm flurry. The 43-year-old actress, best known for originating the role of Becky Connor on the hit sitcom “Roseanne,” immediately apologizes for running late (she wasn’t) before setting a Cubs tote on the floor next to her.
“I was with hair and makeup,” the Evanston-born actress says as she composes herself. “It’s funny, I’ve always considered myself more a Darlene” — her character’s tomboy-ish sister on the show, played by Sara Gilbert — “than a Becky.”
The tote isn’t a shameless attempt to curry hometown favor. The bag is a bit too well-worn — threadbare really. It appears packed with everything she thought she would need for the day — which included a Chicago International Television Festival screening of two episodes of ABC’s “Roseanne” revival, which premieres Tuesday.
Goranson and her tote really never have strayed too far from her hometown.
The original series was a colossal hit for most of its nine-season run.
“When the series premiered in 1988, there was nothing like the Connors on television at the time,” says executive producer Bruce Helford. “The show is set in Lanford — really Elgin — and it represented blue-collar workers, their values and their perspectives, without ever looking down on them.”
Helford also is from Chicago. He grew up in the North Side neighborhood of Hollywood Park neighborhood (he points out that the Sun-Times’ Washington bureau chief Lynn Sweet was a classmate).
“It was our Chicago backgrounds that got us both our jobs on the show,” he says of himself and Goranson.
Says Goranson, “Growing up in Evanston, I wouldn’t ever say I was Becky, but I certainly knew people like her. It enabled me to look past the pink pants and hair scrunchies of your typical mall girl to create a complex person.”
She credits her family and friends for keeping her grounded.
“I fought hard to stay ‘Lecy from Evanston,’ ” she says. “It was important to make time and keep up with that other life. No one in my family or circle of friends back in Evanston ever had to tell me, ‘Oh, you’ve changed.’ ”
In 1992, Goranson made the decision to leave the series after five seasons to attend Vassar College
“My decision to leave wasn’t about the show or my character,” she says. “It was something that I needed to do for myself. My mother taught high school in Evanston for 30 years. Education has always been a priority for me.”
Helford recalls the exit quite vividly.
“Over lunch, she told me of her decision to leave the show and begged me not to mess with the integrity of the character,” he says. “There was a level of maturity there that I wasn’t expecting from a 17-year-old. She was leaving, but she was still vested in both the show and the character.”
Sarah Chalke was cast to replace her in the role, but Goranson found time for some return appearances.
“People always ask if I watched Sarah on the show, and the answer is no,” Goranson says. “I didn’t watch any television, really. I was busy with college. And, like most college students, I was trying to figure out who I was.”
The new “Roseanne,” premiering at 7 p.m. Tuesday on WLS-Channel 7, gives her a chance to act opposite Chalke, who plays a new character written for the reboot.
“It was great to finally work opposite her,” Goranson says. “We have some similar traits and look a bit like each other. And — let’s face it — we will forever be linked to each other because of Becky.”
The revival has less to do with lingering nostalgia, though, as it does with the current political and cultural climate. In the first episode, Rosanne Connor (Roseanne Barr) and her sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) haven’t spoken in over two years because Roseanne voted for Trump.
“At the start, Becky is kind of stuck,” Goranson says. “She has a job, but there are things that she isn’t really dealing with.”
As for returning to a set after 21 years, she says the production schedule didn’t really permit taking a moment for nostalgia, but one managed to sneak through.
“Becky and Darlene are fighting again, and the script has Becky storming off up the stairs,” Goranson says. “My line is: ‘Wait, I don’t live here anymore.’ And I turn around and exit the house.
“But I did live there,” she says. “Sara [Gilbert] and I grew up together sitting at the top of those steps, waiting to hear our cue lines to enter. We goofed off with stagehands while waiting. We drew on the walls. And, for just the briefest of moments, there was this familiarity to it.”
Thanks to the magic of television, you sometimes can find your way back home.
Misha Davenport is a Chicago freelance writer.