Alain Washnevsky, the actor who portrayed the Conner family's Muslim neighbor on Roseanne, has opened up about his reaction to Roseanne Barr's racist tweet and the show's cancellation.
Washnevsky played Samir Al-Harazi in episode 7 of the sitcom reboot. In the episode, Roseanne Conner is forced to overcome her preconceived notions of people in the Islamic faith and ask them for their WiFi password so that D.J.'s daughter can make her scheduled Skype call with her mother.
On Tuesday, The Hollywood Reporter published a column by Washnevsky. He wrote about the experience from start to finish — from his experience with Roseanne as a child watching TV, to his reaction when he received the audition for the reboot, to his feelings on the cancellation that has dominated the news cycle for over a week.
"When my manager sent me the audition for Roseanne, I couldn’t believe it," he recalled. I had watched the iconic show growing up, and booking it felt like a childhood dream come true. I would play the new neighbor, later referred to as the 'Muslim neighbor,' which was a big opportunity, one that carried enormous responsibility to represent a demographic that is often not well-portrayed on TV."
Washnevsky was born in Iran to Iranian parents. He wrote about how seriously he took his responsibility to represent middle-eastern-Americans on TV, and how disappointed he was to see Barr's insensitive tweet.
He was especially horrified after spending so much time with Barr on He wrote that he "got to hang out with Roseanne and we shared several really interesting conversations. I mostly listened, but she asked questions about me and my background. I got to know her as a funny, helpful and real person."
That made it all the more heartbreaking when Barr compared former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to an ape, and suggested that she was associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
"When I read about her tweet, I couldn’t believe it," he wrote. "I was so shocked, angry and hurt. Her words go against everything I believe in and everything that our episode represented, or so I thought."
Washnevsky believed that the episode he had been featured in "shined a light into many dark spots of our society — corners of society we don’t like to look at, see or talk about at parties." He wrote that he was "disappointed" in the cancellation, and felt terrible for the entire cast and crew of the series.
Washnevsky ended with the hope that more shows would attempt to tackle racism and discrimination in their stories.
"Racism is not an American problem. It’s a human condition and humanitarian problem and must be explored on TV and in film," he wrote.
According to Washnevsky, producers led him to believe that there was good chance Samir and the rest of the neighbors would be featured in the new season of Roseanne. There may still be a hope that he'll be back on TV next year, as ABC is reportedly exploring the possibility of a Roseanne reboot without Barr.