See D.J. From "Roseanne" Now at 40
Michael Fishman reprised his childhood role in The Conners.
In the pilot of the classic sitcom Roseanne, a child actor named Sal Barone played the Conners' youngest child, D.J. But he'd be recast with Michael Fishman, who went on to play the character for the rest of the series' nine-season run. Roseanne Barr later said that she was immediately impressed with the young actor when they met. At a reunion for the sitcom in 1998, Barr and Fishman recounted how she asked the then-six-year-old to tell her a joke. He countered with, "Why did the turtle cross the road? It was the chicken's day off." The star was so impressed, Fishman won the job that would define his career. Read on to learn what else he's been up to.
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He returned for the revival.
After the end of Roseanne's first run in 1997, Fishman continued attending high school while also taking on minor roles in shows including Walker: Texas Ranger, Seinfeld, and Hitz. For two years, he was a co-host of Barr's talk show, The Roseanne Show. He appeared in the movies Little Bigfoot 2: The Journey Home in 1997, A.I: Artificial Intelligence in 2001, and Undrafted in 2016.
Fishman also has a number of credits working behind the scenes in the industry, including as a producer and a writer.
In 2018, the former child actor reprised his role as D.J. in the 2018 revival of Roseanne, alongside many other returning co-stars. In the continuation of the original sitcom, D.J. is a military veteran struggling with adjusting to civilian life and raising his daughter Mary (Jayden Rey) while his wife is still serving abroad. After the otherwise successful new run of Roseanne was canceled in the wake of Barr posting racist tweets, it was rebranded as The Conners, with the former star no longer involved but the rest of the cast staying onboard.
In addition to acting on The Conners, now in its fifth season, Fishman has directed five episodes.
D.J. won't be in this current season, however.
In August 2022, Fishman revealed that he won't be appearing in Season 5 of The Conners. "While I was told I would not be returning for Season 5, Lanford was a valuable place to grow up, learn and develop," he said in a statement, as reported by People. "I was incredibly lucky to return home and demonstrate my expansion. As I venture into the world to build the future, I send tremendous love and success to everyone involved in production."
Fishman went on to promise that this wasn't the end of his career in the industry.
"I have a number of projects I am pitching as a writer, and am negotiating my next directing opportunities," he continued. "Although I no longer have the privilege to portray D.J., my desire, passion, and skill of bringing characters to life as an actor continues. I appreciate all those who support and have supported my work."
Executive producer Bruce Helford told TV Line that they would write D.J. off with the explanation that he was going back overseas to be with his wife while she handled troop withdrawal in Afghanistan. He added, "We love [Fishman]. He's part of the family. There's certainly no one saying he will never be on the show [again]. It's just a matter of whether storylines come up that are built for that."
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He Has A Podcast
Some of that work Fishman mentioned in his statement involves a podcast called Fish's Call Sheet, in which he interviews people who work behind the scenes in entertainment. Chats with location scouts, prop masters, directors, line producers, and other folks in essential roles can be found on his YouTube channel.
He's a dad.
Fishman married Jenny Briner in 1999, and the couple had two children together, Aaron and Isabelle. When they separated in 2017, Fishman told TMZ that he and Briner decided not to legally divorce in order to keep things semi-stable for their kids, who were 19 and 16 at the time, and to keep her on his health insurance.
"We completed our marriage with compassion, kindness, and respect," he explained. "Opting to postpone filing until after the holidays and the completion of our son's first semester at college. Through love and communication, we are transitioning our family, unraveling the complex responsibilities forged over nineteen years. Collectively we are focused on privately making the transition as seamless and undisruptive for our family."
In addition to his two biological children, Fishman adopted daughter Camille Spirlin, who played a young Maggie Pierce on Grey's Anatomy, after meeting her through a friend who thought Fishman could be a mentor to her, as he explained in a 2020 interview with Tamron Hall. He was then in the process of adopting her brother Larry, who was aging out of the foster system at the same time. Sadly, Larry died of a drug overdose before the adoption process was complete. Fishman told Hall he wished he had "gotten to" Larry sooner to be able to help and support him better.