Most famous for playing Darlene Conner in the recently revived Roseanne, Sara Gilbert has been a regular face on our screens for the best part of 30 years. But the actress has experienced plenty of drama away from the cameras, too. Here’s a closer look at the Emmy nominee’s highs and lows.
Born in Santa Monica, California, in 1975, Sara Gilbert grew up in a showbiz family. Her half-siblings Jonathan and Melissa, for instance, had both appeared in Little House on the Prairie, while grandfather Harry helped create classic sitcom The Honeymooners. And Gilbert first followed in their footsteps when she landed a role in 1984 TV movie Calamity Jane.
Following this, Gilbert got her big break in 1988 when she was cast as Darlene Conner in Roseanne Barr’s eponymous sitcom. The actress played the famously sarcastic Darlene for nine years and even penned a story for one of season four’s episodes. Gilbert was so highly regarded, in fact, that producers seemed to bend over backwards to ensure that she stayed on the show during her time studying at Yale University.
Gilbert also worked on numerous other projects during her stint on Roseanne. For instance, she appeared in 1992’s Poison Ivy – for which she received an Independent Sprit Award nomination – along with a stint in 1994’s Dead Beat and 1997’s Walkin’ on Sunshine: The Movie. And on the small screen there was a voiceover role in The Simpsons, a hosting gig on Saturday Night Live and an outing in TV movie Sudie and Simpson.
Gilbert remained just as busy once Roseanne was taken off the air in 1997, too. She landed supporting film roles in several wide releases, including High Fidelity, Riding in Cars with Boys and Laws of Attraction. And the actress also guested on Will & Grace, Strong Medicine and The Clinic and bagged recurring parts in 24, ER and The Class alongside a leading role in the short-lived sitcom Twins.
Then in 2007 Gilbert reunited with her former Roseanne co-star Johnny Galecki on the hugely popular The Big Bang Theory, where she played scientist Leslie Winkle. Three years later, she proved that her talents also extended beyond acting by co-hosting and executive producing The Talk. The star even picked up a 2016 Daytime Emmy for her work on the popular chat show.
Meanwhile, Gilbert continued to pursue her acting career, landing recurring parts in Hawthorne and Bad Teacher while also guesting on Grey’s Anatomy, Supergirl and Jane the Virgin. And she was hugely instrumental in the revival of Roseanne, returning as Darlene and serving as executive producer on the reboot. Before its cancelation, the sitcom proved to be hugely popular with critics and viewers alike, pulling in 18.44 million viewers for its comeback episode.
It seems that not everything has always been entirely rosy in Gilbert’s world, though. She suffered her first career setback in 1988 when she auditioned no less than five times for a potential The Facts of Life spin-off but failed to get the part. Yet this rejection proved to be a blessing in disguise. You see, the show never made it to air, and if she’d been cast she’d have missed out on her star-making role in Roseanne.
But Gilbert did experience what it’s like to appear in an unaired show later on. In 2004 she joined fellow ex-teen stars Jennifer Love Hewitt, Josie Davis and Alyson Hannigan in In the Game, a sports-TV-based sitcom which ABC pulled before airing a single episode. Just two years later, the same network then decided not to commission another Gilbert project: Girls on the Bus.
The actress also ran into problems during her stint as Dr. Leslie Winkle on The Big Bang Theory. Gilbert was initially brought onto the hit sitcom as a long-running romantic interest for Leonard and arch-rival for Sheldon. However, shortly after the star received series-regular status, Entertainment Weekly revealed that producers were struggling to write for the character, and Winkle later disappeared from the show altogether.
Gilbert also faced behind-the-scenes problems with her very own creation, The Talk. In 2012 self-help author Angela Wilder filed a lawsuit alleging that she had in fact come up with the idea for the daytime chat show. However, less than 12 months later, Wilder dropped the claim.
And Gilbert’s personal life has been pretty turbulent, too. The actress’ first high-profile relationship was with her Roseanne co-star Johnny Galecki back in the ’90s. But during a week of secret-spilling on The Talk in 2013, the show’s creator admitted that it was during this period that she realized she was gay.
The actress told The Talk viewers, “We started dating, and he would come over, and we would make out, and then I would start to get depressed. Johnny felt badly, I think, and started to take it personally and didn’t understand what was going on.” Gilbert revealed Galecki was “super sweet” after she came out to him, and the pair have remained close ever since.
The actress then entered into a relationship with a famous woman who was 18 years older than her. But Gilbert still seemed to feel that she had to keep both her new partner and her sexuality a secret from the public in case it harmed her career. In fact, Gilbert remained silent about being gay until 2010.
However, her sexuality appeared to be something of an open secret in Tinseltown. By that point, after all, the star had been committed to Allison Adler, a TV producer who would later co-create Supergirl and The New Normal, for nine years. The pair also have two children together: Levi Hank and Sawyer Jane.
Sadly, the couple separated just a year after Gilbert’s public coming out, though the split was amicable. The actress then started dating Linda Perry, the ex-lead vocalist of 4 Non Blondes, whom she eventually married in 2014. The pair then welcomed their first, and Gilbert’s third, child into the world when Rhodes Emilio was born in 2015.
However, Gilbert admits that she’s only recently stopped worrying about the effect that her sexuality could have on her career. She once told The Talk viewers, “I want to live a true life. Beyond that, we do often say things like ‘it gets better’ – and it does get better. I have an amazing life, but there can still be a struggle with it, and that’s okay.”
Gilbert and Perry then made their personal relationship a professional one, too, when they recorded a children’s album together. Yes, the pair released an eponymous LP under the guise of Deer Sounds in 2015. They reportedly became inspired to do so following the birth of Rhodes Emilio, who can also be heard on the record.
Of course, Gilbert recently made headlines for her pivotal role in the Roseanne reboot. As an executive producer, she first thought of bringing the whole Conner gang back together after various cast members appeared on The Talk. She told Entertainment Weekly, “It felt like the right time to put this working class family on TV. That’s a voice that’s not been spoken for enough in this country.”
And to bring things full circle, Gilbert made sure that Johnny Galecki also came on board. The actress was initially worried that her long-time friend might be too tied up with The Big Bang Theory to reprise his role as David Healy in Roseanne. But thankfully negotiations worked out, and the pair ended up sharing the screen once more.