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The Tragic True Life Story Of Sara Gilbert

Not many actors land their breakout role — let alone one that's a perfect fit for their personality — by the age of 13. But this was the reality for Sara Gilbert, who became a household name in 1988 thanks to her portrayal of Darlene Conner on the sitcom "Roseanne."

For nine seasons (in addition to the short-lived "Roseanne" revival in 2018 that was swiftly canceled following a controversial tweet by Roseanne Barr and the spin-off "The Conners"), Gilbert brings to life the sarcastic, rough-around-the-edges middle child of the working-class Conner family, a character that Gilbert has always been able to relate to on a personal level.

On screen, Darlene experiences loss, relationship woes, job insecurity, and financial worries. Behind-the-scenes, Gilbert's life wasn't much easier. Over the years, the actress has experienced her own share of struggles, including her fear of coming out publicly, having several romances falter, a public feud with former co-star Barr and a hectic schedule that forced her to make major career changes. Read on for the full tragic true life story of Gilbert.

She disliked school as a kid

Sara Gilbert caught the acting bug at a young age — as a kindergartener, to be exact. After watching her half-siblings Melissa and Jonathan Gilbert star on "Little House on the Prairie" and hearing stories of how her grandfather Harry Crane helped develop "The Honeymooners," she knew that she wanted to follow in their footsteps. It also helped that, even as a 5-year-old playing Toto in a school production of "The Wizard of Oz," she had comedic chops and a natural ability to make audiences laugh.

As she worked to make a name for herself, appearing in the 1984 TV movie "Calamity Jane," among other smaller roles, Sara still had to keep up with her education, much to her dismay. Knowing that she was destined to be in front of a camera was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it made those hours in the classroom being a "normal" kid feel like an eternity. On the other, having an audition or shoot to look forward to got her through until the bell rang.

"I was lucky, for me personally, I was so miserable in school and having that life — the creative outlet kind of saved my life in ways," she said on "The Talk" (via People). She added to EW, "Honestly, I didn't really love being in regular school, so anything that put me in a more creative environment was a plus."

She's always been very shy

Despite being catapulted into the spotlight at a young age, Sara Gilbert has always struggled with fame due to being what she describes as incredibly shy. During her time at Warner Bros. Studios, where she portrayed medical student Jane Figler on NBC's "ER" from 2004 to 2007, she said, she hid from view whenever a tour group passed by. She told EW, "I just feel shy. Like, I don't want to take the experience away from anybody, but I always feel embarrassed for some reason."

In 2010, Gilbert created "The Talk," a project she brainstormed to intentionally force herself to step out of her comfort zone. For Gilbert, it was a liberating experience to not only survive but thrive in the daytime talk show format, something she never dreamed she'd be capable of ... even when she was pitching the show to CBS. She told Ellen DeGeneres on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," "When I went to sell it, I was so nervous. I felt like it was good for my spiritual growth because I was so afraid to kind of speak in public. But I said to them when I was pitching it, I was like, 'You guys are probably gonna buy this because I don't wanna do it.'"

Gilbert served as one of the hosts of "The Talk" for nine seasons — an impressive feat for someone who isn't a fan of talking in front of crowds.

She experienced depression while dating Johnny Galecki

Johnny Galecki is no stranger to dating his on-screen love interests in real life. From 2008 to 2010, he was in a relationship with his "The Big Bang Theory" co-star Kaley Cuoco, whose character, Penny, ends up with Galecki's Leonard Hofstadter. The two even followed a self-imposed rule on set to keep their romance hidden from the public. However, this wasn't the first time Galecki fell for someone on set.

During the original "Roseanne" days, while portraying couple David Healy and Darlene Conner, teenaged Galecki and Sara Gilbert began seeing each other. But it wasn't exactly a fairy tale. "I thought he was super cute and had a crush on him," she said on "The Talk" (via TODAY). "We started dating, and he would come over and we would, like, make out, and then I would start to get depressed."

That's because, while dating Galecki, Gilbert was questioning her sexuality. Naturally, Galecki was confused and took her shift in mood to heart. When she eventually came out to him as gay, he was nothing but supportive. Years later, in 2010, when she expressed to him her plan to come out on "The Talk" and asked permission to share details of their time together, his support never wavered. She said, "He was like, 'Of course. I love you, and I think it's really important and I'm so proud of you. If you want, I will be there, and I will hold your hand.'"

She was scared to come out publicly

After coming out to Johnny Galecki, Sara Gilbert — and Galecki — kept it a secret from the public for a number of years. Even when she began dating a woman for the first time, Gilbert shielded the relationship from the spotlight, fearing that it could negatively impact her work. She said on "The Talk" (via The State Journal-Register), "No one knew at the show ['Roseanne'] for years, and Johnny held the secret the whole time. And I always felt so scared. If it came out, what could happen? Could I lose my career? Will I ever be able to play a straight role again?"

Ultimately, Gilbert's fears were for naught. The actress was able to continue a successful career and keep playing straight characters, most notably Darlene, as well as Leslie Winkle, who appears in a handful of episodes of "The Big Bang Theory" as a short-lived fling of Galecki's Leonard. Still, this doesn't mean that Gilbert is always comfortable speaking publicly about her sexuality, and she admitted that some of her fears remain. She said on "The Talk," "I'll try and act confident or I'll make jokes about it, but there's still a piece of me that goes, 'Well, what is this costing me in my career?'"

She's not on good terms with Roseanne Barr

Though they shared the screen for nearly a decade during the original run of "Roseanne," Sara Gilbert and Roseanne Barr had a heated falling out in 2018. That year, as the sitcom was enjoying a revival, Barr posted a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, the former advisor of Barack Obama. Gilbert quickly took to X to condemn Barr's words: "Roseanne's recent comments about Valerie Jarrett, and so much more, are abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show. I am disappointed in her actions to say the least."

The revival was canceled shortly after, with Gilbert opening up about the situation on "The Talk." She mourned the loss of the series and continued to denounce Barr, much to the former leading lady's annoyance. In a 2023 interview with Megyn Kelly on "The Megyn Kelly Show," Barr said she felt as though Gilbert stabbed her in the back by publicly speaking about the ordeal and not offering any support. Barr said she became so angered that she confronted Gilbert: "I called her up and I said, just like this, 'You better shut your blanking mouth about me." She also wasn't thrilled about her character's grim and morbid end on "The Conners."

Other "Roseanne" stars, including John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf, have commented on the ordeal, but Gilbert has been the most vocal and, therefore, taken the bulk of the heat from Barr.

She was saddened to leave The Talk

In 2019, after nine seasons, Sara Gilbert parted ways with "The Talk." She made the announcement during an April episode, getting emotional as she broke the news to the studio audience and viewers at home. Though she said she enjoyed serving as one of the hosts of her creation, juggling the talk show, acting on and executive producing "The Conners," and keeping the door open for new projects, all while raising three children, the workload, she said, became too much. "I'm just feeling like I don't know how I'm gonna do it all. I was looking at the next six months and just thinking, 'There's not time,'" said Gilbert (via Entertainment Tonight).

Still, Gilbert was able to leave "The Talk" knowing that she achieved what she set out to do: step out of her comfort zone and become less anxious about public speaking. "It really pushed me to learn how to develop a public persona that felt authentic and matched who I really am," she told Deadline. "You also learn how to not say more than you're comfortable with, how to not overshare." Plus, it wasn't a total goodbye. In the years that followed her departure, Gilbert has returned several times, including as a guest to promote "The Conners."

She continues to mourn the loss of a late Roseanne co-star

In 2002, the "Roseanne" cast lost one of its own when Glenn Quinn tragically died of an accidental heroin overdose. From 1990 until the end of the original series' run in 1997, Quinn portrayed Mark Healy, the boyfriend and eventual husband of Becky Conner (Lecy Goranson) and older brother of David. The Dublin native, also known for his role of Doyle on the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" spin-off "Angel," was 32 years old at the time of his death.

In 2018, when it came time to introduce the son of Darlene and David on the "Roseanne" revival, the character needed a name. After Sara Gilbert reached out to Johnny Galecki for his opinion on the matter, the two instantly came up with the perfect one. She said on "The Talk" (via TODAY), "I texted him, 'What do you think we should name our baby boy?' And then I said, 'Oh, maybe Mark,' because Mark was played by Glenn Quinn, who was his brother on the show who passed away." In response, Galecki texted back, "Oh, DEFINITELY Mark."

That tribute to Quinn lives on through "The Conners," which features Ames McNamara as Mark Conner-Healy. He's an intellectual young man who embraces his individuality, a trait that McNamara thinks is important to showcase on TV.

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She was emotional after her split from Ali Adler

On an episode of "The Talk" at the end of September 2011, Sara Gilbert wasn't in the best headspace. As guest co-host Kris Jenner tearfully reflected on her first marriage to Robert Kardashian, Gilbert had a vulnerable moment, wondering whether or not she'd ever tie the knot with someone. Her decade-long relationship with Ali Adler, a TV producer known for her work on "Chuck" and "Supergirl," among other projects, had recently ended, with the former couple sharing two children together: Levi and Sawyer, who were 6 and 4 at the time, respectively.

"I wouldn't trade that time. It's such a special time in my life," said Gilbert (via The Hollywood Reporter). "But then you see people in their 70s and you wonder, 'How do they do it? How do they make it last?' And I would like to think that I can." Gilbert added that, post-breakup, she and Adler still had love for each other. 

Despite those emotions, it didn't take long for Gilbert to move on, with the host revealing on "The Talk" several months later that she was dating Linda Perry, the former lead vocalist of 4 Non Blondes. A source told Radar that, allegedly, Adler was less-than thrilled to see her ex with somebody else so quickly: "It was really hurtful for Allison to basically lose Sara to Linda. To see them splashed all over the news holding hands and being romantic."

Her marriage to Linda Perry didn't last

Two years after they started dating, Linda Perry popped the big question to Sara Gilbert during a romantic, music-filled proposal while having a picnic at a Los Angeles park. The couple officially tied the knot in 2014 and shortly after welcomed baby Rhodes. Though Gilbert was finally able to experience marriage, something she admittedly feared might not happen for her, as made evident during that emotional episode of "The Talk," she didn't get to enjoy the longevity that she craved.

In December 2019, Gilbert filed for separation from Perry, citing irreconcilable differences. The divorce was finalized in October 2021, with the two sharing custody of their son. As they navigate co-parenting, Gilbert and Perry remain on good terms. "We're never not going to be a family," Perry told People. "There doesn't feel like much of a separation because we're always together." She added, "It's really a beautiful relationship. ... And I'm just so lucky to have that because when you separate from your baby's parent, that can go all different types of crazy and messy, and it's not like that at all."

A hectic schedule put her physical health on the backburner

Sara Gilbert has been vocal over the years about the negative impacts of a busy schedule, the main one being limited time to spend with her children. However, another vital aspect of Gilbert's life was placed on the backburner as she took on more duties as an actress, producer and talk show host: her physical health.

In 2017, she embarked on Prevention's #SpreadTheHealthChallenge, tasking herself with fitting in 15 minutes of exercise per day. She said, "I've let exercise slide since having my third child, and I wanted to put it back into my schedule — to regain both the physical and emotional benefits. I decided 15 minutes a day would be a manageable goal. I found it was easiest to squeeze in a daily walk or jog, though one day I was able to do an hour of yoga."

Though she had to get a little crafty when it came to scheduling workout time, taking business calls while out on a walk or getting a quick sweat on after a morning meeting, she made those 15 minutes of daily exercise a non-negotiable part of her life and reaped the benefits, both physically and mentally. "My mood overall was better, and I always like feeling fit. When I'm exercising, I feel happier and more positive," she said.

She allegedly dealt with homophobia at work

In March 2021, "The Talk" host Sharon Osbourne came under fire for supporting her friend Piers Morgan, who was viewed by the masses as a racist after questioning the validity of Meghan Markle's statements about the impact of notoriety on her mental health during an Oprah Winfrey interview. Following a heated back-and-forth with co-host Sheryl Underwood, Osbourne was fired from the talk show.

Around the same time, former host Leah Remini came forward to Yashar Ali of The Reset with other alleged incidents surrounding Osbourne, including a racial slur toward Julie Chen and a homophobic remark directed toward Sara Gilbert. According to Remini, Osbourne said, "Why won't the p***y licker do anything about the wonton?" and "Why won't the fish eater be part of this discussion? She's the f***ing executive producer." Osbourne's reps denied such allegations and released a statement against Remini: "The only thing worse than a disgruntled former employee is a disgruntled former talk show host."

Remini was only on "The Talk" from 2010 to 2011, which means Osbourne's alleged remarks took place during that time. Yet in the years that followed, Osbourne and Gilbert appeared to be on great terms. In October 2020, Gilbert made a surprise appearance on "The Talk" to surprise Osbourne, who cried tears of happiness, for her birthday. Even Gilbert's son Rhodes recorded a special message. Gilbert said, "You are just the most amazing, magnetic, tremendous person. ... I am beyond lucky that you are in my life."