With NBC's The Good Place recently concluding its run and vintage reruns predating 1990 nearly nonexistent on Nick at Nite, it seems like the glory days of the traditional television situation comedy are long gone. Well, RuPaul's Drag Race breakout star Ginger Minj (known locally as the alter ego of Orlando actor Joshua Allan Eads) has spent the last couple of years featuring in a hit Netflix film and touring around the world, but now she's come home to tackle a challenge even tougher than lip-syncing for her life: resurrecting the classic American sitcom on stage, starting with one of the most controversial stars of all time.
The origins of Ginger Minj's new TV Land Live! series, which launches this Thursday, Feb. 27, at the Parliament House's Footlight Theatre, lie in a "drunken taco Tuesday" early last year, when Minj and Gidget Galore (aka co-producer and designer Richard Kuntz) cooked up a plan to parody their favorite Hulu indulgence, The Golden Girls.
Their initial three-week run of The Golden Gals sold out, leading to extensions, encores and a Christmas musical.
"It just turned into something that we saw potential in," Minj explained to me last week during preparations for the production. "We were taking every penny that we made from the previous run each time and investing it into the show, to make it a little bit bigger and better than the last."
That urge to expand eventually led to this year's slate of six different installments, which will affectionately satirize shows from Gilligan's Island and Bewitched to Designing Women and The Munsters. It all starts this weekend with Minj's tribute to Roseanne, which Ginger calls "a million times funnier than anything that we've done so far."
In order to write the show, which is cheekily dubbed Rozeanne, Minj took five of the original series' most iconic moments – as selected by an audience survey – and wove them into a script that is "wholly original, but has all of those elements that they know and love and are expecting." While the plot pulls incidents from Seasons 1 through 9, Minj says the tone is "closer to the first couple seasons of Roseanne, when it was really truly about the core family."
Although the show is a parody, Minj insists, "We're not laughing at them, we're laughing with them. We're celebrating the foundations that they laid, and we're trying to tell the story from a new, mostly queer perspective." And as far as any worries about copyright infringement go, Minj was approached in Los Angeles by a producer of the current ABC reboot The Conners, who said the show's stars were fans and thanked her for "keeping the legacy alive."
Entirely absent from Rozeanne, though, are the hot-button political issues that have made Roseanne Barr herself such a divisive figure.
"There's so much going on politically that we wanted everybody to be able to come and enjoy the show and forget about the bullshit for a minute, including ourselves," says Minj. "I want to get back to the Roseanne that I grew up with, that I loved, that kind of raised me," she adds, citing similarities between her modest upbringing and the show's groundbreaking blue-collar setting.
That sentiment is echoed by Minj's special guest co-star, Daniel Franzese, who plays Roseanne's husband, Dan.
"While Roseanne the person is problematic, I've always been a fan of the show and the breakthrough stuff it has done for LGBTQ storylines and working-class storylines," Franzese told me over the phone ahead of opening night. Best known for playing Damien in the film Mean Girls, Franzese befriended Minj after they met at a Drag Race viewing party, and the pair toyed with creating a YouTube series together impersonating the Conners.
Even though Franzese is busy as an actor, writer and stand-up comic – he's appearing May 27 at the Tampa Improv – he also makes a point of performing at gay bars like the Parliament House for discount rates, saying, "The higher I go up, the more I want to send the elevator back down."
Ironically, he'll be performing in Orlando at the same time as Mean Girls: The Musical, which Franzese calls "its own thing, and that thing is fabulous," joking that he thought he was going to explode into purple glitter while watching it on Broadway.
Ginger Minj recently returned to Orlando following a five-week Los Angeles run in Women Behind Bars alongside cult icons Mink Stole and Traci Lords; that came on the heels of rehearsing for a new national tour of Xanadu that was postponed due to management issues a mere week before opening.
While she hopes that project gets resurrected, she's happy to be re-establishing her roots by buying a house here in Orlando, and even turned down a starring role on the Las Vegas Strip in RuPaul's Drag Race Live in order to perform at the Parliament House.
"We're really invested in this project," says Minj. "We want it to last for a long time, because we feel like it's something that is good for the community, and could become a legacy for us around here."