She's part of a TV dynasty
For most people, "joining the family business" means taking over the farm or the hardware store, or, if you're Ken Griffey, Jr., baseball. But for Sara Gilbert, the industry that shaped her family and for which she felt a calling was television. It's not to say that Gilbert didn't pay her dues or work hard, but Gilbert's family has deep roots in the small-screen biz that go back decades, basically to the beginning of the medium itself.
Gilbert's grandfather was Harry Crane, a TV writer who got his big break working for Jackie Gleason's variety show Cavalcade of Stars. In 1951, Gleason asked Crane and co-worker Joe Bigelow to come up with a sketch about a working-class Brooklyn guy and his long-suffering wife. Crane and Bigelow created the characters of Ralph and Alice Kramden, a.k.a. "The Honeymooners," which became the most popular segment of Cavalcade of Stars and then its own standalone series, one of the first and biggest hits in TV history.
Crane, who died in 1999, was also the grandfather of another big TV star: Melissa Gilbert, who for nine years portrayed Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. Ah, Half-Pint and Darlene are sisters!
She accomplished more as a teenager than most people ever will
The thing about writing is that it's hard, or at least it's hard to do well. It's particularly difficult to write for television, let alone for an established and popular series. Not only will millions of people see and judge that work, but a writer can't just make stuff up — they have to write plots and dialogue that are true to the characters. That's a difficult task for many adult television writers, and yet Sara Gilbert was up to the task when she was 17. Gilbert couldn't legally vote or buy fireworks when she penned the original story for a fourth-season Roseanne episode called "Don't Make Me Over." (The actual shooting script based on Gilbert's story was written up by staffers Maxine Lapiduss, Don Foster, and Sid Youngers.) And it's a good episode, too — Darlene and Becky want to treat their mom to a Mother's Day spa package, but Roseanne finds out that the real reason they arranged it was to attend a rock concert hundreds of miles away.
But at the end of the day, age was nothing but a number for Gilbert, as far as her work on Roseanne was concerned. In 1993, 18-year-old Gilbert earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy for portraying Darlene, making her one of the youngest acting Emmy nominees ever.
She's really, really smart
Harsh truth: Actors aren't always like the people they play on screen. For example, the kid who plays young Sheldon on Young Sheldon isn't a preternaturally gifted science genius, nor is Bob Odenkirk actually a slimy New Mexico-based attorney; they just pretend that they are. But then there's Sara Gilbert, best known for playing the sharp-witted and sharp-tongued Darlene Conner on Roseanne. It turns out she's just as smart, probably more so, in real life. While working as a child actress in the 1980s, Gilbert attended a Los Angeles-area private school, and got straight A's. Those marks certainly helped when it was time to apply to college, as Gilbert was accepted into and attended an obscure, fairly well-regarded, northeastern institution called Yale University.
A testament to her smarts and mental capacity, Gilbert didn't leave Roseanne while she attended school (where she studied art and photography). Instead, producers arranged for her to shoot her scenes on a soundstage that was specially constructed for her in New York.
Making out with Johnny Galecki helped her find her truth
Gilbert realized that she was attracted to women when she was in her late teens, and it was when she dating — and getting physically affectionate with — her on-screen Roseanne love interest, Johnny Galecki. But just before she figured out her sexuality, Gilbert recalled on The Talk that she thought Galecki was "super cute" and that she "had a crush" on her co-star.
"We started dating, and he would come over and we would, like, make out, and then I would start to get depressed," she shared. Gilbert said Galecki noticed that making out with him made her sad, and that's when she thought it was time to tell the truth. "I eventually told him I thought it was about my sexuality," she said, "and he was super sweet about it."
The two stayed over nearly two decades. When Gilbert decided to publicly come out in 2010, she asked Galecki for permission to tell her story, as he was a big part of it. And Galecki was beyond supportive. On The Talk, Gilbert said that Galecki told her, "I'm so proud of you. If you want, I will be there, and I will hold your hand."