Now that “Parenthood” Season 5 has premiered, there are plenty of lingering questions: How will the Braverman clan react to Amber (Mae Whitman) and Ryan’s (Matt Lauria) surprising — and appropriately tear-jerking — engagement? Will Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina (Monica Potter) ever agree on Kristina’s decision to run for mayor? And will Joel (Sam Jaeger) and Julia’s (Erika Christensen) relationship survive the season, given the rumors of marital strife and the appearance of Joel’s new boss Pete (Sonya Walger), who is decidedly not a guy?
The Huffington Post participated in a group interview with creator Jason Katims and cast members Krause, Whitman, Lauria and Jaeger to try and answer those (and many more) burning questions, so read on for a few tantalizing hints about what you can expect in Season 5.
Amber and Ryan
Ryan’s proposal might’ve been a dream come true for Amber, but dealing with her family in the aftermath is likely to be a nightmare. “You have these two people that really clearly love each other, who clearly are so right for each other in so many ways, but that they’re very young,” Katims pointed out. “There are definitely things in Ryan’s past — and Amber’s past for that matter — that make it not a cut-and-dry ‘this is the right thing to do.’ And there are people in the family who start to question that, and at least bring up those points.”
Naturally, Amber’s mother, Sarah (Lauren Graham), is going to be one of the first to voice some concerns — especially after marrying young and subsequently seeing her own relationship crumble. “To me, I always look for in stories, when you have people with very different opinions who are both right, who both have very good points,” Katims said. “Those always seem, for this kind of show, the strongest stories, when you can understand from Amber’s perspective why this is the absolute right thing to do, and you can understand by her mom’s perspective that she’s worried about this choice and not certain about it.”
Katims also admitted to missing Amber and Sarah’s on-screen relationship since Amber moved out of the family home. “This was a way to bring those two back together — if you’ve got to plan a wedding together, there are going to be scenes together, and they’re not all going to be happy scenes,” he pointed out wryly.
Whitman was unabashedly enthusiastic about the development for her character: “People who knew Amber when she was sixteen or seventeen, there were a lot of different guys and a lot of darkness and a lot of confusion and always the same sort of guy, and then right when she started to get on track with her own life, all of a sudden out of nowhere comes this completely different guy,” she noted. “That was something we talked about early on — what they brought to each other and how different it was from anything that she’d ever experienced. He’s so different and quiet and strong … and I think they really bring things out in each other that are really beautiful to watch. Last year was one of the first years we got to see Amber really happy and enjoy her life, and I loved the idea of that and I loved the idea of her having a partner … it’s great to watch how they help each other grow.”
Although Katims joked that he wrote the proposal because “Mae told me to do it,” he admitted that Ryan’s integration into the Braverman clan felt like a natural progression. “When we brought Matt on and started this storyline last season, it was something we thought about that was going to be a few episodes, and one of the things that I really value about doing television is the collaborative nature of it; I as a writer am responding to what the actors are doing. When a cut comes back, I see what’s there and I respond to that and write something and I feel like there’s a constant communication that goes on,” he said. “I found that the scenes between them — the chemistry between them — was so great, [and] the work that Matt had done to prepare to the role so that the idea of what was going on in his past felt so real, that’s something we wanted to continue to explore.”
Lauria was equally effusive in his praise of the writing staff: “We’re so lucky. Jason and all the writers are so unbelievably generous … most showrunners will say … ‘it’s collaborative!” but they don’t mean it in the way Jason genuinely does… This season I ran into some heavy stuff from my character’s past that I don’t think I ever mentioned to [Jason], but it was exactly the things that I had figured out last year about what I thought was going on with this kid … To be that in touch and sensitive to what the other artists on the other side of the camera are trying to create and bring to it, it’s a really special situation to be in.”
Adam and Kristina
Last season was rough for the firstborn Braverman son and his wife, Kristina, who spent most of the year battling cancer. Now that Kristina is in remission, she’s chosen to seize the day and run for mayor — a decision that Adam visibly struggled with in the season premiere.
“He finds himself in a difficult position,” Krause admitted. “He wants to be supportive of his wife, he also wants to be careful with her health and it is also a big decision. It’s also — from his point of view and also probably from Kristina’s, if she’s honest with herself — slightly unrealistic, but she’s fueled by having had some contact with mortality … This year it’s about him being supportive and dealing with whatever he has to deal with internally, because I think he has to support Kristina and let her do her thing.”
But Adam’s storyline won’t be wholly reacting to Kristina’s arc. According to Katims, his wife’s brush with death affects Adam “in terms of thinking about his own life and what he’s doing, and that will come up later in the season with him at work … Adam having gone through that, not only has he been supporting his wife, he also has a sense of his own mortality through that too, and I think that’ll affect him as well.”
Krause agreed, “There’s a lot Adam has to keep in because it would be undeniably selfish of him to say to Kristina, ‘I don’t want you to do this, I want you home with the kids, I just want you to be my wife. Why are you using your life’s energy to go do this? This is taking you away from me.’ And so that’s another interesting aspect of the show sometimes, that there are quiet inner lives that you get to see inside.”
Joel and Julia
Before the season began, we heard that Joel and Julia’s relationship would be tested this year, partially thanks to the introduction of Walger’s Pete and David Denman’s Ed — a stay-at-home dad who becomes close with Julia. Although there was nothing particularly untoward in Pete’s interactions with Joel in the season premiere, Jaeger confirmed that she has a part to play in Joel and Julia’s upcoming arc.
“We don’t have storylines that are big cliffhanger moments, we have conversations, little relationships,” he observed. “We see these people come into our lives, just like they do in our own lives, where there’s just something that might throw off a relationship or put your own relationship into perspective, and Pete is an example of that, and a colleague that I have, played by Sonya. The things that are done … on any other show, it would be in the second appearance of this person, they’re making out wildly, and thank god that’s not [what happens] … It feels natural and it feels lived-in, and we’ll see the relationship be tested, but not in an obvious way … Like [Jason] said, both sides are right, it’s just a relationship that’s starting to fray a little bit.”
Hank and Sarah
We saw Ray Romano’s character part ways with Sarah at the end of Season 4, after Hank chose to move away to be closer to his daughter — but as we saw in the premiere, that relocation didn’t quite stick. Hank’s return led to a surprisingly sweet scene with Max (Max Burkholder) and despite Adam’s initial reservations about Hank’s intentions, you can expect to see that odd-couple friendship continue in Season 5.
“We really were just charmed by the idea of Max and Hank together; it made sense to us, it seemed believable to me,” Katims said. “That’s our way in for the Hank character this year, but Sarah will eventually get involved in Hank’s storyline and it will develop again over time. But these are people who are, at the start of the season, at least, not together.”
“Parenthood” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.
What did you think of the “Parenthood” premiere? Which storyline are you most looking forward to seeing in Season 5? We think Hank was pretty awesome in the premiere, but even though Jason Ritter’s “Us and Them” was picked up by Fox for midseason, we’re still kind of rooting for Sarah and Mark to reconcile — how about you?