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'Parenthood' creator Jason Katims: 'Things get messy'

November 30, 2012|By Yvonne Villarreal
  • Lauren Graham as Sarah Braverman, Ray Romano as Hank in a scene from "Parenthood."
Lauren Graham as Sarah Braverman, Ray Romano as Hank in a scene from "Parenthood." (Chris Haston / NBC )

NBC's "Parenthood" is curled up in emotion -- glassy eyes and screaming outbursts are a common occurrence (for the characters, and viewers at home).

That's especially true this season: Kristina was diagnosed with breast cancer, Max is adjusting to high school life, Amber is in love, Sarah moved in with Mark, Crosby is praying, etc., etc.

Show Tracker spoke to Jason Katims, the show's creator/executive producer/show runner, to discuss the most recent episode -- which included Sarah (Lauren Graham) putting stress on her relationship with Mark (Jason Ritter) and Kristina (Monica Potter) trying to persuade Max (Max Burkholder) to attend his first school dance -- and what to expect as the fourth season finishes up.

Sarah and her romantic escapades give me heartburn.

Wait till next week. Don’t have any sharp or hard objects around you while you’re watching. Things get messy.

That is not OK. Mark is a good guy. First, you had him (and me) worried when Seth (John Corbett) came back in the picture last season. Now he has Hank (Ray Romano) in his way? He showed up to their first date 45 minutes early! He encouraged her to write a play! Give the guy a break!

Look, don’t give up. Don’t give up. My sense of it — and I purposely don’t read too much about what people are saying because it would just drive me crazy — but my perception from the people that I have spoken to about it is, people are divided. And not just that people are Team Mark and some people are Team Hank, but people are also divided within themselves about it. People who were at first totally Team Mark have shifted over time. One of the things that I really like in the story line is it’s complicated and a little bit messy. It’s not 100% clear which way it’s going and which way it will go.

Let’s talk about the moment before I was hurling objects at my TV: Kristina, Max and the dance lesson -- talk about what you were trying to convey.

Ah, yes. What we tried to do when we were sort of introducing this idea of Kristina’s health issue — her breast cancer — was make it very specific to her and not just, oh, here’s a woman with breast cancer. One of the things, of course, that is very prevalent in her life other than her illness is her children and, particularly, the struggles she has with Max. To me, conceptionally, I just thought there was a poignancy to the idea that she would want to not miss out on any milestones with her children, but I also think it's particularly true of Max, of wanting him to be out in the world and to be OK and to flourish — even with the challenges he has.

I think all those things sort of contributed to how it wasn’t just a dance, there was so much more to it. I feel like Monica Potter has done just such an amazing job — she has always on the show, but particularly with the material this year, I think she’s found so many layers to it all. And I do think that dance is such a symbolic thing, you know, of sort of being in the world and connecting — and, of course, those are things that are very challenging for Max.

You know, when this Kristina's breast cancer story line was first introduced, I was like "OK, but she won’t die. She can’t die.” But Tuesday’s episode made me nervous because it was the first time I felt that maybe she could die.

Well, as you know, the story is very personal to me. My wife had breast cancer and went through it. A lot of the reasons we wanted to tell the story -- and why I wanted to tell the story on this particular show -- is I think we are able to take on those story lines and let them play out over time. I feel like we’ve done that with Max and his autism and the adoption struggles for Julia — and other issues, where it wasn’t just doing one episode on something and then it’ll be like it never happened. So I guess getting to what you were saying, that is one of the things that you deal with. I really do think that when you go through an illness like that, the first reaction is, "OK, I’ve been diagnosed with this thing, but I’m not going to be one of those women who lose their hair, I won’t have to do chemo — I’ll overcome it."

My experience with it was that — my wife, by the way, is healthy and has been for a couple of years now — but as you go through the experience, you tend to realize that some of those things that you were so sure of, you start to question. We really wanted to tell this story the way every aspect of what you go through. And certainly one of those aspects of Kristina’s story is having to confront your own mortality. That is one of the things we wanted to deal with and we will continue to the rest of the season — I don’t want to give too much away about what we’re working toward.

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