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'Parenthood' Exit Interview: Jason Katims reflects on six seasons

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On Thursday night, six seasons of Parenthood will come to an end as viewers are forced to say goodbye to the Bravermans after years of life lessons, dance parties, and more sob-worthy moments than probably any other show currently on television. And in honor of the show’s final hour, we spoke with series creator Jason Katims about some of his favorite scenes, what he took from set, and what he hopes the show will leave behind.

EW: Tell us your most vivid memory from the first day on set.

JASON KATIMS: One memory I have from doing the pilot—it’s not really the first day—we brought the actors in [for rehearsals] in families, so we had Adam and Kristina and Max and Haddie as one group, and the conversation led to Asperger’s and Max and how it’s affected the family. At the end of the rehearsal, I turned to Tommy Schlamme, the director, and said, “That went really well. The one thing I felt badly about was we spent so much time talking about Max that we had very little time talking about Haddie. I kind of felt like Sarah [Ramos] felt a little bit like ‘Oh it’s all about Max.’ And Tommy’s reaction was, ‘Exactly.’ It was mirroring what the experience would be for Haddie to be in that family. It felt like Tommy understood that dynamic that we were going after. I remember thinking it was going to be a really profound experience to take that storyline on and to do this show. 

What is your favorite scene of the series?

There’s a few that come immediately to mind: One was the scene between Zeek and Amber after she had a car accident and he takes her back to the car. That was a very beautiful scene for both of the actors. I always remember that scene.

Another is when Max is in the backseat of the car after he’s had this terrible experience of being bullied on the class trip and he asks why he’s different, basically.

Another scene—you could pull a million but I’ll just say one more so I don’t lose all credibility—is the scene where Haddie calls Adam on the telephone when Kristina’s going through cancer and she’s basically insisting to be talked to as an adult and know what’s really happening with her mom, and he tells her. For some reason, that scene has always gotten me.

It’s less of favorite scenes but there are also moments that changed the show for me. There was a moment where Adam goes surfing and it was a very visual moment. It was this very deep moment to see this guy who had so much—he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. He felt like he was the hub of the family, he had to solve everybody’s problems, he had a kid who was diagnosed with issues and all this stuff was going on, and then you saw him have this moment of peace. It was a beautiful moment and it also made me realize again the potential of what we could do on this show, and I really started to lean into and love visual storytelling in the show. 

I love the scene after Ray Romano reads the book on Asperger’s that Adam gives him to help him with Max and he recognizes himself in that and then he goes to Sarah and basically tells her that he recognizes himself in that book. I thought that was really a breakthrough scene for that character, and I felt like Ray, who was fantastic in the show up until that point—I think from that point forward, his character deepened. 

I think there’s some incredible stuff in the finale. The final sequence of the show is definitely one of my favorite things in the show.

At what point did the show “click” for you—when you knew exactly what it was and where it was headed?

There were different times when the show clicked in at different levels. I really think that’s true. Obviously the pilot, I think, was so well done but I think the moment in the pilot that really made me see the show and see the potential for the show was the scene between Peter Krause and Craig T. Nelson when [Adam] tells his father that something is going on with his kid and needed his father to hear that. That was a moment where I thought, this show could be about both the joy of family and the riches of family but also be about the challenges and that if this show could incorporate all of those things, it would only make the show more enjoyable.

Is there a story line you regret?

The thing I’m maybe most proud of about the show is that we gave the stories their due. When we did a story about Asperger’s, that story started in the pilot and continued until the very last episode of the series. The cancer story was a season and then continued at least in terms of how it affected that family beyond that season. So I’m very proud of that. The one thing I’lI regret was not having more time to tell the story about Haddie having a girlfriend at college and coming back and seeing how that affected the family, and how the family kind of incorporated that into their lives. We didn’t really have a lot of episodes that [Ramos] was available to us because she was in school. We introduced that idea and it was sort of sewn up in an episode as opposed to letting it breathe and telling a story that I think could’ve been a very interesting and compelling story.

Who’s the most unexpected celebrity fan you’ve heard about?

David Bowie. I have not spoken to him directly but I’ve heard that he is a fan of the show through Joy Bryant.

What mementos did you take from set?

I took the Luncheonette sign that was over the counter. Actually, we just hung it up in the dining room at my house. 

What three emotions sum up your last day on set?

Obviously it was sad for the show to end. For everybody involved in doing the show, it’s been a really joyful experience to make the show so it definitely was sad. I was also very proud. I was proud of the way we ended the show and also the work that everybody has done this season. I would say the third feeling would be  celebratory. We were celebrating the show and celebrating that we were all able to be part of something that I think was very meaningful to all of us who did it. 

If aliens invaded Earth and your show was the only pop-culture remnant, what do you hope it would say about humanity?

I would hope that it would say that humans always tried to put their best foot forward in life and that humans tried to be the best versions of themselves that they could be. 

If we caught up with your characters in 10 years, what would they be up to?

I’d like to think that the finale is going to suggest an answer to some of these things, not that we jump ahead 10 years in time, but what the ending of the show is about is kind of hinting at where our characters are headed. I don’t really have a lot of specifics about it, other than … I think Max Burkholder would basically joke that he and Hank would go into business together which I thought, ‘Oh, spinoff!’ 

The Parenthood series finale airs Thursday night at 10 p.m. on NBC.

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