From Callie’s relationship with Aaron, a trans man, blossoming just as President Trump announced a ban on trans people serving in the military to a college campus protest being planned just as Charlottesville was taking place, this season of The Fosters has been frighteningly topical. And that continued with Tuesday night’s prom-set summer finale, which saw ICE attempting to arrest Ximena (Lisseth Chavez), an undocumented college student.
“When Trump came into office, we knew that we would be battling immigration rights from the get-go, so for us, with the show set in a border town, San Diego, it was only natural to explore what is really happening with the mass amounts of people being picked up at schools and in our courtrooms and from their homes,” co-creator and executive producer Bradley Bredeweg says. “It’s having such a huge impact across the country, but especially in border towns. We couldn’t deny it. We had to face it. We’re a show that tackles these kinds of issues, and it just felt like the right thing to do.”
The season concluded with Callie (Maia Mitchell) and AJ (Tom Williamson) running with Ximena into a church for sanctuary from the immigration authorities as Stef (Teri Polo), Lena (Sherri Saum), and Jude (Hayden Byerly) were all making calls to help them out. Meanwhile, the rest of the Adams-Foster family was left at the prom dancing and sorting out some of their own romantic drama. Thankfully, Bredeweg was able to get on the phone and help us unpack all of it.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This season has seen particularly — and eerily — timely. Is that something you were seeking?
BRADLEY BREDEWEG: So many have asked us why we got a little political this year, or a lot political, and my response is that we’ve always been political. We did gay marriage in the very first season, a woman’s right to choose, gun control, and now immigration felt like it was the next great chapter to explore and so we did it. I think politics have always been a part of The Fosters‘ foundation because we’re a show about two moms raising a diverse family in the middle of San Diego, which is a very diverse but conservative city.
How are they ever going to get out of that church?
It’s going to take some time. It doesn’t happen overnight, and perhaps Ximena will be in there longer than feels comfortable. It’s sort of her only choice at this point, until they figure out a plan and figure out a good way to tackle this issue.
For Callie, who is still on probation, this is a little scary. And a little funny given that last season ended with a cliffhanger involving Callie in peril.
Having been through the system and having faced a very broken system that sort of tossed Callie around, she’s just a girl who has come out of it stronger and more resilient and a fighter. She’s a girl who’s determined to make a difference in the world, whether it’s through art, or social work, or social justice… Ximena doesn’t need saving, but she needed someone to help her through this, and Callie is just a natural for these circumstances. Ximena is also a strong woman who has started to build an incredible life for herself and Callie really certainly understands that. And when she sees that Ximena’s life is in jeopardy, she’s going to step in and try to help her. It feels very different than what we did last season (with Callie attempting to save Diamond from a pimp) — it feels like a natural progression… It’s a different kind of peril.
Callie’s growth was certainly evident in her standing up to Aaron (Elliot Fletcher) after his comments about “stealing her away.”
What Aaron said to Callie was terrible. To say that he stole Callie from AJ is devastating because she’s her own young woman and clearly, it was a hideous mistake, one that seconds later, you can tell he regrets. You can see it on his face… Aaron is still someone who is coming into his own as well, both as a young man and as a young man that has transitioned. If you remember his family from last season, there are so many issues that Aaron is dealing with and he hasn’t been all that supported in his life, especially the past few years. His parents love him but they still need some educating and we saw his mother really open up last season about those things, and there are still wounds there. But so proud of Callie for standing up for herself and not allowing those words to pierce her.
Brandon (David Lambert) was so dreamy in this episode after learning about Grace’s (Meg DeLacy) leukemia. Where are we going to see that relationship go?
I get so emotional when I talk about these two because they have such beautiful chemistry together. It’s become one of my favorite pairings through all the seasons. I promise we’re going to be doing the most grounded and touching version of the story line because yes, we’re telling a story about cancer and leukemia, and so many people say that they’ve seen this kind of story line before. My response to that is, it’s because cancer has become so common and so universal that we’re all affected by it in one way or another. I’ve lost so many people to cancer and will continue to. And I can almost bet my life on the fact that almost everyone else has as well, especially everyone watching the show. So that’s why we felt we had to finally tackle a story line like this, and to put it on Grace and Brandon just felt right. We obviously were building towards this from the very beginning and it’s become harder and harder because when we saw the chemistry that these two had, it became more heartbreaking every time we broke the story in the [writers’] room. That’s how we knew it was the right way to go and it felt right because we are falling in love with them at the same time we think our viewers are.
Tell me about bringing some of the familiar faces back! It was great to see Mat (Jordan Rodrigues) and Wyatt (Alex Saxon) and his haircut!
To have Wyatt back, to have Mat back was such a nice little come back together with all the cast. And of course, we had to do it — it’s prom! Sometimes we need to get away with losing some characters even though we still know that they’re around in our world, but it’s moments like these that we have to bring them back in, so we do.
Are we going to see a Mat and Mariana rekindling?
You’re going to have to wait! We’re certainly talking about it in the room right now as we’re breaking 5B, and I will say that both Wyatt’s name and Mat’s name are on the board and are a part of our conversations over here.
Well, c’mon. Wyatt being so drunk and high can’t just be left like that.
Wyatt and Emma! I thought Amanda [Leighton] killed it. I’ve never seen drunk better played on a television show before.
So did Nick destroy the Anchor Bay Academy model?
He definitely has information that Mariana is going to be able to use. And I’ll also tell you that Mariana is maturing and she will handle Nick in a really respectable and badass sort of way.
Are Emma and Jesus back together because it’s easier than being apart, or is it going to stick, at least for a while?
It’s one of those things where in the heat of the moment, you really feel like you belong together and you really feel like it’s for the rest of your life and the partner you’re going to have for all of eternity, but we know better. That doesn’t make it any different for these kids. I think that they really believe that they belong together. They do have a love for each other that is grounded in a beautiful place.
Jude had a quiet hero moment in this finale by being able to connect Callie, Ximena, and AJ to the church, but he didn’t have much else going on in this finale. What’s happening for him in the back half of the season?
Jude will continue to explore this online gaming world and what it means to get some recognition at a very young age because I think there are so many kids out there nowadays that have become influencers, and they’re being sent cash and gifts and they’re dealing with all of this noise. And perhaps it’s too much pressure on these young, impressionable minds. Kids that need time to grow and breathe and play and live in a world where their youth and innocence should be nurtured and not constantly critiqued or awarded with chase and gifts.… And there might be a Donald moment coming up in season 5B, where he’s reunited with his birth father.
The second half of season 5 of The Fosters is expected to return in 2018.