Eric McCandless/Freeform
Breanne L. Heldman
March 13, 2018 AT 10:02 PM EDT

SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you’ve already watched Tuesday’s season 5 spring finale of The Fosters.

Anthony Anderson crying gifs barely do justice to that season finale of The Fosters.

In addition to the tragic (but not at all unexpected) death of Grace (Meg DeLacy), we watched through several time-jumps as each child in the Adams-Foster family graduated and moved forward into the future: Callie (Maia Mitchell) to the law program at UCSD, Brandon (David Lambert) to Musician’s Institute… and later an engagement, Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) to MIT, Jesus (Noah Centineo) to San Diego Community College, and Jude (Hayden Byerly) to UCLA. Further, we saw Stef (Teri Polo) beginning to learn to accept herself and consider a career change while Lena (Sherri Saum) gave a graduation speech to end all principal graduation speeches.

And while the two-hour installment, which included the show’s milestone 100th episode, may have played a bit like a series finale, the show still has its three-night conclusion coming to Freeform this summer, as well as Callie and Mariana’s mysterious spin-off series. In other words, when our tears finally dried, we had plenty to ask executive producer Peter Paige about the future of our favorite characters.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: When you went to write this finale, did you know the fate of the series? Because this very much feels like it could have stood as the series finale and been satisfying.
PETER PAIGE: This was a version that we had talked about for the series finale. We knew that this was a very possible outcome at this point. I don’t think we had a definitive answer from the network, but we knew this was one of the scenarios we were looking at. And then by the time we actually got the scripts out and done, we knew we were getting the three, we knew we needed a little something to draw you out of the episodes coming out of the end. If it were the end, you wouldn’t go home with everybody and find out about Brandon and his fiancée and all of that stuff.

Talk about the choice to have Lena quote the show’s theme song in her graduation speech, because that really punched me in the gut.
I was writing that speech and I was like, “I’m just going to do it.” It was one of those moments where you get an idea and you’re like, “This is kind of naughty, I’m not sure I should do this.” And then I was like, “Nope. I’m gonna do it.” And that little section of the speech is really from us to the fans: Thank you for taking this ride with us. You’ll always be with us. Please remember it’s not where you come from, it’s where you belong. That’s really the gift we wanted to give the fans in this episode. The end of anything that you’ve loved is an incredible time of nostalgia… We knew it was important to honor what this has been and what it has meant to us and to other people.

Was that nostalgia part of the choice to have Callie find Brandon and share that moment looking back on when they were in love with one another?
Of course. I know a lot of the fans wanted a full-on Brallie romantic ending, but we just didn’t feel like that honored the truth of this universe.

But what about that look on Callie’s face when Brandon announced he was engaged?
[Laughs] Feelings are complicated, but it just felt like we wanted to honor the really powerful love that they share and all that different forms that it has taken.

So what you’re saying is that they are not endgame? And you weren’t just in Turks and Caicos filming their wedding?
I’m not saying that. I’m saying as we’ve laid down this demarcation in the road, we wanted to honor all the different forms that their love has taken over the five years.

So how was Turks and Caicos?
It was beautiful. It’s going to be a really fun, juicy, satisfying ride for the fans. It’s really fun. And it was ridiculously gorgeous. It was so great to have the time out of town with the whole cast together and much of our crew. There’s something about shooting on location that really just cements an atmosphere of family. We already had that in spades, but it was really nice to honor that with some great meals and free rum.

Amanda Leighton was there, so I guess that means good things for Jesus and Emma’s future?
It certainly means things for Jesus and Emma.

What is Stef’s new career?
You’ll find out in the three episodes. It’s a very fun reveal.

We saw Mariana with Wyatt (Alex Saxon) at her own graduation and then with Mat (Jordan Rodrigues) at Jude’s: Just to clarify, at the moment of this finale, she is currently with Mat?
Yes, she’s with Mat.

So does that mean that he is going to be in the spin-off?
We’ve got three episodes before the spin-off. All will be revealed.

We know right now that Callie’s living in San Diego and Mariana’s in Boston: How’s that going to work in the spin-off? What can you tell us about what it will be?
The three-episode event happens a year after the last scene that you’ve seen. The last thing you’ve seen, we get the announcement that Brandon’s engaged, and we jump ahead a year again to his actual wedding. Which will be a surprise for the fans, because I think everyone thinks it’ll be Mike and Ana’s wedding — that’s certainly been the popular theory online.

I certainly thought that, too — but that was before anyone knew there was any sort of time-jump. Now I think we’re not going to see Mike and Ana’s wedding and just have to assume it happened. It seems unlikely that they would still be engaged after five years.
You are correct. We unfortunately just ran out of real estate, as much as we love them. Mike and Ana are long married at this point.

Coming out of this period of time, there’s big changes afoot for all members of The Fosters family. The spin-off basically starts with Mariana and Callie moving to downtown Los Angeles together, getting their first apartment, and starting their lives as adults.

For anyone who doesn’t know what a five-year law program is, does this mean Callie is entering law school at that point?
It’s a program where you get your bachelor’s and your J.D. in five years, so Callie’s out of law school. She’s studying for the bar and she’s clerking for a judge. It’s really interesting, really fun stuff… It’s a fascinating relationship [with the judge] and challenge, and it’s the most difficult year of your life as a lawyer. You’re working seven days a week and it’s a fascinating dynamic.

And I’m guessing we’ll see other family members cycle in and out at varying times?
Absolutely we will. This family is very connected to each other. One of the reasons we love Mariana and Callie living together is that they’re sisters but they found each other much later in life. They don’t take each other for granted. They still both really value a sense of family, and that will pervade the whole series.

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