'Greek' creator Patrick Sean Smith on the series finale you didn't see and chances of a spin-off
Image Credit: Toby Canham/Getty Images; Karen Neal/ABC Family[SPOILER ALERT: Do not read this if you haven’t seen the series finale of Greek] The end is here, Greek fans. It’s okay, go ahead and shed a tear (or ten!). Like the KT house, our gang from Cyprus-Rhodes is gone.
The good news? We’re not quite done yet. Now that you’ve seen the series finale, take one last look down memory lane with this chat I had with creator Patrick Sean Smith, where we break down (in complete and total geeky detail!) the series finale. P.S. — If you thought you were the only one who smelled a spin-off…guess again.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I’m very upset cause I just watched the finale and I’m so depressed and sad…
PATRICK SEAN SMITH: Yay! And you’re welcome.
We’re gonna miss it so much. I don’t even know where to start but I guess we should start with the thing that is going to have everybody sobbing, which is the tearing down of the house. Why, why, why? Why did you do that to us?
To give a little backstory, we kind of came into the fourth season with a gift. We all thought that we were done at the end of the third season. So when I was writing the spring break episode, “All Children Grow Up,” I kind of thought we were done. We actually shot a series-ending flash-forward scene in the event that we were done and we also had the season-ender. Fortunately, our ratings went up in the third season, and people kind of rallied for the show, so we never had to show that. We kind of went into this next ten [episodes] saying “This is a gift. We have these next ten episodes to wrap it up as opposed to just trying to do it all in a flash-forward.” I was trying to figure it out what really is the heart of the show. There were so many memories and moments and emotions that had gone on through the house. I kind of had always committed to the idea that they saved the house in the end and everything is fine, but it was so obvious, it didn’t feel Greek, didn’t feel special enough. So about halfway through the ten I contacted the line producer and said, “I’m thinking about something crazy and tell me we can’t afford it, but I want to tear down the house.” And she was like, “That is crazy. But it’s also brilliant and let’s figure out how to do it.” It felt shocking, but it also felt like the show a little bit and it gives some hope post-the show and if our characters find the hope post-the house to say the spirit of KT, as with the spirit of Greek is not solely resting in this house, as it doesn’t have to be resting in this show it can live on past the series finale.
So the interior set actually got torn down by a bulldozer?
We tore all the sets down ourselves. We filmed it. I believe the DVD will have some behind-the-scenes stuff, ’cause I believe people were filming it. That was really the last thing we shot, for obvious reasons. We’re not doing any pick-ups or re-shoots, for obvious reasons in a torn down set. It was crazy. It was really cathartic and emotional and so many of the cast showed up for it, to see it and the writers and producers so it was, like…a very powerful ending for us as well.
You mentioned a little bit about a flash-forward that didn’t air. How was that different from what we saw?
The flash-forward was to Rusty’s graduation. At Rusty, Rebecca, Dale, and Calvin’s graduation. We also reveal, at the end, that it was Cappie’s graduation as well. The idea is that he stuck around for two years, and I’m pretty sure this will be on the DVD, so people will have the opportunity to see it. It was our undergrads — who were then graduates — two years later from when we left off at spring break with Casey coming back from GW to see Rusty’s graduation and then being reunited with Cappie and them kind of having a drink of hope at Dobbler’s at the end to show that as a game-changer for them. And Ashleigh was back from New York and Evan’s married. It was just one of those flash-forward to reunion-type thing were it was all tied up that way.
Speaking of all the characters, let’s rewind a little bit and break down the stories. Let’s start with Cappie and Casey, obviously. I loved how they were embarking on this unplanned journey together, just going into the sunset. How did you come to that ending?
I always knew I didn’t want to end the series with them getting together because we’ve seen that too many times. So we definitely made the choice to get them sooner with the hopes that the astute audience would be like, “What, they’re getting them together now in the middle, and by the end they’re gonna break them up so they’re just getting them together to break them up again!” But for them, I like that uncertainty but the power in them being a couple to know that they’re gonna get through anything. I didn’t want to tie everything up too much. I like the power of this couple, as it is with anything in life, to say, “I have no idea what’s gonna happen next but as long as we’re together I know we can weather it.” So I love that for them because it’s kind of the spirit of their relationship through the series is, “We’re together, but we’re sorta not. As long as we’re in each other’s orbits, things as gonna be okay.”
How was it writing this ending for this couple for you?
I was good. It was fitting; it was emotional. I think the Rusty/Casey of it all got me a little bit deeper. ‘Cause that’s been so much of what the series has been to me was this brother/sister finding each other, so I loved that we could end it and avoid doing the flash forward to just say “And they got together!” But to just see in the last couple of episodes Cappie grow up and to see him be worthy of Casey and to see that he’s worthy of an adult relationship and one that’s kind of built to last — it meant the most to me. And we’re saying that they’re together but to spend the last couple episodes to show that they are gonna be okay together. That they’re gonna grow together.
Speaking of Rusty, we ended with him as the President of the frat, with this new, beautiful girlfriend. The world has completely changed for Rusty from when we first met him as this little geeky little brother. Tell me about that — why you decided to give him this awesome amazing life that he totally deserved?
It was tough because I wanted to show growth in Rusty as well. I wanted to push the characters as far forward for me as possible, knowing that I’m never going to get to write them again. To me, it was to have the experience of seeing them grow up and know that they’re gonna be okay in my mind. With Rusty, I wanted to grow him up. I was inclined to make him the cool guy, to make him the Cappie guy, but it felt false and it felt like a bad message to say that Rusty has to completely change to be worthy of a happy ending for himself. So I kind of liked retaining a little bit of his nerdiness, but to also show a little more confidence in him. When we started talking about a Rusty/Ashleigh relationship — which we’ve always kind of hinted on in the past, but was never kind of truly my original vision for those two characters — it was that we need to step Rusty up enough to make him worthy of somebody like Ashleigh, to make him worthy of the presidency, but still maintaining who he is. With the finale, in my mind, I thought of transformation in the identity of Kappa Tau under Rusty’s leadership, to say that this is a bit of an underdog fraternity, but with the spirit of Rusty to say, we can get through anything. Cappie was always avoiding trying and being the cool slacker place, and with Rusty at the helm, this fraternity is going to embody Rusty’s spirit. So I was happy where we ended him without having to completely change him.
Did you mean for the ending to seem like the beginning of a spinoff?
Not consciously. When it looked like we were done at the end of the third season, I obviously was very emotional, just about how much I love the show, and how much I love working with everybody. But the thing I was missing the deepest for me personally and selfishly was the characters. I never wanted to end the series with “It’s done,” final nail in the coffin. It’s probably a little open-ended in my mind just so the characters can live on in my imagination. And should there be a spin-off, so be it! But yeah, I just didn’t want to end their lives in this. I wanted to feel that there was a progression and a continuation for all of them. In saying that I hope there could be a spin-off, it’s certainly not from feeling that the network is ending us abruptly. They didn’t — they gave us this final ten to wrap up the series, which again, meant so much to me, it meant so much to the cast, everybody came back with this appreciation of this final ten. Because you don’t get that in TV. I don’t want to burden them with more red cups being sent in again and again.
Let’s talk Dale and Laura.
You know, I wanted — when we were looking at this is the final ten, we talked about, What did everybody want by the end of this? And I felt like we never really got into Dale, as much as I would have liked to over all the time. When you’re juggling eight characters — I loved the stuff we did with him, but we never really got into his romantic life. And I liked the idea of this guy saying, “I need to find the best girl, because I need to get married before I graduate from college.” I grew up in Texas and went to school in Texas, and I know in my time period, a lot of people were getting married during college. And I liked him putting that pressure on finding Mrs. Dale Ian Kettlewell, and he had two years to do it — which also felt like a nice motivation for him to get into a fraternity, which he had always been on the periphery during the series. And with Laura, I just love the character, I love the actress, I loved just how snarky and mean she was. It just seemed like that would be the perfect girl that Dale would end up with in a way that would challenge him, as opposed to getting somebody who’s a little too subservient, too sweet. So there was always something that I really liked about the fire in their relationship, and that they didn’t like each other but they wanted to be with each other.
So in your mind, did they get married?
I don’t know if they did. I don’t know, I haven’t given too much through past where we ended [all the couples], I guess.
What about with Evan? I felt like he really ended on an uncertain note.
With Evan, I always felt interested in what would be the thing that would make him friends with Cappie, and I feel like Casey was always there, and his feelings for Casey would always be there. I felt like by the end of the series I wanted to see him get over Casey Cartwright, like, officially. And I also wanted to see that story of him coming to terms with his parents and the limitations of their relationship in a way that he’d stop acting out from that. And I also liked finding an occupation for him that he could focus all of his darker energy on something that is productive, which is a lawyer, from time to time. But he was able to find something productive or constructive with that ability to look past the means and get to the end, and that’s real. That’s adult life sometimes. So with him, I did see — I will say that I did see Evan and Rebecca getting back together. I wanted to keep it a little bit open just so that it wasn’t, everybody take the hand of their partner and do the curtain call at the end, with your respective mate. But I always did imagine that those two worked really well together and that they could grow up together and benefit from each other.
Evan ended the most “adult” character, I think.
I can’t help but read the message boards and people’s response, and I know that they’re upset right now to see him be such a jerk and how harsh he was to Rebecca. But I wanted to earn that dip to make his rise feel that much more exciting, to be an adult and a grownup.
So tell me about Cappie’s name and his major. They were finally revealed. It sort of reminds me of finding out Big’s name was John on Sex and the City.
Yes, yes. There was just something in Captain John Paul Jones and “only begun to fight” — I kind of just liked a little bit of, as an anthem. His name was something I had never really considered at the beginning. He was always just “Cappie” to me. And then when people started to say, like, “What’s his real name?” and I was like, “I never thought of his real name. he’s Cappie.” So I wanted to have something that was meaningful, and as the episodes went on and people were like, “What’s his name? What’s his name? We have to know!” I was like, “Oh my, God, this has got to be good.” What I came to in that name was — and what I wanted the end of this to be — was a bit of an anthem for our millennial audience we’ve been so aware of through the run of the series. Things are rough right now. There are no jobs, but keeping that fighting spirit and say, “We can get through this together” was the thing I really liked in his name. [It] kind of brought that all together for me. And that he does have that spirit, that he’s only begun to fight, that he’s always going to be living the life that he wants to live as opposed to just slipping into complacency. When we talked about Cappie growing up, I was like, I will never imagine Cappie in a Volvo, coming home from work with a briefcase. I would sooner be happy seeing him sell sandals on the beach than see him just fall into a normal, ordinary life of adulthood. So that’s one thing I’ve seen in my mind past the series.
Were there any big reject names?
The big reject name was John Smith. The obvious reject is because it’s too close to my name, which I was worried that people would see it as the arrogance of putting myself in the show. [Laughs] But the thing I liked about it was that his name was too ordinary for his spirit. For who he was, he was too big for a John Smith, so he would forever be Cappie. And also the John Smith of it as well, and as you called out Big, I was like “Ugh, I don’t want to be too close to that,” because that was just an ordinary thing. In Cappie’s character, I love the struggle for the kid growing up, saying, “I don’t want to be a normal person.” In that Breakfast Club kind of way, I don’t want to grow old and have my heart die. I want to keep my heart alive, and I want to enjoy every second of it. But him having a name that wasn’t worthy of that energy — with no disrespect to the John Smiths of the world.
Cue the hate mail from John Smiths.
Do you have a favorite pop culture comedic moment? Honestly, I’ll never forget Star Wars sex.
I’m going to get hate mail from John Smith and George Lucas. That was something that we tried so desperately to get into the third season, and that was like, coming into the fourth season and when I thought we were done before, there were all these things that I was like, “Aw, I always wanted to do that, we never did a toga party…” Just before we even started the room in the fourth season, I took time to write down a list of all the stuff that I wanted to do and felt bad that we didn’t have a chance to do. So we brought that into this ten. But the Star Wars thing I loved. Dale’s speech during the U Sag battles in courts to keep the Greek system with the restriction, and how he [channeled] Howard Dean, and waved his arms, and sweat stains. That was something I could walk a million times over. Catherine, this season, just was so funny, and anything I would watch her do would just kill me, and the repartee that Catherine and Casey had in the later years was brilliant.
Was there anything on the list you didn’t get to do?
There was one thing that one of the writers on staff, Matt Whitney, was pushing the entire time that I thought would be really funny. The beer pong world championship, and the idea of them going to face off with all these different beer pong champions seemed kind of like an interesting world to get into and fun.
So what’s next?
This is my first experience developing, so there’s a lot of stuff that I want to do. I had a script come in with Imagine Television which I’m thoroughly excited about. I’m just the biggest Friday Night Lights and Parenthood fan. So nothing definite, but a lot of irons in the fire, so to speak.
(Additional reporting by Maggie Pehanick and Hillary Busis)