By Sandra Gonzalez
April 09, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT
Scott Alan Humbert/The CW
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Hart of Dixie‘s Tim Matheson has a knack for quietly taking control. Take, for instance, our chat with him two weeks ago, when he started the interview with a question of his own: Did EW think The Hunger Games would make $100 million during its opening weekend? [Update: It did, Tim. And then some!] He thought such a prediction was bold.

But Matheson himself is familiar with bold acts — it’s how he got Gary Cole to sign on for a guest role in tonight’s episode as Ethan Hart, renowned heart surgeon and the man Zoe Hart (Rachel Bilson) once believed to be her father. “There’s a danger about having a character like that, who’s been spoken about in every episode and who Zoe has such deep feelings for and conflict about,” he says. But Cole, whom Matheson had worked with on A Very Brady Sequel and West Wing, was just he man he needed. “I just picked up the phone and called him and told him he’d make everyone here deliriously happy if he could do this….In Hollywood, you never know if you’re crossing a boundary. ‘Should we go through an agent?’ and all that stuff. But I didn’t care. I wanted to selfishly reach out and make my job easier,” he said, laughing.

The result, airing tonight, is an emotionally satisfying episode that finds Zoe working with Ethan Hart on a case and brings key character arcs full circle, he says.”It’s all the things that have been percolating under Zoe Hart’s skin from the very beginning — finding out this man wasn’t her father, the fact that Ethan has pulled away and disengaged from his presumed daughter,” he says. “I think, dramatically, it’s one of the high points of the season. The story is very rewarding in that regard.”

Not long after he wrapped work on tonight’s episode, Matheson was back in the director’s chair for the show’s season finale, which, he teases, has “swans, goats, pelicans, near-hurricane winds, rain, dream-sequences, and wedding preparations.” And, of course, more entanglements between Zoe, George (Scott Porter) and Wade (Wilson Bethel). “Relationships connect and go places you wouldn’t have imaged they’d go. I don’t think that the audience will be disappointed in any way,” he says. “All the dots are connected and, at once, it opens up immense possibilities for future stories.”


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