This is a transcript of an Interview with Producers Ron Howard and Jason Katims and series star Lauren Graham about NBC's show Parenthood.
I was really impressed with how much you got the pilot film to be kind of lighter and more fun in the second try. And how's that gone on since then in the future episodes? Are you getting more comedy into the episodes as it goes? And there's a lot of serious things you're playing with too so how's it going so far?
Yeah, I mean, I think - this is Jason. I think that we have tried to, you know, really, you know, anytime you start a show you're sort of trying to find that balance and figure out, you know, sort of discover the tone of the show and, you know, how that - what the show wants to be.
And one of the things that I'm so excited about - about what I've seen as you were saying, you know, the second version of the pilot and then as we've gone into episodes is we've found more and more humor. But it's really the humor of life, you know, it's the humor that you find in - when you're, you know, dealing with parenthood and family and being both, you know, a, you know, dealing both with, you know, your, you know, your kids but also in the context of being a, you know, a son or a daughter as well.
And, you know, what I like about, you know, that's what I like about the humor that we're finding it just feels very relatable and real; it doesn't feel like - to me it doesn't feel like it's too broad or trying to - or going into a place that, you know, is in any way sort of not really relatable.
I just wanted to ask Ron - in retrospect I think parenthood is often very funny. We don't realize it sometimes at the time but we laugh about it afterwards. You've done a lot of parenthood in your life; overall is there a lot of room for humor in it?
Well it's unavoidable. You know, like Jason was just saying, I mean, it might not feel funny in the moment, you're right, but, you know, gratefully more often than not, you know, there's, you know, there's a light at the end of the tunnel and, you know, and you can personally look back and find the humor in it.
Others, you know, can always see the, you know, how ridiculous other people's lives are. They might not tell them right to their face but, you know, they could see it. And it's that - it is that sort of elevator ride that is, you know, I think makes stories on the subject of parenting and being a part of a family so relatable and so entertaining. And I've loved what Jason has been doing, you know, with the sort of the family that we started 20 years ago.
Ever since our first conversation and, you know, from the first script onward, you know, the just has such a fantastic contemporary take on the whole thing that I've been, you know, nothing but proud of it.
Ron, what is it about parenthood, the premise, the title, the franchise, that keeps you coming back?
Well the interesting thing - and I've got to include Jason in this because, I mean, I'll just say that, you know, we - Brian Grazer and I are intensely proud of, you know, the film Parenthood. You know, our friends Ganz and Mandel, did a brilliant job writing it. And it, you know, it remains a movie that people compliment us on.
We tried a television series a couple years after it and it couldn't capture the sort of the - I don't know the scope of the family; it was a half-hour sort of sitcom approach. And it was frustrating in that way. And we thought that was sort of the end of Parenthood.
We would even toy occasionally with trying to do a sequel. But we just - we felt like, you know, another two hours on the subject was not going to be particularly more informative. A series would have allowed the characters to develop but just another movie would probably not, you know, not be, you know, a good creative idea.
And then Jason came to Brian and I and of course we know Jason from Friday Night Lights where he does a spectacular job and said, you know, I want to do a one-hour dramatic version of Parenthood. And, you know, and we were thrilled, Brian and I, very open to the idea because of Jason and his talent but - and our experience with him.
But also we frankly said in that first meeting, you know, you're a pretty creative guy why don't you just make up your own family? And at the time I wanted to take this because at the time the said well, you know, it's like a book or a play or anything that you can make a strong adaptation from, there's something in the DNA of those characters and the family dynamics that I think I can build upon.
And, you know, lo and behold he has, he's given every character its own contemporary voice and of course the actors are now going even further with it. But I'm just, you know, incredibly sort of gratified that those characters - that situation, the DNA of that family can evolve. And now I know it'll continue to in the right way where, you know, you can really understand so much about what it is to be, you know, a family member or a parent. But, Jason, talk about that because, I mean, we had the quick conversation and then we just took yes for an answer and we're glad. What were you thinking?
Well, yeah, well, I mean, I think sort of going back and looking at the movie again I felt that, you know, truthfully I felt that it was so rich and that the, you know, that it was - the world was - not only was the movie so wonderful, but the world that was created in that movie was so rich and so ripe with possibilities.
And I kept thinking, you know, I want to see more, I want to know more about them, I want to live with these people. And that to me is the key to, you know, it seems like, oh yeah, come up with a TV show it seems like an easy thing to do. But it's a very hard thing to try to figure out, you know, the ingredients that would make a good show.
And I felt like not only was it a wonderful movie but in the movie I just was sort of the perfect sort of foundation for what could be a really wonderful show. And, you know, honestly the show that I would want to watch. That's why I was really drawn to it; this is the kind of TV show that I would want to watch.
It's the stuff that, you know, sort of most compelling to me right now, it's the stuff I'm, you know, thinking about most right now in my life. And I think that's always the thing that you should try to let, you know, let guide you as you try to figure out what you want to write.
And of course, you know, the other side of it is I've had such a wonderful experience with Ron and Brian and everybody at Imagine on Friday Night Lights. You know, I - you know, also thought this would be - it would be, you know, a good thing for me and hopefully for everyone to sort of, you know, find something else to do, you know, together.
And this, you know, the combination of those two things made me feel like this was just too good of a thing to not pursue. And even though it was - I had to, you know, sort of go into Ron and Brian, you know, it was a - I felt kind of humble going into them saying I want to, you know, because I know there had been a show that had been, you know, that had been done already based on it.
And, you know, but I was so kind of excited and passionate about the idea of trying to do it that that's what made me sort of talk to them. And what got me really excited was once I did talk to them that they were really interested in only doing the show if we could re-imagine it. You know, not do to the - not do something which is a copy of the movie but to, you know, to look at, you know, you know, to let the movie inspire something that is new.
I think it's a really important thing for people to view parenthood, to see what it's like. But there are a lot of issues. There was an issue with Kevin when he had the worry issue that he inherited from Gil. And Max has the Asperger's Syndrome. Are you going to expand on those type of things - those type of children's issues like kids with ADHD and stuff in the show?
The short answer is that I know that if we're lucky enough to have the show go that, you know, that all aspects of it, again, you know, sort of that - the stuff that makes us laugh and also the, you know, the painful realities of the experience are what he wants to build on. But specifically, you know, we haven't discussed that. Jason?
No I think that - absolutely it's what I, you know, want to, you know, the idea of the show is to sort of try to explore as much about the experience of parenthood as we can. And that includes, you know, the joyous moments, the celebration of family.
It includes the embarrassing funny moments. And - but it also includes, you know, some very dramatic stuff, you know, which includes, you know, having a kid with special needs which is something that is very much a part of the show.
What I'm really proud of so far having now, you know, shot the first, you know, handful of episodes and seeing a few cuts, what I'm very proud of is that I think not only are we dealing with that subject matter in a way that, you know, honors it and is real, but it's also done in a way that is not self-pitying and depressing, you know.
I mean I think what - really knowing what that experience is like first hand I know that it's, you know, as much of a blessing as it is a curse. And I feel that that is reflected in the work that we're doing.
The title Parenthood may discourage some people from seeing it because they feel like they can't relate to it except the parents. What will be the attraction you think for young kids, you know, or people that don't have children to watch the show?
Right, I mean, I think to me that's, again the thing - the reason why I wanted to do this show is because, you know, you know, it allows you to come at it from so many points of view. I mean, and really we have ages in the show covered from, you know, a, you know, four year old boy to, you know, a - grandparents in their 60s.
And should the show go, you know, go long enough I'd like to go to the next generation up from that. You know, I think that everybody will - and I'm not kidding about that. You know, I think that every - it allows, you know, us to see through, you know, people of, you know, at any period of their life, you know, you can both see - you can both look at it and be in it as you're watching.
You know, so I think, you know, it's as interesting for, you know, younger people to watch it not only to see hopefully to some degree themselves reflected but to see into - to see behind the, you know, what happens behind the doors when they're not there when their parents are talking about them.
You know, I mean, I think that's interesting too. I would be interested in that if I were a kid.
I found the storyline about Max and his parents struggle to accept the diagnosis to be so moving. And I was wondering why did you decide to have a child with Asperger's in the story? And also I'm imagining that you have autism consultants working on the show?
Yes we do. You know, I think that what I find more and more from, you know, my own, you know, experience - personal - very personal experience in life but with knowing so many people that, you know, what you find is everybody's dealing with something that, you know, everybody's dealing with something.
You know, every - and, you know, one of the basic, you know, sort of defining principal that I had when I was thinking about what I wanted the show to be was the idea that, you know, your children are never the people you expected them to be.
You're surprised by them. And that is - that's something that is really what, you know, I think, you know, a lot of what parenthood is about is figuring out how to, you know, how, you know, how to, you know, deal with that and fight that and ultimately maybe accept that. And I think that, you know, you know, to deal with an issue like that which is, you know, in many ways scary - a scary issue to sort of - to confront.
But in many ways I just think it speaks to what so many people are dealing with. Maybe, I mean, obviously not specifically with Asperger's but you know, there's, you know, that's what I find, you know, honestly. What I find when I see people is like, you know, everything looks a certain way from the outside. And then when you get inside their homes or you talk to people and meet them and really get to know what's going on everybody's dealing with something.
And so I wanted that to be part of the show. I didn't want the show to just be - I didn't want the show to, you know, as much as I want this show to be fun, and it is, and a celebration of family, which it is, I also wanted to be real and to see people, you know, sort of grappling with stuff that's - that is, you know, create real challenges.
And probably, you know, the Asperger's diagnosis wasn't really on the radar - at least it wasn't on ours 20 years ago when we made this. But, you know, most of the elements from the movie - and I think largely, you know, from the show now, you know, are coming from personal perspectives and personal experiences. And, you know, the same can be said for that aspect of that story.
Lauren, can you just talk about first of all the differences between being part of a kind of a big ensemble as opposed to more or less carrying a show like you did with Gilmore Girls? And also now that you're a ways into it some of the things you may have discovered about your character.
Well it's a more sane life for sure, you know, to be part of an ensemble. And I find that you're - the work can be more specific therefore. I have to really make sure I know where I am in the story because I'm not in every scene and I'm not, you know, I have to sort of think about it as an actor in terms of the arc of each episode in a more deep way instead of trusting that, you know, since I'm in most of the scenes I can kind of gauge where I am.
So I've found this work really gratifying because it is more specific, you know, you're working with a smaller amount of material and therefore everything is really important. And, you know, on Gilmore Girls sometimes I'd be in a scene that was just there kind of for fun, you know. And here each scene really is an important part of where my character is.
And so that's been really interesting. And, you know, I don't see dawn as much as I did on the other show which has been really enjoyable. And, you know, I think what I've discovered and what I've really enjoyed about sort - we're in maybe Episodes like 5 and 6 right now - is just finding the ways in which this character just continues to sort of feel like - it's too strong to say, like a failure.
But, you know, as opposed to maybe Lorelai Gilmore who had a very sunny outlook on things, it's been really interesting for me to play someone who has - is kind of shouldering a lot of baggage in terms of being disappointed about where she is in life and just, you know, the feeling of living in your parent's house at 38 and how that informs everything, you know, and doesn't make you feel too great.
And so it's just trying to, you know, thinking about looking at life through the eyes of disappointment is kind of a thing I think about a lot with Sarah.
And quickly for Ron and Jason, will we be seeing more of Mike O'Malley?
Yeah, he is in the third episode and then right now we're planning to bring him back again later in the season for one more episode so far and then depending on how those two crazy kids work it out maybe more, we don't know yet.
Lauren, I wanted to know did you watch the original pilot with Maura Tierney or did you stay away from it so it wouldn't get in the way?
I did not - I didn't watch it, no.
Is there a chance that Maura might turn up on the show in the future in a guest spot or something?
You know, I have no idea whether that would happen. I mean, you know, obviously I, you know, love Maura, love the work that she does and, you know, I mean, right now she's, you know, doing what she, you know, kind of needs to do to get healthy and get back to a place where, you know, we might have that conversation. But, you know, it's not, you know, we're - it's nothing like that is anything that we've talk about yet.
Ron, this question is more directed to you. Jason talked a little bit about how kids surprise you and they do things that you didn't expect. So I was wondering if you could talk about how being a dad has affected, you know, any input you've had on the show.
My God, good luck.
The, you know, again I think, you know, all of our parenting experiences, you know, are going to come in to play and that's Jason and the staff and all of us involved. But it's certainly, you know, as it continues to grow it's also going to be - it's also going to be the actors.
You know, and with - again what's great about this is that, you know, I don't think I've ever seen a cast just sort of gel from the first moment of the life of a show the way this cast has. And so, you know, I know that, you know, that this cast is, you know, is going to carry, you know, their personal understanding of these relationships into the show in ways that the audiences, you know, are going to feel.
So, you know, the one specific thing is that, you know, Bryce has a son who's almost three. And when I was making Parenthood we certainly - we had grandparents and they were, you know, they were significant. But I didn't remotely understand how profound that experience is. And that's, you know, and so, you know, I think that's something that this show will be able to develop also that audiences really relate to.
It's interesting when you become a grandparent you start bumping into other, you know, folks who have had that experience. There's this sort of wink and a nod like it's a - it's a particular sort of a club or something. And it's very difficult to articulate, you know, sort of how it works and why it runs so deep.
But, you know, the series is going to be able to do that in ways that I think are going to be relatable and entertaining on a whole other dimension.
Lauren, what was the decision like to come back to TV? And what do you think it is about you and playing great moms on TV?
Well, you know, the decision was kind of just a very instinctual one, you know. I have been reading scripts for two and a half years or three years, whatever it is since Gilmore Girls ended. And there just wasn't anything I connected to and that's including things that I was developing that, you know, maybe didn't get to exactly the place I wanted them to.
And I always think about, you know, it follows like the dating model of you have a list of things that you want and then you meet somebody and fall in love and half the things were not on your list. And this is kind of that in the ways that I didn't plan to play a mom, I didn't plan to do an ensemble, I sort of, you know, was thinking about a comedy and, you know, maybe cable.
And then, you know, and then I read this script and I met with Jason. And just the idea of being able to collaborate with a writer who, you know, has such a beautiful group of work but also is encouraging in the, you know, yeah, take your idea and kind of run with it and, you know, improvise once in a while if that makes sense to you.
It's just a very different model from, you know, from the show that I had come from. And so it just seemed like a good idea.
And what is it with you and moms and do real moms ask you for advice?
They do. Well and that's sort of one thing I said to Jason. I don't know what the thing is because, you know, I spent, you know, my dad essentially raised me and I think if there's any sort of connection I have it's that I don't have an idea of what a mom is supposed to be; I just kind of, you know, look at who the person is.
And also I've been extremely fortunate to have kids who play my kids who are really easy to love. And even in this case, you know, with Mae Whitman who we have a very contentious relationship on the show but there's a chemistry in that even, you know, that you really have to have. And I've just been really lucky to have that.
And, yes, moms do ask me for advice. And I say I don't know how to help you. But I did say to Jason, you know, when we started this that, you know, I've been in a place where people are like oh my mom is just like you and they mean that as a compliment, you know.
And that wasn't so much my interest going forward, I was like, I don't necessarily want anyone to want to be me as a mom on this show. Like that's what I like about her is that she's really kind of doing things in a more haphazard way and isn't always noble and doesn't always make the right choice. And so that felt, you know, different enough to me to, you know, that it wasn't going to be it's just like Lorelai so.
And finally how is she different from Lorelai? How do you compare them?
You know, it's just - in so many ways the experience of doing the show is so totally different, the tone of the show is so different so I think the fact that, you know, the circumstances are similar actually never - they - it never reminds me of - they don't remind me of each other at all.
You know, this show is less about verbal kind of dexterity and long speeches and it's more small moments and real behavior and - that's my call waiting. And, you know, people reacting to each in a moment. There's a lot more silence.
It's, you know, so and Sarah really struggling in her life and not in a great place and, you know, hasn't reached her potential in a lot of ways. And, you know, the character I played in the past is sort of always winning in a way, you know, and so this is someone who has much further to go to reach any of her dreams and that was all appealing to me.
Lauren, I wanted to know how it felt sort of coming into this ensemble cast taking over for Maura Tierney?
Well it felt really difficult in ways. I mean, I've put a lot of pressure on myself to really do a great job. And I push anyway but then, you know, this just felt like I hoped that it would go well and I hoped that we would all gel. And, you know, I hoped that actors wouldn't mind doing a scene a second time, you know, with me.
And I really, you know, Ron mentioned it earlier, but I do have to say, you know, it didn't feel so much like taking over or anything, you know, it wasn't like that. It was like we all together kind of started, you know, anew.
And that was the only way you could kind of deal with that, you know, situation is - and actually the chemistry between these people I can just honestly say I've - and not to be, you know, not to compare any of my other wonderful jobs, but this is a very, very special group of people and a really great feeling on the set and an actual, you know, functional and dysfunctional family of its own. And all of those kind of, you know, it was actually really easy ultimately to do, you know, to do this work. And so I feel lucky.
Who do you relate more to Sarah or Lorelai?
Well I can only say Sarah because that's what's on my plate, you know, right now. And - but I would say, I mean, you know, this feels in a strange way like kind of a natural next step in terms of, you know, the world of Gilmore Girls was really idyllic in a way and such a great place to live, you know, as an actor and a person for awhile.
But this is - feels more grown up in a lot of a ways. And so the possibilities sort of - the range of what I get to do on this show is, you know, it's more 10 o'clock than 8 o'clock. And that's a great kind of next chapter to, you know, to have in terms of just feeling challenged, you know, and moving forward. So Sarah is who I really...
Ron and Jason if you could just talk a little bit about the casting process. There's some really great acting in this so how did that come about?
I can speak and just say, you know, Jason just kept, you know, I just kind of kept seeing amazing actors one after another, you know, agree to do Jason's work. And so I was just, you know, smiling in the background.
You know, it was an incredible experience casting the show because, you know, it first of all it's a very, very big cast. It's unusually large ensemble for a TV show. And, you know, so it was all about, you know, putting the, you know, sort of putting the pieces together and feeling like well you're not just, you know, obviously you want to find great people who connect with the roles.
But it's also you're trying to create a family, you're trying to create a group of people who when you put them together the sum will be greater than its parts. And, you know, so that's what was sort of, you know, that was what was, you know, the complicated and challenging part of it is making sure not only were you, you know, getting wonderful people for the roles which is of course, you know, what you're always doing.
But, you know, I really wanted to feel, you know, at the end of the day that when you saw these people together they felt like a family. That, you know, they reminded you of, you know, that there be dynamics and things that would, you know, reminding you of your - of hopefully of your family and reminding you - it felt familiar and real.
And so there was that. Then the other side of it is we - we got so much tremendous support. You know, I think luckily, you know, the network believed in the show so much that they really supported us in putting together this incredible cast.
I mean, you know, we, you know, I mean, if you look at the people we were lucky enough to be able to work with - with Lauren and Peter and Craig and on and on and on, you know, it's just - Bonnie Bedelia - and it's, you know, this is for me, you know, such a, you know, I feel so excited and humbled by having this, you know, sort of embarrassment of riches is really what it is.
And that wouldn't have happened had we not gotten the support from the network to say you know what we're not just going to put one person in this that we could go out and sell, we're going to build a beautiful show here and we're going to put our resources behind it.
Ron, I was wondering how working on this Parenthood has been different than working on the last Parenthood other than the cast?
Well I haven't had to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning one single time. And really I'm an Exec Producer along with Brian Grazer and David Nevins and I really am on that side of it. And, you know, quite frankly if somebody has a question I answer it, you know, maybe once or twice I threw in an opinion from the distance but this is Jason's show.
And I'm, you know, and I'm totally supportive of it. But he doesn't need - he honestly doesn't need my help. It's there should he ever. But - so it's been a very different experience. But the other nice thing is, you know, I get to really enjoy those episodes.
Well I read scripts and I have an idea where the show is going. But it's going so well that, you know, I'm just - I'm just proud.
Ron, you grew up in television, I'm wondering where you think television is today? Are you excited by it?
Well I am excited about it. Look, you know, there's more going on and so there are more opportunities to stub your toe along with, you know, doing something really special. But I think that cable TV and the series - the short, you know, 12 and 13 episodes a season cable shows have really been great for the medium because I also think it sort of challenges the more traditional network shows in exciting ways.
And, you know, and just as a an I love the variety that you find on TV. I think that, you know, from an acting standpoint and a writing standpoint it's, you know, it's pound for pound the best work in the world is going on in that medium.
Better than the movies?
I think so, yeah on average hour by hour. It's, you know, it's - you can take more risks right now in the current climate on television shows than you can in movies in some instances.
I mean, filmmakers are always out there trying to find ways to, you know, to be bold and to do things that are - that, you know, explore things from new perspectives but they either, A, don't really have the time or, you know, it's hard in this climate to get the financing for something that feels, you know, like it's really breaking the mold.
Studios are, you know, more conservative than ever about the kind of choices that they want to make. And they have their sort of, you know, fiscal responsibilities to attend to. And I'm not, you know, I understand it. But I feel like there's more experimentation going on in TV and that's yielding some really great - some really great breakthroughs.
Sorry to have to ask this but Jason we were hoping maybe we could get some kind of reaction or thoughts on the announcement - unofficial announcement yesterday that this would be the end - or Season 5 would be the end of Friday Night Lights.
Well, I mean, I think the - first of all I would say - I would use unofficial. The show hasn't been canceled yet. You know, I mean, look Friday Night Lights is a show that has been, you know, struggling to stay on the air from the second episode of the show. And we will, you know, do, you know, a minimum of five seasons.
And, you know, the thing is truthfully we are just - we just finished our fourth season of the run on DirecTV and are premiering our fourth season on NBC, have not yet premiered it, you know, until April 30. And then we have an entire, you know, another year to go that we are just starting to break the stories on.
So, you know, to me I feel it's early, it's early yet. Of course if it winds up being the final season of - this next year winds up being the final season of the show then I will, you know, you know, feel very, very lucky and grateful that we were able to do, you know, as many episodes of a show that I - that is so dear to my heart.
So but, you know, as I said there hasn't been any official, you know, decision about that yet. So, you know, you know, and it's still, you know, it's still, you know, I mean, it's weird that that would happen when literally we're breaking stories for, you know, for a new season that we haven't even started to shoot yet.
So I think, you know, I just don't want to - I just don't want it to seem like, you know, it's - the show is over. You know, there was a period of time between, you know, the second season and the third season where we were cancelled, you know, the show was gone.
And the show wound up coming back. So, you know, I don't, you know, it's - there's nothing official yet.
Jason, I know you mentioned re-imaging the show a little earlier. Can you guys talk about what the process was like creating characters based on characters from the film but also with new characteristics? Lauren's character, you know, the fact she married a deadbeat musician with a drug problem makes her very different than Diane who had married a successful dentist. And then maybe Lauren you could also talk about playing a role based on an existing one.
Well what I was given - the gift that I was given by Ron and Brian when I set out to do the show was complete freedom. You know, whatever I wanted to do that I should do however closely or - I wanted to follow any of the characters or format of the movie or not ,was really completely left in my hands.
And when I started to sit down to do the work I, you know, felt that I kept gravitating back toward some, you know, toward a significant amount of the structure of the movie. Because as I said earlier I thought that it just was really sort of a - in a weird way it a wonderful movie but in a weird way it was sort of the perfect model for a television show.
And - but what I also did was I basically went - what I did was I let the movie, you know, go after I saw it a couple times. And I didn't watch it again while I wrote it at all because I didn't - and honestly some of the stuff that people say oh that happened in the movie and it's, you know, the same kind of thing is happening in the show.
Some of the thing I didn't even realize you know what I mean because I didn't want to become too enmeshed in the movie. I mean, I thought it was important that I be inspired by it but I not be bound by it. And so but, you know, the truth is I did go, you know, when I was first starting to do it I went with some sort of radically different ideas and came back around to the structure of a lot of it.
In terms of the Sarah character, you know, you know, what, you know, basically - and really all of the characters, you know, what I was trying to do - what I wanted to do was just to make sure that I was going to do a, you know, write a pilot that was not only going to be, you know, entertaining and hopefully, you know, moving as the pilot, but to write something that, you know, was going to be, you know, setting up, you know, you know, 100 stories for all of these characters and, you know, not just one.
So, you know, in making these choices I wanted to try to, you know, and as Lauren was talking about before about a character that hadn't reached her potential, you know, I mean, to me that's an interesting character. I mean, that's a character you want to - and especially as Lauren is playing her - as somebody you are - want to follow and you want to see her, you know, you know, hopefully reach that potential.
And, you know, to me it's, you know, that's the journey, that's what you want to set up in a TV show. You want your characters to have not only the episode by episode journeys but you want to feel like they're on a longer journey as well.
I didn't feel haunted by the movie. I just loved that movie and loved Diane Weist so much. And, you know, I would say it was way more frightening to play Adelaide in Guys and Dolls or something, you know, where people have ideas about what that character is based on, you know, previous performers.
And I know that, you know, the thing you can - and the thing you really must do in television is bring yourself to everything you do. You can't try to be anybody else, you know. So I loved how the show - you could feel the movie kind of in it but it didn't feel like a copy in any way.
So, you know, I feel like I could have watched the movie and still not, you know, been affected in a way in terms of what we're doing. You really have to make it your own and kind of find your own way. But I do love Diane Weist so much.
Jason, I have a question for you. I was kind of thinking, you know, having two shows on your plate that are so wonderful it must be kind of like juggling two children. Do you play favorites or does it feel like that to you?
Parenthood is his favorite.
Yeah, I like to play one against the other. You know, no I - it is like that in a, you know, it's actually a good metaphor for what it's like; it is like two children, you know, and you can't, you know, and therefore, you know, you can't play favorites, you know.
And in this case it's - it is, you know, I love both shows so much and they're both so personal to me, you know. And when I first started doing it the very first day that I was in a writer's room on both shows it was - it was awful. It was like literally I would run from one writer's room to the other and saying, you know, literally, you know, I'll be right back, I'll see you in a little bit.
And then come back two hours later feeling like I had just cheated on my wife, you know. And then that was the first day and then honestly after that from the second day, you know, I sort of went home, I took a breath and figured okay I have to figure out how to do this.
And from the second day on for me it's actually been a wonderful experience and surprisingly exhilarating and, you know, and I don't know exactly why but it's actually - having both shows going on at once has helped me on, you know, each for each other. You know, and I don't know why it's given me somehow a little bit more perspective on things because you always get so entrenched in the show.
And so - and somehow, you know, it's helped to, you know, and plus I, you know, I could steal from one and, you know, and use it in the other. So it's always - it's that fantasy like in junior high school where you have - a paper to do in two separate classes and you try to figure out how do I write one paper.
That's so weird because Sarah has started playing football and I never understood why.
I know, I don't understand that. So but in any case it's - it's been - and obviously it's different - the needs of both shows are different because, you know, Friday Night Lights is a show that's been ongoing for, you know, for so long. And Parenthood it's always a, you know, it's - to start something new, you know, certainly, you know, it's, you know, you know, it requires a different, you know, different types of what I need to be doing, you know, everyday for it, you know.
But, you know, it's been enjoyable and no I swear to you I don't love one more than the other.
Except for Parenthood which you love more.
Jason, I just wanted to get your thoughts about coming into what I perceive is going to be a tough timeslot with Parenthood because it's been a tough timeslot for NBC this year. And your thoughts on the support that NBC has given you with Friday Night Lights which I think has been a little unusual.
The support in what way? In terms of the...
The DirecTV deal.
The DirecTV deal. Well, I mean, I mean, that's two separate questions really, I mean, in terms of Friday Night Lights the, you know, the deal with, you know, DirecTV literally kept the show on the air.
And so to me it was, you know, just a wonderful experiment to be part of and one that I hope that, you know, if it winds up - if that business model is, you know, starts to be used for other shows - to keep other shows that are, you know, have a loyal fan base, you know, but not a big enough audience to keep those shows on the air. If that continues to happen with DirecTV or other outlets, you know, that would make it even sweeter for me, you know, that, you know, that Friday Night Lights was, you know, was at the beginning of something.
Because, you know, there are so many shows that don't live as long as their creative lives should live because of, you know, just dollars.
In terms of Parenthood, in terms of our timeslot, you know, I don't know enough honestly about the - about that world to know, you know, you know, what's a good timeslot and what isn't other than to know, you know, every time you get a timeslot and then you really start looking into it you're thinking wow, you know, that ain't easy, because there are no, you know, you know, either you're going to have a timeslot where nobody's really tuning in which isn't good or it is a good hour and, you know, you've got a lot of difficult competition.
You know, I do think that, however, I mean, the one thing I would say is NBC is I think being extremely, you know, supportive of the show with their marketing and campaign and putting a lot of their, you know, have really put a lot of thought into it.
And, you know, I think in trying to launch us, you know, in launching us after, you know, the Olympics where they know they're going to have a lot of, you know, viewers and viewers that, you know, I think would be, you know, you know, potentially people who watch the show I think that's going to be really helpful.
And, you know, we have a really strong, you know, you know, lead-in which is always very helpful. And so, you know, I don't know what to expect. And - but, you know, I think they're giving us, you know, every chance to succeed.
Jason, a lot of the online community just talks about how they really like the Taylors in Friday Night Lights and how they've been like this model of family life that you don't really see very much on TV. Has that influenced kind of like why you decided to do Parenthood? I mean, they always say that Eric Taylor is like, you know, their model for what a husband should do. Is that kind of something that we'll see in Parenthood or will it be toned down a little bit?
Well, you know, I think that one of the reasons why I want to do a show like Parenthood is my experience on Friday Night Lights. But it's a bunch of things, it's that, you know, you know, Friday Night Lights while it's theoretically about football to me isn't really about football - it is - it's a show about family.
And whether it's about a, you know, you know, in one sense truly a family like about a marriage but then also in terms of all these surrogate relationships between fathers and sons and mothers and daughters, etcetera that are created on that show.
So to me, you know, and the idea of doing, you know, that - telling stories about that - intimate stories about, you know, family and family-type relationships is the thing that's most compelling to me about, you know, about, you know, and most enjoyable to me about, you know, what I've done on Friday Night Lights.
And so when it came time to start thinking about doing another show I wanted to continue to do that and continue to talk about that and thought Parenthood provided a really great opportunity to do that.
I think that, you know, the specifics of, you know, what you'll hopefully see in Parenthood is, you know, not exactly any, you know, exactly, you know, a marriage or whatever that would be precisely like, you know, what's on Friday Night Lights.
But, you know, what you'll see, you know, hopefully are relationships and, you know, you know, both in marriages and, you know, relationships between parents and their children and brothers and sisters that will all feel I hope very, you know, you know, relatable and specific. And, you know, in the way that I think people, you know, sort of, you know, connect to, you know, that relationship on Friday Night Lights and those types of relationships on Friday Night Lights.
Ron and Jason, had Parenthood gotten off the ground as a sitcom 20 years ago do you think it would have had the same impact or significance in a different climate? Like is it better that you guys got more life experience with family?
Well I came to believe that the half-hour model actually wasn't correct for the show. And so, you know, it would have either had to become a much broader show with sort of quick hits and almost sketches on parenthood or it needed to be what Jason came to us to talk about which was something that would really allow the characters to grow and evolve. And, you know, and worry less about framing up jokes and more about just reaching people in a way that resonated.
And in fact, you know, the movie was always intended as a comedy but the simple storylines were dramatic and even dark. And that was something that was impossible to work into the half hour without just, you know, taking over the episode and then suddenly it wasn't a comedy.
And so it was, you know, it really, you know, sort of - the growth of the family was kind of struggling there in that format. So, you know, we put it away and never considered bringing it back until Jason talked to us about it. But it was - I thought it was really - really a smart idea based on my previous experience with it.
Well I mean, to me I think it really - it comes down to - the thing I was most excited about in doing this as a show was that we were going to be examining really four families - four very different families even though they were connected by, you know, being siblings and five families if you include, you know, the grandparents.
And to me that was the thing that was most exciting about it was that, you know, you would get all these different perspectives on family. And, you know, I just don't think that in sheer amount of time, you know, there would be enough time in a half hour to do that, you know, to, you know, to examine, you know, four families...
And keep that balance going.
And keep that balance going. You would have to start cutting it down and saying well, you know, you know, really have it focus mainly on one family and then maybe there's a subplot with another family. And that's just, you know, I mean, you know, I don't know that you can't do a show like that but in order to really honor what the movie was and hopefully expand on that vision of what the movie I think, you know, to me the hour format, you know, you know, really is necessary.
Ron, just really quick, how did Andy, Marion and Tom all contribute to your view of parenthood and family?
Well I had a pretty solid family situation, I was blessed with that. And so, you know, while I had nothing but admiration and love for those - for, you know, for, you know, all - for Andy and of course he was an incredibly significant figure in my life. But, you know, I never confused him as a father figure. But as a great sort of mentor, you know, definitely.
And I think that the way that I try to work as a director and the kind of emphasis that I put on scenes and characters and that kind of problem solving was really led by Andy. And the sort of environment that we had on that show and the way that the problem-solving was, you know, was approached and the, you know, and the work ethic that was involved in all that.
And so, you know, the meant a great deal to me. But, you know, when I was - in crunch time trying to figure out what Cheryl and I should do with one of our four kids my thoughts would go to my own father and mother and Cheryl's to hers. And, you know, I wouldn't be thinking about an episode of a TV show I did.
Back to the Articles main page.