We had the pleasure of talking with Ron Howard (executive producer), Jason Katims (executive producer), and Lauren Graham (series actress) from Parenthood about the development of the TV show from the Parenthood movie, the issues the show wants to tackle, and how their views on parenthood influenced the show.
I wanted to ask both you guys, 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?
Jason Katims: I think that we have tried to. Anytime you start a show you’re sort of trying to find that balance and figure out and sort of discover the tone of the show and what the show wants to be.
And one of the things that I’m so excited about what I’ve seen as you were saying 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 when you’re dealing with Parenthood and family and being both your kids but also in the context of being a son or a daughter as well.
And 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 is in any way sort of not really relatable.
And I 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?
Ron Howard: 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 gratefully more often than not there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and you can personally look back and find the humor in it. Others can always see how ridiculous other people’s lives are.
They might not tell them right to their face, but they could see it. And it’s that – it is that sort of elevator ride that 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 with the sort of the family that we started 20 years ago. Ever since our first conversation and from the first script onward, [he] just has such a fantastic contemporary take on the whole thing that I’ve been nothing but proud of it.
For Ron, what is it about Parenthood, the premise, the title, the franchise, that keeps you coming back?
Ron Howard: Well the interesting thing – and I’ve got to include Jason in this because, I mean, I’ll just say that, we – Brian Grazer and I are intensely proud of the film Parenthood. Our friends Ganz and Mandel, did a brilliant job writing it. And 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 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 be 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, “I want to do a one-hour dramatic version of Parenthood.” And we were thrilled, Brian and I, very open to the idea because of Jason and his talent and our experience with him.
But also we frankly said in that first meeting, 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 I said well, 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 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 incredibly 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 a family member or a parent. But, Jason, talk about that because we had the quick conversation and then we just took ‘yes’ for an answer and we’re glad. What were you thinking?
Jason Katims: Well, yeah, well, I mean, I think sort of going back and looking at the movie again I felt that truthfully it was so rich and that it 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, “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 it, 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 the ingredients that would make a good show.
And I felt like not only was it a wonderful movie but in the movie it just was sort of the perfect sort of foundation for what could be a really wonderful show. And 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 is sort of most compelling to me right now, it’s the stuff I’m thinking about most right now in my life. And I think that’s always the thing that you should try to 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 also thought this would be a good thing for me and hopefully for everyone to sort of find something else to do together. And the combination of those two things made me feel like this was just too good of a thing not to pursue. And even though I had to sort of go into Ron and Brian, you know,I felt kind of humble going into them saying I want to because I know there had been a show that had been done already based on it.
But I was so kind of excited and passionate about the idea of trying to do it. 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, not do something which is a copy of the movie but to look at, 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. There’s a lot of issues. There was an issue with Kevin when he had the worry issue that he inherited from Gil and Max has 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?
Ron Howard: The short answer is that I know that if we’re lucky enough to have the show go that all aspects of it, the stuff that makes us laugh and also the painful realities of the experience, are what he wants to build on. But specifically we haven’t discussed that. Jason?
Jason Katims: No I think that absolutely it’s what I want to [do]. 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, the joyous moments, the celebration of family. It includes the embarrassing funny moments. But it also includes some very dramatic stuff, which includes 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 shot the first 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 honors it and is real, but it’s also done in a way that is not self-pitying and depressing.
I mean I think really knowing what that experience is like first hand I know that it’s as much of a blessing as it is a curse. And I feel that that is reflected in the work that we’re doing.
But 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 or people that don’t have children to watch the show?
Jason Katims: Right, I think to me that’s, again the thing – the reason why I wanted to do this show is because 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 a four year old boy to grandparents in their 60s. And should the show 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 us to see through people at any period of their life. You can both look at it and be in it as you’re watching. So I think it’s as interesting for younger people to watch it not only to see hopefully to some degree themselves reflected but to see into – to see behind, what happens behind the doors when they’re not there when their parents are talking about them. 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?
Jason Katims: Yes we do. You know, I think that what I find more and more from my own experience – personal – very personal experience in life but with knowing so many people, that what you find is everybody’s dealing with something. One of the basic sort of defining principals that I had when I was thinking about what I wanted the show to be was the idea that 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 a lot of what parenthood is about is figuring out how to deal with that and fight that and ultimately maybe accept that. And I think that to deal with an issue like that which is 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 that’s what I find honestly. What I find when I see people is like 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 – 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 sort of grappling with stuff that’s – that is creating real challenges.
Ron Howard: 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 most of the elements from the movie – and I think largely from the show now are coming from personal perspectives and personal experiences. And the same can be said for that aspect of that story.
For Lauren Graham, 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.
Lauren Graham: Well it’s a more sane life for sure to be part of an ensemble. And I find that 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 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 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’re working with a smaller amount of material and therefore everything is really important. And on Gilmore Girls sometimes I’d be in a scene that was just there kind of for fun. And here each scene really is an important part of where my character is. And so that’s been really interesting. And I don’t see dawn as much as I did on the other show which has been really enjoyable. And I think what I’ve discovered and what I’ve really enjoyed about sort – we’re in maybe Episodes 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 the feeling of living in your parent’s house at 38 and how that informs everything and doesn’t make you feel too great. And so it’s just trying to think about looking at life through the eyes of disappointment is kind of a thing I think about a lot with Sarah.
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?
Lauren Graham: 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?
Jason Katims: You know, I have no idea whether that would happen. I mean, obviously I love Maura, love the work that she does and right now she’s doing what she kind of needs to do to get healthy and get back to a place where we might have that conversation. But- it’s not 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 affectef any input you’ve had on the show.
Ron Howard: I think all of our parenting experiences 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. And with – again what’s great about this is that 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, I know that this cast is going to carry their personal understanding of these relationships into the show in ways that the audiences are going to feel.
So the one specific thing is that Bryce has a son who’s almost three. And when I was making Parenthood we had grandparents and they were significant. But I didn’t remotely understand how profound that experience is. And 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 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 sort of how it works and why it runs so deep. But, 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.
For 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?
Lauren Graham: 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 maybe didn’t get to exactly the place I wanted them to. And I always think about it follows like the dating model. 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 was thinking about a comedy and maybe cable. And then I read this script and I met with Jason. And just the idea of being able to collaborate with a writer who has such a beautiful group of work but also is encouraging in kind of take your idea and kind of run with it and improvise once in a while if that makes sense to you. It’s just a very different model 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?
Lauren Graham: They do. Well and that’s sort of one thing I said to Jason. I don’t know what the thing is because 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 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, with Mae Whitman who we have a very contentious relationship on the show but there’s a chemistry in that even 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 when we started this that I’ve been in a place where people are like, “Oh my mom is just like you,” and they mean that as a compliment.
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. 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 different enough to me, 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?
Lauren Graham: 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 so and Sarah really struggling in her life and not in a great place and hasn’t reached her potential in a lot of ways. And the character I played in the past is sort of always winning in a way, and so this is someone who has much further to go to reach any of her dreams and that was all appealing to me.
How did it feel coming into this ensemble cast taking over for Maura Tierney?
Lauren Graham: 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, this just felt like I hoped that it would go well and I hoped that we would all gel. And, I hoped that actors wouldn’t mind doing a scene a second time with me. 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 situation is – and actually the chemistry between these people I can just honestly say I’ve – and 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 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.
And who do you relate more to, Sarah or Lorelai?
Lauren Graham: Well I can only say Sarah because that’s what’s on my plate right now. But I would say, I mean, this feels in a strange way like kind of a natural next step in terms of the world of Gilmore Girls was really idyllic in a way and such a great place to live as an actor and a person for awhile.
But this 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 it’s more 10 o’clock than 8 o’clock. And that’s a great kind of next chapter to have in terms of just feeling challenged and moving forward.
Ron and Jason, could you each talk a little bit about the casting process. There’s some really great acting in this show. How did that come about?
Ron Howard: I can speak and say I just kind of kept seeing amazing actors one after another agree to do Jason’s work. And so I was just smiling in the background.
Jason Katims: You know, it was an incredible experience casting the show because, it first of all it’s a very, very big cast. It’s an unusually large ensemble for a TV show. So it was all about 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 so that’s what was sort of the complicated and challenging part of it is making sure not only were you getting wonderful people for the roles which is of course what you’re always doing. But I really wanted to feel at the end of the day that when you saw these people together they felt like a family. That they reminded you of, you know, that there be dynamics and things that would remind 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. I think luckilythe network believed in the show so much that they really supported us in putting together this incredible cast.
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 this is for me such a, you know, I feel so excited and humbled by having this 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.
For Ron, I was wondering how working on this Parenthood has been different than working on the last Parenthood, other than the cast?
Ron Howard: 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 quite frankly if somebody has a question I answer it maybe once or twice I threw in an opinion from the distance but this is Jason’s show.
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 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, where do you think television is today? Are you excited by it?
Ron Howard: Well I am excited about it. Look there’s more going on and so there are more opportunities to stub your toe along with 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, I love the variety that you find on TV. I think that 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?
Ron Howard: 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 be bold and to do things that explore things from new perspectives but they either, A. don’t really have the time or it’s hard in this climate to get the financing for something that feels like it’s really breaking the mold.
Studios are more conservative than ever about the kind of choices that they want to make. And they have their sort of fiscal responsibilities to attend to. And 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.
Jason, I was hoping maybe we could get some kind of reaction or thoughts on the unofficial announcement yesterday that Season 5 would be the end of Friday Night Lights?
Jason Katims: Well, I mean, I think the – first of all I would say – I would use unofficial. The show hasn’t been canceled yet. I mean, Friday Night Lights is a show that has been struggling to stay on the air from the second episode of the show. And we will do a minimum of five seasons.
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 until April 30. And then we have an entire another year to go that we are just starting to break the stories on. So 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 feel very, very lucky and grateful that we were able to do as many episodes of a show that I – that is so dear to my heart.
As I said there hasn’t been any official decision about that yet. So, it’s weird that that would happen when literally we’re breaking storiesfor a new season that we haven’t even started to shoot yet. So I think I just don’t want to – I just don’t want it to seem like the show is over. There was a period of time between the second season and the third season where we were cancelled, the show was gone. And the show wound up coming back. So, 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?
Jason Katims: 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. 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 felt that I kept gravitating back 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.
But what I also did was I basically went – what I did was I let the movie 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 the same kind of thing is happening in the show.” Some of the thing I didn’t even realize 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 the truth is I did go 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, what I wanted to do was just to make sure that I was going to write a pilot that was not only going to be as entertaining and moving, but to write something that was going to be setting up 100 stories for all of these characters and not just one. In making these choices I wanted to try to, and as Lauren was talking about before about a character that hadn’t reached her potential, 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 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.
Lauren Graham: I didn’t feel haunted by the movie. I just loved that movie and loved Diane Weist so much. And I would say it was way more frightening to play Adelaide in Guys and Dolls or something where people have ideas about what that character is based on previous performers. And I know that 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. 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, I feel like I could have watched the movie and still not have 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 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?
Lauren Graham: Parenthood is his favorite.
Jason Katims: Yeah, I like to play one against the other. You know it’s actually a good metaphor for what it’s like; it is like two children and you can’t play favorites.
And in this case I love both shows so much and they’re both so personal to me. 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 literally, “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. And then that was the first day and then honestly after that from the second day 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 I don’t know exactly why but it’s actually – having both shows going on at once has helped me on each for each other. 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 somehow it’s helped too. I could steal from one and 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?
Lauren Graham: That’s so weird because Sarah has started playing football and I never understood why.
Jason Katims: I know, I don’t understand that. So but in any case it’s different – the needs of both shows are different because Friday Night Lights is a show that’s been ongoing for so long. And Parenthood it’s always- to start something new it requires different types of what I need to be doing everyday for it. But it’s been enjoyable and no I swear to you I don’t love one more than the other.
Lauren Graham: Except for Parenthood which you love more.
Jason, what are 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 what are your thoughts on the support that NBC has given you with Friday Night Lights which I think has been a little unusual in terms of the DirecTV deal?
Jason Katims: The DirecTV deal. Well, in terms of Friday Night Lights the the deal with DirecTV literally kept the show on the air. And so to me it was, just a wonderful experiment to be part of and one that I hope that if it winds up – if that business model starts to be used for other shows – to keep other shows that have a loyal fan base but not a big enough audience to keep those shows on the air. If that continues to happen with DirecTV or other outlets that would make it even sweeter for me that Friday Night Lights was at the beginning of something. Because there are so many shows that don’t live as long as their creative lives should live because of just dollars.
In terms of Parenthood, in terms of our timeslot, I don’t know enough honestly about that world to know what’s a good timeslot and what isn’t, other than every time you get a timeslot and then you really start looking into it you’re thinking, “Wow that ain’t easy,” because 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’ve got a lot of difficult competition.
I do think that the one thing I would say is NBC is I think being extremely supportive of the show with their marketing and campaign and have really put a lot of thought into it. And I think in trying to launch us after the Olympics where they know they’re going to have a lot of viewers and viewers that I think would be potentially people who watch the show. I think that’s going to be really helpful. And, we have a really strong lead-in which is always very helpful. I don’t know what to expect. But I think they’re giving us every chance to succeed.
Jason, did the the Taylor family in Friday Night Lights influence why you decided to do Parenthood? I mean, they always say that Eric Taylor is 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?
Jason Katims: Well, 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 Friday Night Lights while it’s theoretically about football to me isn’t really about football; it’s a show about family. In one sense it’s truly a family 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, the idea of telling stories about that – intimate stories about family and family-type relationships is the thing that’s most compelling to me and most enjoyable to me about what I’ve done on Friday Night Lights. 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 the specifics of what you’ll hopefully see in Parenthood is not exactly a marriage or whatever that would be precisely like what’s on Friday Night Lights. But what you’ll see hopefully are relationships both in marriages and relationships between parents and their children and brothers and sisters that will all feel I hope very relatable and specific. In the way that I think people sort of connect to that relationship on Friday Night Lights and those types of relationships on Friday Night Lights.
Had Parenthood got 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? Is it better that you guys got more life experience with family?
Ron Howard: Well I came to believe that the half-hour model actually wasn’t correct for the show. And so 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 worry less about framing up jokes and more about just reaching people in a way that resonated.
And in fact 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 taking over the episode and then suddenly it wasn’t a comedy. And so the growth of the family was kind of struggling there in that format. So, we put it away and never considered bringing it back until Jason talked to us about it. But I thought it was really a smart idea based on my previous experience with it.
Jason Katims: Well 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 four families – four very different families even though they were connected by being siblings and five families if you include the grandparents. And to me that was the thing that was most exciting about it was that you would get all these different perspectives on family. And I just don’t think that there would be enough time in a half hour to do that, to examine four families…
Ron Howard: And keep that balance going.
Jason Katims: And keep that balance going. You would have to start cutting it down and really have it focus mainly on one family and then maybe there’s a subplot with another family. And I don’t know that you can’t do a show like that. In order to really honor what the movie was and hopefully expand on that vision. To me, the hour format really is necessary.
Ron, how did Andy, Marion and Tom all contribute to your view of parenthood and family?
Ron Howard: Well I had a pretty solid family situation. I was blessed with that. And while I had nothing but admiration and love 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, 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 approached and the work ethic that was involved in all that.
That meant a great deal to me. But 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. I wouldn’t be thinking about an episode of a TV show I did.
Interview By: Emma Loggins
Official Parenthood Site: www.nbc.com/parenthood/