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'Hart of Dixie' Creator on Zoe's Romantic Prospects, Father Issues and a Big Season Finale (Q&A)

Showrunner Leila Gerstein also dishes to THR about Justin Hartley's unexpected arrival, where Wade and George stand in the quest for Zoe's heart and the biggest shocks thus far this season.

Hart of Dixie Leila Gerstein inset - H 2012
Tne CW/Getty Images
"Hart of Dixie" with Leila Gerstein (inset)

The see-sawing between Wade and George for Zoe's heart continues on the CW's Southern drama Hart of Dixie -- but as creator/showrunner Leila Gerstein tells it, it won't be a two-person battle.

With the good-natured doctor Judson seemingly out in front with the Bluebell transplant, another potential love interest will be coming in at the worst possible time for everyone involved. Add to that the arrival of Zoe's father, played by guest star Gary Cole, and potential troubles between Lemon and George, things won't be staying quiet for long.

Gerstein chatted with The Hollywood Reporter about Zoe's rocky love life, issues with her father (who turns out not to be), upcoming episodes and guest stars, a dramatic season finale and just where Zoe's head is at this point in the season.

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The Hollywood Reporter: Zoe is settling into life in Bluebell, thought it's been rocky at times. Where is her head at right now and if she had the perfect opportunity, would she go back to New York?

Leila Gerstein: Yes, where she is right now is she's trying to make the best of Bluebell, but she is still here just for the year. Her intention is to go back and get that fellowship.

THR: Will something present itself that might make that decision more difficult?

Gerstein: If it does present itself perhaps she'll make that decision ahead of schedule. We are faced with the question of going back and fulfilling her dreams or staying in Bluebell.

THR: It'll be connected to her father (guest star Gary Cole)?

Gerstein: Yes. Her father is coming. He's coming to town and he'll be in two episodes. She calls him to Bluebell because she needs a savior and then she has to deal with her unresolved issues about her father which are still kind of hanging over her head. In the pilot, she found out that the man she thought was her father is not her biological father and so she still has a lot of anger and emotional resentment that she needs to clear up with him. When he first comes back it is a really emotional episode so she still has that to deal with.

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THR: Up until last week's episode, Wade's way ahead of George in terms of vying for Zoe's heart. Will George come back into play later on?

Gerstein: We will see that perception switch back and forth between Team Wade and Team George. We have some extremely big George/Zoe episodes coming up and also some big Wade/Zoe episodes.

THR: What would the perfect situation be for her to be happy with one  guy or the other?

Gerstein: There are rather large impediments with both, for one George is engaged, so that's a big impediment. Right now Wade is not ready to be in a relationship with Zoe. Neither of them is exactly ideal and she can be with neither because neither is fully available, but things will change.

THR: The doctor, Judson, and Zoe will play a very big part in next week's episode. Can you talk about where that relationship may or may not be going?

Gerstein: Judson Lyons, we thought, was the ideal small town leading man for her. He's perfect on paper, but he is neither George nor Wade so we're going to see her struggling with that.

THR: In Monday's episode, Lemon sets her father up on a date. Can you expand on that?

Gerstein: It's a new side of Brick Breeland we've never seen. He gets nervous and he gets suckered into going on this date. He doesn't even realize that he agreed to go with the town baker, his first date in 12 years. The ending of that episode is very emotional.

THR: Will Lemon and George continue to have problems?

Gerstein: They're going to start to overcome a lot of their problems very soon. Their biggest problem right now is she hasn't been honest with him about a lot of things. She's holding in this secret about her mother and that's been weighing on her heart. Once she does tell him, which she will, they head into a nice place.

THR: Wade is always up to something. What kind of trouble is he going to get into?

Gerstein: In episode 14, Wade and Lemon have a little adventure together. I will just say there is some line-dancing involved and we see a whole new side of her. He takes Lemon on his adventures and he has a new woman, Joelle, who he started to see. She's featured prominently in the next couple of episodes as well.

THR: What's in store for Deedee and Lavon?

Gerstein: We'll be seeing more of DeeDee and Lavon. They are blossoming, but his past relationship with Lemon will come back to haunt him.

THR: Justin Hartley is appearing as a potential love interest and war hero for Zoe in an upcoming episode. How does that affect everyone in town when he arrives?

Gerstein: Justin Hartley arrives in an extremely big episode: episode 18. It is an episode in which everything erupts and so he is a catalyst for a few different things. It's all I can say about that, but it is a really big episode. A lot of things are happening. He's a little mysterious, I would say.

THR: Is the endgame for season 1 already in place? what can you tease about those final episodes?

Gerstein: It will move toward a wedding day. We're moving toward the wedding and I can tell you, there will be a wedding during the finale.

THR: What kind of changes took place, if there were any, in terms of character and/or story since the show began airing?

Gerstein: We didn't absolutely know how much everyone was going to fall in love with Wade. We really fell in love, as well, with DeeDee, so we brought her back for much longer than we thought we would. We got a lot of depth and emotion from the Lavon/Lemon story in a way that surprised us because initially I didn't know. They had three lines in the pilot that everybody talked about and that became an important storyline. With Lemon it helped us understand more about her and it's made Lavon not just a comic character. There's something deeply sad, I think, that he can't be with the woman he loves and Lemon hiding this secret from George is clearly killing her. It's been interesting how this secret has affected everybody and it will continue to trickle down and affect everyone's story.

THR: Can you talk about the most unexpected reaction to a certain scene or storyline?

Gerstein: We all fell in love with Annabeth. Last week's episode gave her a huge role; all our supporting characters are starting to pop and starting their own storylines. You're going to be seeing a lot more of Tom Long and Kelly, Wanda comes back, and we have a few musicals in our future.

THR: American Idol's Scotty McCreery will also be appearing ..

Gerstein: Scotty McCreery and Scott Porter will be singing in the same episode. [Episode 19 is] going to be incredible. In [episode] 16, there is the Man of the Year celebration and Lemon performs an adorable musical number and we have a fair amount of the town doing some "Gilbert and Sullivan" in episode 19. Tim Matheson (who plays Brick) also sings "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General." It's awesome.

Hart of Dixie airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on the CW.