7:00pm PT by Ryan Gajewski
'The Mentalist' Series Finale Postmortem: Star, Creator on Jane and Lisbon's Future
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the series finale of CBS' The Mentalist.]
The Mentalist said farewell to its fans with one last surprise ending.
The CBS procedural took a final bow Wednesday with a two-hour finale that saw Jane (Simon Baker) threatened by a serial killer after returning to his old life as a fake psychic. The team stepped in to save him, meaning he and Lisbon (Robin Tunney) could tie the knot and start planning for their soon-to-arrive bundle of joy.
Tunney and series creator Bruno Heller spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about how the planned ending for the series changed as the characters evolved, why Baker and Tunney needed to be coached on kissing and whether more new episodes could be in the cards for the series.
When did you decide that a wedding was in the cards for Jane and Lisbon? Has that been something you've hoped would happen for quite some time?
Heller: It's sort of like life because it's been going on so long — it's hard to pinpoint the moment where this ending seemed like the natural place to go. But over seven years, as we became family, this just became the natural consummation to be hoped for. We never knew whether we could get to that point because in show business, nothing is given for tomorrow. [I wanted to] say thank you to the audience by doing something heartfelt and real. The love you seen on the screen there is real, and that party at the end is like the cast and crew having a laugh and celebrating the show. So it's both art and reality there. It's such a blessing and a joy to be able to get to do that.
Tunney: With a television show, it spans over so much time, it does become like this living, breathing thing, and you adapt and adjust to who the human beings are in real life. That's why Bruno is so successful, the thing [of] seeing that and going, "This is what's going to organically work." You can't get hung up on what your ideas were to begin with.
Heller: Exactly. It's not so much being a great writer — it's certainly being able to use the platform and crutch of the actors. It's what they are doing on screen that's important, not what you think they should be doing. [But] I will say, as much as it's organic, Robin and Simon very much [have] brother and sister love. You have to push them: "Go on, snog her. Snog her! Do it properly." [Both laugh.]
Tunney: But we've known each other for so long! If we'd started making out [in] season one, [we] would have been, "Oh, yeah, that's what we do. We go to work, we make out." But [now] we're like, "Wait a minute!"
Heller: It was very funny. But even that is part of the characters. They're not rip-their-clothes-off, jump-in-the-hot tub kind of people. They're very guarded and independent. Even that aspect of the characters is true to real life.
Tunney: The thing that scared me about that a little was — look, the relationship was something that formed after six seasons of people knowing them a different way, and [we were] wanting not to force the closeness. Like, "They're together now — there's going to be pillow talk and lingerie." You don't want the audience to go, "Ew." [Laughs.] You've got to ease them into it, and the choices that everybody made worked in essence that we didn't get killed for it. We didn't want to freak the audience out. And Simon did not want to take his shirt off! I think America wanted that.
Heller: [Laughs.] It completely worked, this as a T-shirt and socks bedroom scenes, and not, "Hello, darling," type of bedroom scenes. Not just Robin and Simon [but] me and everyone else [on the crew] would have been, "Oh, my gosh!"
Tunney: Yeah, we didn't have a dungeon room like Fifty Shades of Grey. [Both laugh.]
Robin, how did you feel when you read the script and learned about the wedding and baby?
Tunney: I was just really thrilled — my character has been alone for so long and identified herself through her work and what she was doing for other people, that the idea that they gave her a happy ending and an optimistic ending and a baby is so nice. You can imagine a different life that's joyful and not filled with dead bodies. It's wonderful because I really loved the character, and the idea of imagining a happy ending for her is really the best-case scenario for me.
What was the mood like on the last day of shooting?
Tunney: I felt incredibly emotional. I was simultaneously excited and scared because I've grown really dependent on all the people as family for advice and camaraderie. The work schedule's so rigorous that you don't really have to make any decisions for yourself. Somebody tells you what time to wake up, what to wear, what to say. The emptiness that comes after it, like, "What do you do?" But I also think, it's sort of a different scenario for all three of us. Bruno's doing a new show [Gotham], and Simon and I both had very different, long careers — it wasn't our first job. The future is sort of like, "What's next?" It doesn't feel like something died that's a part of you.
Heller: The last day was bizarre and surreal because at the same time that it's a farewell, it's also a day's work. The scene in the log cabin where the serial killer busts in to find the assembled FBI there instead of his intended victims, that's the scene that was the last moment [on set]. Neither Robin nor me had ever had that experience before, of finishing a job of work which is also saying goodbye to family. I'll remember that for a long, long time.
Tunney: There was a lot of hugging and a lot of crying. It's just crazy. Simon's daughter Stella was 13 [when we started], and [now] she's graduating college.
What are you proudest of when you think back on the show's run and its legacy?
Tunney: I feel quite proud. I think we made a show that was quite popular and entertaining and different. I was able to work with a group of people that were incredibly talented but also equally great human beings — I don't think that's ever going to happen again. [Laughs.] It's really difficult — creative people, they're nuts. And a lot of times, they can be selfish. That you've got a group of amazing, caring human beings that want you to have a nice life — it just doesn't happen.
Sometimes, shows are able to leave a network and have a second life with new episodes airing on cable, as with CBS' Unforgettable, or on a digital platform. Is that something you would be open to?
Heller: That's entirely up to Simon and Robin. I would love to work with Robin again, I would love to work with Simon again. That's in the lap of the business gods and their choice. Robin can do anything she wants — she's a brilliant actor. Normally, at the end of shows, you're glad to see the back of everyone to some degree. Creatively and as family, I'd love to work with those guys again. And the show was still basically as successful at the end as it was at the beginning, so you can never say never.
Robin, would you be open to more episodes as well?
Tunney: Of course, and I also love the fact that we're going out with people still wanting more. I think it's the best way to finish.
What did you think of the final bow? Sound off in the comments section below.