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'Parenthood' EP Previews First-Year Marriage Woes, Beauty of Adoption and Matt Lauria in Season 4

Showrunner Jason Katims tells THR that adoption will have a profound affect on Julia, while Ray Romano's character will become a "significant factor" for Sarah and Mark in the new season of the NBC drama.

Parenthood Family Portrait Episodic Ritter - H 2012
Chris Haston/NBC

Lauren Graham will have the tough job of juggling an Emmy nominee (Jason Ritter) and an Emmy winner (recurring guest star Ray Romano) when Parenthood returns for its fourth season Tuesday.

Last season, Mark (Ritter) popped the question Sarah (Graham), but it naturally won't be totally smooth sailing for the couple. Meanwhile, newlyweds Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Jasmine (Joy Bryant) will help put the spotlight on challenges of all kinds that come with a first-year marriage, while Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina (Monica Potter) will face a bit of an empty nest after Haddie (Sarah Ramos) heads east for college. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with showrunner Jason Katims to preview the season ahead -- and get the scoop on Friday Night Lights alum Matt Lauria's role.

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The Hollywood Reporter: How will Hank's arrival affect Sarah and Mark?
Jason Katims: It's going to impact them. The idea is that little by little, even though Sarah and Hank have somewhat of a combative relationship in the beginning, there's a lot they connect on and a lot that they have in common. In some ways, he actually has more in common with Sarah than Mark. What we're excited about in telling this story is that both Jason and Ray are going to be on the show for long arcs, which really gives us time to have the story evolve naturally and have the relationship with Ray build slowly over time. It's definitely going to become a significant factor for Sarah and Mark.

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What new obstacles will Crosby and Jasmine face now that they're married?
We're excited about this story because it's the first time we're telling a first-year marriage story, with the twist being that they already have a son together. With Crosby and Jasmine this year, we're watching the two of them try to put their best put forward with issues ranging from small to medium to very dramatic; things like pooling finances. They both have very different styles of handling money and that's something they never had to deal with before and how they deal with that and things like scheduling. Jasmine is more of a planner and Crosby is more of a play-it-by-ear guy. Those are lighter stories. We're also doing more dramatic stories, there's one where Jabbar (Tyree Brown) overhears somebody say the n-word and hears that word for the first time and Crosby and Jasmine handle it in a very different way. At that point, it's not just first-year marriage issues but also issues of race and how an African-American woman would deal with their son hearing that word vs. Crosby hearing it. There's lots of new territory to explore with them.

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How will Haddie's going off to college impact Adam and Kristina?
There's a little bit of that empty nest feeling, but of course they still have Max (Max Burkholder) and Nora to deal with.

How will Joel, Julia and Sydney handle Victor's arrival?
We really wanted to depict adoption in a way that was realistic and I have close friends who have adopted children and I know it's a wonderful thing to do that and it's also full of its own challenges. The story for Julia (Erika Christensen), Joel (Sam Jaeger) and Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae) is one about incorporating Victor into this family and the beauty and challenges of that. We really want to try to play into what that would be like for them and we see it affecting the family in pretty profound ways, particularly Julia in ways that she really winds up rethinking her life. It becomes a very big story for them.

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You're bringing another Friday Night Lights alum in -- thank you! -- what can viewers expect from Matt Lauria's returning soldier and Zeek (Craig T. Nelson)?
We're crossing them off one by one! (Laughs.) This is a story we've been wanting to tell. We've made subtle mention of Zeek being a Vietnam veteran but we wanted to tell that story but as a writer you never want to begin a line of dialogue, "I remember when … ." We were trying to figure out a way to dramatize some of his experiences in the present tense. Through a comedic beginning of the story, he's puttering around the house and driving Camille (Bonnie Bedelia) crazy. Camille, who has been volunteering for years, encourages Zeek to volunteer at a Veterans Center, where he meets Matt Lauria's character, Ryan. Through Matt's character, we get to experience what it was like for Zeek. The other thing that will happen is there will be a romantic entanglement between Ryan and Amber (Mae Whitman), so the story branches out from there.

Parenthood returns Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 10 p.m. on NBC. Hit the comments with your thoughts on what you're looking forward to seeing.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit