Set Visit: 'Parenthood'

 David Strick

It wasn't a typical Thursday on the NBCUniversal lot march 31. To the casual onlooker, the summerlike weather and festive mood at Parenthood's Mexican-themed end-of-season feast -- complete with a mariachi band -- atop a secluded hill in Universal City could easily have been mistaken for a large-scale family reunion. In many cases, that was true, and emotions were high. "The energy and joy is there on the very last day" as it is on the first for the cast and crew of about 100, said creator Jason Katims, who ran NBC/DirecTV's similarly shot Friday Night Lights. It was an appreciative gesture; by the time season two wrapped later that night, the NBC drama, often described as "relatable" and "raw," had yet to be renewed. (A third season was greenlighted May 12.) Even so, the on-set family dynamic was apparent: An off-the-clock Erika Christensen, who plays lawyer Julia Braverman-Graham, sported a blue cast on her right arm due to a bike accident and a fake mustache while palling around with crewmembers during lunch; between setups, Sarah Ramos (Haddie Braverman) was educated on the brilliance of 1990s lip-syncing duo Milli Vanilli by finale director Lawrence Trilling; and Miles Heizer, as the socially awkward Drew Holt, joked that he would live vicariously through onscreen sibling Mae Whitman's (Amber Holt) hiatus project, a film based on the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower. "Max Burkholder [Max Braverman] eats an enormous amount of food," quipped Peter Krause (Adam Braverman) of his TV son, whose character has Asperger's. Monica Potter, who plays Krause's wife, Kristina, agreed: "You should see his plate of meat at lunch. Meat and french fries or meat and potatoes." During a break, Ramos and company spoke excitedly about a bowling excursion the following day. Moments before he and Potter filmed the game-changing reveal that Kristina is pregnant, one of the final scenes in the closer that aired April 19, Krause turned serious. "We're at our best when it is raw and when you feel like, as a viewer, it's voyeuristic," he said, explaining why Parenthood works on every level. "You're in the room with the Bravermans, and you can't believe you're watching what's happening."

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