'The Big C' Season 3 Scoop: Paul Returns as Cathy Explores Bargaining

22 BIZ COMEDY VARIETY Laura Linney Oliver Platt The Big C
Ken Regan/Showtime

Laura Linney and Oliver Platt

Whether or not The Big C's Paul is alive or dead, Oliver Platt will be returning to the Showtime dramedy when the Laura Linney series about a woman living with cancer returns later this year.

With filming on Season 3 set to begin next week and writers halfway through writing the 10-episode season, series creator Darlene Hunt says three weeks will have passed since Paul's heart attack -- and subsequent flatline in the Season 2 finale. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Hunt at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour to discuss the season's new theme, how Cathy will be different and how Adam will handle Paul's heart attack.

STORY: 'The Big C' Finale: Is Paul Really Dead?

The Hollywood Reporter: How much time will have passed since Paul's heart attack in the Season 2 finale?
Darlene Hunt:
Three weeks have passed. There will be some surprises in exactly how Cathy is handling what happened in the finale.

THR: Is Paul dead?
I can neither confirm nor or deny that, but we will see him again.

THR: Assuming Paul is dead, could he appear to Cathy in a way similar to how Marlene came to her? Will Marlene return?
Marlene might be back. We would like to see her again. The fact that we have killed off people in our series and want to bring them back, it's very meaningful in that way of the bigger picture of the story we're telling. We're all going to die, right? We're all Cathy in some way. We try to connect those two worlds with the people who pass on with the way we live our life. That was the reason we brought Marlene back and I hope we'll do that again this season.

STORY: 'The Big C' Finale Preview: Familiar Faces Return and Cathy Isn't Afraid of Death

THR: How will she be different following Paul's heart attack?
There's a little surprise in there but what she's finding is that the reality of life -- she thought, OK, I've got cancer, I'm dealing with my prognosis in my own way -- but I think her husband frailty really comes as a shock. She needs to find her own way to escape all that and escape the reality of her cancer and Paul's situation. The way she escapes it is unique and you'll see that in the first episode back.

THR: Every season of the series has been a stage of grief, is it still the plan to focus on bargaining this year?
Yes. This season is bargaining. Cathy's cancer prognosis last season, she was responding well to the clinical trial and that continues to be the case. Physically, she's in an OK place and we wanted to play with that idea of bargaining and bargaining for more time and how do you live knowing you're still living with cancer but I'm taking drugs that are working for the moment? How exactly do you live your life in that very precious state? How does she bargain hoping that she's going to beat the odds and get more time?

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THR: How will Paul's heart attack impact Adam?
Adam will start exploring church and the idea of religion and to see if that can help him out as he wrestles with some of these bigger questions of life.

THR: Will that be something Cathy supports?
Maybe not in the way you think she would. That's the irony, you'd think, "Oh, how wholesome." Last season he certainly explored some unhealthy ways of acting out and this seems like a very healthy way of acting out but there will be a few surprises in there.

THR: Will Cathy attend with him?
At least once. (Laughs.)

THR: Will Alan Alda return?
He is coming back, yes.

Do you think Paul's dead? How do you think Cathy will respond? Hit the comments.

The Big C will return in the second quarter this year on Showtime.

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