'Gang Related' Showrunner Previews Finale's "Justice," Reveals More Deaths to Come

Scott Rosenbaum tells THR about the big decision Ryan makes after learning who killed Jessica and what's "frustrating" about writing a network show vs. his cable series 'The Shield'
'Gang Related'

Is Ryan finally prepared to choose between the force and the family?

On last week's episode of the Fox summer drama series Gang Related, Ryan's girlfriend, Jessica, was killed, and it's not yet clear who is responsible. Meanwhile, having sent father figure Javier to the slammer, tensions between Ryan and his surrogate family, the Acostas, continue to escalate.

With the show's season-one finale airing Thursday, Aug. 14, showrunner and executive producer Scott Rosenbaum talked to The Hollywood Reporter about Ryan's pivotal decision in the dramatic finale, along with what viewers will learn about Jessica's death. Rosenbaum — who has served as executive producer on several other shows, including FX cop drama The Shield — also reveals what's to come in season two, which character he almost killed off and what's "frustrating" about writing for a network show.

What can viewers expect in this week's finale?

After what happened, obviously, with Jessica being killed, you have her father and her boyfriend — Ryan and Chapel — as pained as they've ever been. And I think, not only are they angry and want to get revenge on the Metas, but also, in some weird way, both feel a little bit of guilt, unfairly. I think both of them, however, are willing to cross whatever lines they have to in order to find justice, and the episode is sort of about that.

Will the finale make it clear who killed Jessica?

We will find out exactly who killed her, exactly why they killed her, and we will also see the full consequences of the act, meaning it's not something that's going to carry over into season two. It's going to be resolved, and major relationships on the show will be affected by it. 

Do things come to a head between Ryan and the Acostas?

Ryan is in such a tough situation because he's trying to protect them — Javier's now in jail, so who's going to protect [the family] without somebody out there actively running the gang? [Ryan]'s going to, in some ways, maybe have to take control and figure out the best way to do so. Ultimately, he is going to come into conflict with family members. There's sort of a constant push-pull [focused] on, can he ever satisfy everybody?

Was it a tough decision to kill off Jessica? Has that been in the works all along?

It was tough. Basically, it was planned from the beginning. We wanted Ryan to have to make a decision — what is the line that he's willing to cross or not cross? Originally, in our minds — before we actually stared writing all the scripts, and, more importantly, shooting them and seeing the performances and seeing the chemistry between the actors — we had somebody else that we thought was going to be that person that emotionally Ryan would be so connected to that something happening to them would be the breaking point for him. And, as we got closer to the episode, we started to realize we hadn't seen — at least onscreen — he hadn't bonded that closely with the person we originally intended [to kill off].

The character he seemed to pop the most with and that his character seemed to have the most affection for and seemed to care about the most was Jessica, so we switched it up. It was interesting — I told [actress] Shantel [VanSanten], "You weren't actually supposed to die." When you see what happens in the finale, the only way Ryan does what he does in the finale is if he's reached his breaking point, and her death was the breaking point. 

Which character were you planning to kill off?

I'm not going to say who that is because I want to use that arc. That arc just needed more time — I'm keeping it for season two, so I don't want to say who it is. It just wasn't building right in the first season. 

What does the finale set up for the second season?

What the finale really sets up is Ryan having to make a choice. Is his loyalty truly to the gang family, or is his loyalty to being a police officer? And he makes that decision at the end of season one. That decision is what will be the driving narrative for him in season two, and the repercussions of him making that choice is what season two's about. 

Have you changed any other storylines based on the cast's performances?

We did. I'll give you a perfect example of that. In the pilot, it was originally scripted that Carlos would die — he gets shot, and he was supposed to die. [After watching actor Rey Gallegos,] I said to the director, right as they were about to [kill Carlos], I was just like, "He doesn't die." And the director's like, "What are you talking about?" But that was an example of an actor just being so good that you just kept writing for him.

Gang Related is a gritty show, but is writing for a network show still different from writing for a cable show?

Yeah, listen — there is no question about it. It's different. There are certain things you can't do — you should be able to do, and maybe you will do, but you can tend to be pushed, encouraged not to do — on network. Probably the No. 1 thing, which is the most frustrating for me, is that there tends to be the need to speed up story over character development on network. On The Shield, we could make the act break whenever we wanted [which you can't do on a network]. So we were able to set up the story in a way where we knew people could keep watching. Mostly it was through the character development and the character dilemmas.

Whereas in network TV, you might only be able to have an eight-page act, and you need people to come back, so sometimes you rush things. Cable just allows for a slow burn because there is less need in cable for live viewing than there is [for] a total amount [of viewers] over the course of a month or whatever it is. Again, I'm very proud of [Gang Related], and I think everyone here did a great job. I've read some good reviews and some bad reviews, but I do think it's a good show, and I'm proud of it.

Have you heard whether the show will be renewed for a second season?

We're in discussions right now. We don't have confirmation if it's going to happen or not, but we're actively talking to them about it. I'm hoping sometime in the next couple weeks we'll get an answer, either good or bad. It definitely has a shot, which is nice. 

Gang Related's season-one finale airs Thursday, Aug. 14, at 9 p.m. on Fox.

Email: Ryan.Gajewski@pgmedia.org
Twitter: @_RyanGajewski