'Hart of Dixie' EP Leila Gerstein: Season 4 Is 'for the Fans'

The third season of The CW's small-town drama Hart of Dixie ended with quite a few cliffhangers. Zoe (Rachel Bilson) finally realized she was in love with Wade (Wilson Bethel) and put her feelings for him out there — literally — in front of the whole town. George (Scott Porter) and Lavon (Cress Williams) realized they were in love with Lemon (Jaime King) and raced to catch her before she boarded her singles cruise. They were too late, though, and ultimately only came face-to-face with each other. Relationships — from romantic to friendships — were about to change when the show went dark.

Then The CW renewed the perennial bubble show for a shortened, 10-episode fourth run, which executive producer Leila Gerstein says picks up immediately where season three left off. The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Gerstein to preview what's ahead and if the cast's cryptic tweets about a potential series conclusion could mean the end of the road for the charming romantic dramedy.

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This fourth season is shorter than usual. How did that affect how you broke stories and planned out character arcs?

This season is all story. Every single episode is action packed. So much happens; it moves very quickly; it's a very exciting season, so 10 episodes is a great gift in many ways.

The show is known for big and often wacky events. What can we expect in this fourth season in that vein?

It's packed! There is so much happening; the stakes are higher; there's a lot more in terms of story and in terms of life events. But it's all still in the Bluebell flavor, so there's a lot of singing and a lot of crazy townspeople doing their thing. I think it's our best season. [The season premiere deals with] a firefighter test. Episode three [has] a trip to New York City. Episode four, there's a big town talent show. We find that there's some surprise talent in Bluebell that actually carries on throughout the season; we find some unlikely stars in [town]! There are multiple proposals this year. There's a hoedown; there's a food truck war; we finally find out all of Tom Long's jobs. Tom and Wanda will have their baby this season.

With the shorter season and so much to pack in, why did you still choose to open the premiere in the immediate aftermath of the season-three finale?

Zoe made a promise to Wade and she made a promise to the audience at the end of season three that she was going to fight for him … and I did not want to deprive the audience of seeing that.

We have an exclusive sneak peek at Zoe fighting for Wade in our premiere clip (above), but what kind of obstacles or conflict should we expect for the couple this season?

The big spoiler is that these two are going to get together quicker than people think. This season, we're going to tell a story about the two of them making a go of it. So yes, Zoe is in 100 percent. She's going to do it; she's going full steam ahead. This is not a year where we're going to be throwing in exes and love triangles. This is about the two of them growing up … and how they're going to make a future together, not so much will they make a future together.

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That said, season three left one big love triangle still ongoing with Lavon and George both planning to profess their love for Lemon.

There's a lot of tension, obviously, between George and Lavon because they're both in love with the same woman, and Lemon has no idea that either of them has feelings whatsoever for her. She has a new boyfriend that you find out about in episode one. So, George and Lavon are going to have to overcome their differences to put down guy number three. The truth will all come out in episode three. By the end of that episode, it will be pretty clear where Lemon's heart lies.

Did you limit the number of new characters you were bringing into the world in order to flesh out beloved supporting ones a bit more?

Yes, because we have a short season, this year we stick to the people we know and love. We're not really introducing too many new people. Henry Dalton (Ian Anthony Dale) is really the only one with an arc. Shelby (Laura Bell Bundy) is back, [though]!

How much time is there to dive into characters like Annabeth and Cricket this season?

Annabeth (Kaitlyn Black) is a series regular, and she has an enormous storyline this year. It launches a little bit later — in episode three — but she goes on quite a huge journey this year. Annabeth is going to embark on a new career and find unexpected love along the way. We are going to see Cricket (Brandi Burkhardt) begin her first relationship with a woman, which is great. We do see a lot of Cricket this season. I think that she made a big leap as a character, and Brandi is an amazing actress and really, really funny, and Cricket is going to continue to be funny and lovable and adorable and also gay. (Laughs.)

Did you approach any of these stories as if the end of the season would be the end of the series?

This season is for the fans, and they are going to love it. This is a season all the central questions, love stories and storylines do get wrapped up in a celebratory way, but there are still doors open.

Hart of Dixie returns Dec. 15 at 8 p.m. on The CW before moving to its regular slot Jan. 9 at 8 p.m.

Twitter: @danielletbd