'Hart of Dixie': Tim Matheson on Zoe's Family Problems, Lemon's Secret and Directing (Q&A)

Matheson told THR of the season finale, which he directed: "There are so many surprising things happen and so many strange bedfellows are discovered."
Greg Gayne/The CW
"Hart of Dixie"

Hart of Dixie returns with a doozy of an episode when Dr. Zoe Hart's estranged father comes to Bluebell for a visit.

Gary Cole guest stars as famous surgeon Ethan Hart in tonight's episode, "Heart to Hart," when Zoe (Rachel Bilson) asks for help in a medical emergency. Directed by series star Tim Matheson, the episode also sees Lemon (Jaime King) befriending Zoe out of fear that she will lose her fiance George (Scott Porter) and her secret affair with Bluebell mayor Lavon will come out.

Matheson, who has appeared in Animal House, Burn Notice and The West Wing, spoke of his experience directing the pivotal episode. "There's high drama in [Zoe and her father's] relationship [and it's] realized and resolved and dealt with," he told The Hollywood Reporter of tonight's hour.

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"To do the finale where the dots are all connected and all the crazy turns and twists of the characters come full circle and there are so many surprising things happen and so many strange bedfellows are discovered," Matheson said of the finale. "Both episodes were challenging as a director, but the finale had a hurricane, there's a dream sequence, there's goats and swans and pelicans, emotion, some sex. It gives us more places to go should we be so lucky to get a second season."

Matheson talked to THR about the challenges leading Dixie, what to expect with his character Brick and whether Brick and Zoe's relationship will change dramatically by the end of the season.

The Hollywood Reporter: You've directed several different TV shows in the past. What was your biggest challenge in leading Dixie?

Tim Matheson: I do typically broader stuff, USA-type shows with a lot of action and more plot drama. Here, this is a simpler character drama and character comedy-drama. There's a tremendously broad range of emotions in each episode. You'll have a more dramatic subplot, where you'll have a main plot that's more comedic. Finding the right tone, it relies on the actors to do a very delicate high-wire act which is finding the truth in every situation yet finding the comedic tone to make it enjoyable and funny at the same time.

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THR: With Brick, he was sort of the antagonist to Zoe but later on, he warmed up to Zoe. How do you balance that fine line of making sure he doesn't become a caricature?

Matheson: In real life, nobody fashions themselves a villain and what one must do is cover up your human feelings for another person if you're going to do something to them or take action against them. First off, you've got to have those feelings for them and then cover them up. Now they're letting me let that out, I think, more and more. There are times when I want to protect her from her own vulnerabilities, especially when her father shows up. Even though my daughter Lemon fashions herself as Zoe's archenemy, there's a part of me that feels like, "You know what, Zoe, let me give you some advice here."

THR: Is Brick's relationship with Zoe going to change by season's end?

Matheson: So far, Brick keeps it to himself, although every now and again, he'll let her in on him, give her an "atta girl" and the benefit of his knowledge. That's coming out more and more. I like giving Rachel [Bilson] a hard time. [Laughs]

THR: Will Brick discover his daughter Lemon and Lavon's (Cress Williams) secret?

Matheson: I know something happened, I know she did something, but I don't that know that it's Lavon. I don't think he really knows or wants to know. It doesn't matter what she did. We all make mistakes, I don't need to know the details of it. It's behind her, she knows it was a mistake.

THR: What would be Brick's reaction if he found out?

Matheson: The great thing about Bluebell is that it's this magical fantasy town that we all wished we lived in. In spite of our differences, we find a way to get on, moving ahead together. It doesn't matter to me who she did it with. I don't think that's as important as the fact that she did it.

THR: What can you tell us about Zoe and Ethan's relationship when they meet again?

Matheson: She can't let her feelings about him, that have really clouded her life, affect her professional [life]. As a woman, she comes to realize she's got to deal with these feelings and resolve them and confront them, make them OK for herself whether or not they're OK for him. I feel protective of Zoe in regards to her vulnerability with her father. She's gotten herself into a jam. Really the episode's about Lemon and her, George and her father; the subplot is Wade (Wilson Bethel) and a mixology competition with Shelley at the bar with him trying to make some money so he could maybe strike out on his own, get his own bar some day.

Hart of Dixie airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on the CW.