'Parenthood': Bonding With the Bravermans on the Set of NBC's Beloved Family Drama

Raising Awareness
Emily Berl

Ray Romano, here during the marriage proposal scene with Lauren Graham, took a pay cut to return for the final season. “If there’s any way to get it on for another season, do it,” the die-hard Katims fan says. Romano’s Hank started as a curmudgeon before he diagnosed himself with Asperger’s: “When we did that, the letters from everyone were amazing — they were so thankful we were bringing awareness to that and that there are a lot of adults who realize they have Asperger’s. The secret to writing is to get people to identify with it.”

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

A strange sadness pervades Parenthood's set this busy November morning.

For one thing, the cast and crew of NBC's critically admired family drama — produced by Friday Night Lights mastermind Jason Katims — aren't at their regular cozy home on the Universal lot in Burbank; instead, they're assembled on the dingy site of an abandoned hospital in Inglewood. Workmen feverishly have labored to install lighting fixtures and find working circuit breakers, but there still are cobwebs on the floors and ceilings amid a thick layer of dust on the walls, giving the setting a creepy atmosphere.

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The fact that the scene they're filming involves the deteriorating health of the Braverman family patriarch — Zeek (Craig T. Nelson), who's in the hospital after a heart attack — isn't making the mood any cheerier. Especially considering that everyone on set by this point likely knows the character isn't going to make it.

But what's really bumming people out is that this is the third-to-last episode before Parenthood, which aired with modest ratings for six years, finishes its run (its series finale was Jan. 29).

"We are like family," notes Peter Krause, who plays Adam. "I don't want to think about not playing with these people again."

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Krause will continue playing with at least one of his castmates; he and Lauren Graham (who plays Adam's sister, Sarah) are a real-life couple. And Dax Shepard (Crosby) won't have much time to mourn either; he's writing, starring and directing a remake?of CHiPs. Likewise for Ray Romano (Hank; he gets this episode's last scene, proposing to Sarah), who next stars in HBO's upcoming '70s rock drama; Erika Christensen (Julia), who stars on the ABC anthology Wicked Crime; and Mae Whitman (Amber), whose film career took off with a starring role in The DUFF. Certainly, Nelson won't be staying dead for long — he's headlining NBC's Coach reboot next season.

Click here to see photos from the set.