'Parenthood' Cast on Zeek's Major Health Crisis: It Changes Everyone

"It crystalizes the important things in life," star Sam Jaeger tells THR
Colleen Hayes/NBC

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from episode 609, "Lean In," of NBC's Parenthood.]

Showrunner Jason Katims warned that the sixth and final season of NBC's Parenthood would explore mortality in a new way and Thursday's winter finale proved just that.

During the closing moments of the episode, Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) — the central figure of the Braverman family — suffered a heart attack.

Zeek's latest health crisis came months after he underwent open-heart surgery to repair a mitral valve and spent months recovering.

The Hollywood Reporter hit the set of Parenthood to catch up with the cast and find out how Zeek's heart attack will impact the rest of the Bravermans.

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Peter Krause (Adam)
Adam thinks that he's ready for it but he will be less ready than he thought he was for what may be his father's departure. 

Lauren Graham (Sarah)
The show is about iconic moments of family. That's the story it has told so one thing we all have in common is loss and a larger percentage of our show has dealt with the joyful moments of being a person and part of a family. But inevitably, we all have painful moments, too. This [story line] is unique that we are all going through something painful all at the same time. I don't know what it's like to watch but it feels very sad so in a weird way it's helpful because we feel sad and it is sad and it's an end and we're looking at something that is an end.

Bonnie Bedelia (Camille)
I don't know how Camille is going to handle it. It seems like it could be a real bummer but I trust Jason. We're not going to end on a really down note. I trust that it will be an uplifting end.

Dax Shepard (Crosby)
I think that there's a certain reality to what Crosby's notion of how far along his father was in life. It has to be a rude awakening that Zeek's only 73 and this is getting dangerous and Crosby is more than halfway to 73. There's some personal evaluation going on for him, like, "This ride's going really quick, and I didn't really think of myself as middle-aged but if this goes south, then I'm in fact more than middle-aged."

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Erica Christensen (Julia)
It is amazing how much it's really impacting all of these characters immediately. It's really unsettling. Zeek has been the rock for this family and he's such a strong person and such a fearless character so to see him vulnerable is really unsettling. Not to mention just the raw emotion of possibly losing her dad. That is so rough. Zeek has helped everyone in what they're currently dealing with. Everyone is dealing with their own things right now, and there's never a good time for something like this. But it's interesting how in a way, it helps make sense of everything because it's just so clearly a priority. In a way, it just adds to the chaos of everyone's own lives.

Sam Jaeger (Joel)
It crystalizes the important things in life. Even the hint of death that we've been tiptoeing around this season, it changes things. When you start to stink about where your life is going, we see it impact every one of the Bravermans in different ways. Are they living the life they intended? That's really the question we ask the most when dealing with loss: "Is this how I want it to be?" Or are the years just going to drift by? I'm glad we're dealing with it because it's the one topic we really haven't broached. 

Mae Whitman (Amber)
To be honest I don't know. I've been savoring every moment. It's a treat for me to watch the show because I don't get to see the other people acting so I'm always so surprised by the story line. I try not to read all their pieces in the script unless it is something that affects me. I'm a fan of this show like I am with Friday Night Lights; I feel that way with this family, too, and want to be part of the journey. So with all of Zeek's story, that is really sensitive and painful, I'm trying to let it unfold as slowly as possible.

What are your hopes for Zeek and the Bravermans? Sound off in the comments section below. Parenthood's final season returns from its winter break in January.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit