'Parenthood's' Jason Katims: Final Season Will Explore Mortality in a New Way

"We're leading to a place that's both very emotional but gives closure and also gives a window into the future of all the characters on the show," he tells THR
Paul Drinkwater/NBC

Grab the Kleenex and prepare to say farewell to the Bravermans.

NBC will say goodbye to Parenthood this season with a truncated 13-episode final run that will see the Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights) series tackle subjects that the family drama has yet to explore during its five previous seasons.

As Parenthood did with Kristina's breast cancer arc, one central storyline will be the driving force of season six, impacting everyone in the rapidly growing Braverman clan in different and surprising ways. The return of Breaking Bad's Betsy Brant as Hank's ex-wife will bring on a blended family story that Katims has been eager to explore. Amber's pregnancy will see kid brother Drew man up in a new way. Crosby maybe headed for a midlife crisis.

The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Katims to preview the final season — and how the varying stories will lead to what he calls a "very emotional" final scene.  

Photos: Saying Goodbye: TV Shows Signing Off in 2014-15

There's been a lot of speculation that viewers may be saying goodbye to one of the Bravermans. How might that shape the final 13 episodes?

The season is dealing with the potential loss of someone, I wouldn’t say we're saying goodbye to somebody. They're dealing with mortality. While we've touched on it in season four with Kristina (Monica Potter), we're dealing with it in a very different way in a way. This is something that affects the entire family and it informs what everybody will go through the whole season. Even the storylines that don't seem like they're going to be connected to that story, they're still affected by it. It's something that definitely influences the whole season. Tonally, the show will have pockets of humor and lighter moments throughout but overall the season will have a lot of gravitas because of the subject matter.

Are you approaching the final season any differently?

Speaking as somebody who has been spending the last several months already thinking through how the season plays out, it's a different approach than we've had in the other seasons. From the beginning, we want to be leading to a sense of finality and give an ending not only to the show, but to every character in the show. It really informs every story we're telling.

Do you already know what the final scene of the series is? How would you describe that?

Yes. I’d describe it as a really great scene. We're leading to a place that's both very emotional but gives closure and also gives a window into the future of all the characters on the show. The season takes place over a time span that is a little bit longer than the actual amount of time that 13 episodes takes. It's closer to a year than three or four months. There’s one time jump that we have that happens around the middle of the season where we jump forward a few months. In the final episode, we might take some liberties though, in order to give a window into where our characters are headed.

Have you considered a Parenthood spinoff?

We never really thought of it. We jokingly talk about spinoffs with Amber (Mae Whitman) and Ryan (Matt Lauria) or Hank's (Ray Romano) character but I've never really thought of it as a show that would spin off because the beauty of the show is that the sum is greater than its parts. What makes the show so special to me is the combination of all of these characters. I've spent so much time over six seasons trying to preserve the cast and not lose anybody in the cast, so I don’t think of it as going off to spinoff any particular character. That said, I'd love to continue to work with basically everybody in the cast hopefully in the future and at different times. It would definitely be appealing to tell stories about any of the characters, but spirit of show is this ensemble.

Photos: Broadcast TV's Returning Shows 2014-15

How will Amber look to Sarah's (Lauren Graham) past to shape how she navigates her pregnancy?

While Ryan is definitely coming back to the show, it’s not necessarily going to be a story about Amber and Ryan. I don't see it as a story this season about Amber and Ryan dealing with their lives as a couple. I'm more interested in seeing Amber take on things on her own this year. She’s had a tremendous amount of evolution, especially when you look back at where we started at the beginning of the show. More than any of the characters on the show, she's really gone from being an adolescent to being a young woman.

Betsy Brandt is returning as Hank's ex-wife, Sandy, with Ruby in tow. How will her return affect Sarah and Hank's burgeoning romance?

One storyI've wanted to tell that we haven't had opportunity to delve into is the blended family. Hank and Sarah have enough to deal with just as a couple, but then to throw in not only Hank's daughter but also his ex-wife and Sarah dealing with her own children. It's a really interesting thing to watch them have to navigate those waters and how it challenges that relationship but helps bring them closer. We've tried as much a possible to cover as many of these contemporary ways of looking at family and parenting over the course of the show and thought this was an opportunity to do something we haven’t done yet.

Julia (Erika Christensen) in the finale started rediscovering who she is. How will her journey impact Joel (Sam Jaeger) now that he's re-engaging in their marriage?

We want to continue to almost study this relationship. Julia was put through the ringer last season with what happened in her marriage and we find her this year out of a need to move forward with her life and move on her own terms. But it's complicated by the fact that she has a family with Joel and by the fact that she still loves him on some level. It's complex and compelling and, at times, a tortuous story to tell. We really want to tell the full story, and by end of the 13 episodes, we absolutely intend to come to a true resolution with Joel and Julia one way or the other about their relationship and marriage.

Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina are running two businesses: the school and the Luncheonette. What's next for them?

One of stories we're telling is that these are two struggling businesses. Telling a story about opening a school is full of complications and challenges and it's not easy. Another story we're telling this year has to do with the Luncheonette and the partnership between Adam and Crosby (Dax Shepard) being challenged in a major way. Adam and Kristina are both over-extended in everything they're doing.

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What about for Crosby and Jasmine (Joy Bryant)? How will we see them be challenged?

Crosby is feeling a different kind of pressure than he's ever felt before. One of the things about Crosby is everything rolls off his back and that's part of his charm. That catches up to him this year and he deals with the challenges that are happening in his business which lead to tension with his brother. There's health issues going on in his extended family and it leads to some potential tension between him and Jasmine as well. The storyline that we're being guided through for the whole season really affects Crosby in a very deep way because it‘s also catching him at a point where it's a bit of a midlife thing. It's something we've seen Adam deal with but not Crosby.

Can we expect to see more of Drew (Miles Heizer) and Haddie (Sarah Ramos)?

We'll see Haddie in the first episode of the season and we’re hoping she'll be able to come back toward the end of the season depending on her schedule. We spent last season telling college stories with Drew. This year, we will continue to do that but we're leading more into family stories with him and Amber. For what may be the first time, he has to step up a bit more. He's always been her kid brother and she's always been the strength, but he needs to be there for her. We really loved last season with that moment with Zeke (Craig T. Nelson) and the car and we think this year Zeke is going to make Drew pay for the car by becoming personal chauffer for a couple episodes. We're looking forward to seeing great and fun stories between Zeke and Drew.

Parenthood's final season airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
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