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While Laura Linney’s Cathy Jamison denied her cancer diagnosis during Season 1 of the Showtime dark comedy The Big C made for compelling drama, things changed in the finale when she shared the news with her family. When her moody son Adam (Gabriel Basso) found out, it was among the young series’ most heartbreaking moments.
With Season 2 premiering Monday on Showtime, executive producer Jenny Bicks tells The Hollywood Reporter what’s ahead for Season 2: Cathy fighting for her life, Adam growing up as well as how guest stars Parker Posey, Alan Alda and Hugh Dancy figure into the drama. Plus one very precious guest star will find romance.
[WARNING: Spoilers on Season 2 ahead.]
THR: What’s the theme of Season 2?
Jenny Bicks: We’re basing this season on the different levels of grief, while Season 1 was about denial. The first season was about in some ways: not coming clean about what’s going on with Cathy and acting out because of that. The second level is anger. We really wanted to pick up and have her start to fight in a big way. Cathy is all about attacking this thing head-on and fighting for her life. It should feel like a different energy than the first season, but it’s not a different show.
THR: One of the biggest moments in Season 1 is Adam discovering Cathy’s storage locker. How will we see Adam evolve?
Bicks: He is growing up, and that’s the thing that you’ll see this season. There will be a lot of fits and starts to that, because that’s the reality of what happens. By the end of the second season, you’ll really see some growth with him. We put him in contact with Poppy (Parker Posey), whom he meets in a chatroom for kids whose parents have cancer. He thinks she’s a 16-year-old girl and then he goes to meet her. She’s going through the same things he’s going through. It’s a very odd relationship, but it’s not sexual. When we see him again in Season 2, that the storage locker didn’t completely change his DNA.
THR: We’ve seen in the trailers that Marlene (Phyllis Somerville) will return in a very fun way for Cathy, is that a side effect of her treatment?
Bicks: We will be using Marlene as a fixture in the afterlife, or whatever you want to imagine the next version of life is. Whether or not she is a ghost or a vision of Cathy’s mind is really up to the viewer. To what extent is this something that is happening outside of Cathy and to what extent is it Cathy’s brain?
One thing we’ve really been exploring this season is Buddhism. In Episode 4, Hugh Dancy plays a Buddhist who is in a clinical trial that Cathy enrolls in. We wanted to explore the idea of the Buddhist view of death, which is very different than for the typical Westerner. Buddhists really believe there’s a very fine line between life and death. In every moment, we’re dying and in every moment we’re living. Because of that, we feel like the closer Cathy gets toward possibly her own death, the more she’s going to be able to experience things that might be on the other side of life that a normal person wouldn’t. Marlene plays a role in that. She’s still, to some extent, Cathy’s truth teller. We use her throughout the season and they’re still good friends.
THR: How will Alan Alda’s Dr. Atticus Sherman figure into Cathy’s treatment?
Bicks: Dr. Sherman is the antidote to Dr. Todd: He is the exact opposite of the kind of care Cathy was getting last year in that he’s the doctor who really does know everything and clearly is the expert but has no bedside manner. Cathy will help him see this other side that he’s missing. He puts her into a clinical trial that has very specific results. In a way, he does really help her save her life.
THR: Will the results of the clinical trial be a seasonlong story?
Bicks: She’ll have some possibly positive results from the clinical trial. The clinical trial starts in Episode 4, which is where she meets Dancy. We’ll continue that trial through the season. Hugh will play through the entire season as well. You will see some interesting turns as it relates to their relationship, and it will challenge Paul (Oliver Platt) a little. He does a terrific job of being the calming influence on Cathy this season.
THR: How will their friendship impact Cathy and Paul’s marriage?
Bicks: Paul is a guy who’s trying to be the best cancerierge he can be and in the end, it’s a lot. You’re going to see him start to fall apart from the pressure and the financial pressure of dealing with the insurance. He’s also going to be having issues at work that are going to create a lot of issues for him in his own ability to feel like he can cope. He’s going to go down a bit of a rabbit hole, and that’s definitely going to test them by the end of the season.
THR: Will he step outside the marriage again?
Bicks: Rugby Slut (Nadia Dajani) does come back, but I won’t say whether or not she’s dressed. Or in bed. But you will see Rugby Slut again.
THR: How will Sean (John Benjamin Hickey) handle Rebecca’s (Cynthia Nixon) pregnancy?
Bicks: They’ve been foisted into this relationship rather quickly because she’s pregnant. But despite that, and despite Cathy feeling like, “Oh I don’t know about this,” they will be a couple.
THR: What can we expect from Andrea (Gabourey Sidibe)?
Bicks: You’ll see her move into Cathy’s house at a certain point and find herself in a love affair with a guy from the Ukraine that’s going to be very complicated. She meets him in person and they fall for each other. It’s a very lovely love affair. But because she’s living at home, it complicates a lot of things.
The Big C kicks off Season 2 on Monday at 10:30 p.m. on Showtime.
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