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From executive producers Darlene Hunt and Jenny Bicks, Laura Linney stars as a mother coping with her cancer diagnosis. The cast and creators addressed the final season change and the meaning behind its Hereafter subtitle on Saturday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.
“As everybody lives you reach dying every day, there’s a yin-yang to it,” Bicks told reporters of the Buddhist concept behind Hereafter tag. “It’s about the fact that we’re both here and now and we’ll all be dead at some point.”
Earlier Saturday, Showtime entertainment president David Nevins said the shift to an hour will allow producers to focus less on the comedy to more of the heartfelt moments that have helped define the series.
“I don’t think any of us feel like the show changed its DNA, we found in half-hour that we were having to rush moments,” Bicks said. “Now the comedy and drama have more time to breathe. It’s been easy for us to make the transition. It was a nice chance for us to put the show to bed.
The fourth-season premiere will explain last year’s cliffhanger in which Cathy (Linney) left her family to go sailing with a stranger after she realized she had nothing to return home to. Producers noted the four-episode season will span September through May, with three months separating each hour.
“I feel good about how we finish the story, all of us together,” Linney said. “The lesson I learned over and over again is … that nothing is ever as you think it’s going to be. … It unfolds in unexpected ways, always.”
Linney noted that it was important to wrap the series in a fitting fashion in an era when other shows simply fade away without wrapping up story lines, with producers noting that it was a joint discussion with Nevins to change to the hourlong format.
“It was a conversation with David about what the last season was going to look like and what we wanted to say,” Hunt said. “It could have just ended abruptly after three seasons. David and I talked about the themes of the show and what we could tackle and how important it was to give it a proper ending — more so than another series would be. I felt that we were involved in the conversation and it was a group decision to do it in a really special way.”
Added Linney: “You can’t dangle a show set within the context of cancer and time and a life and then not be respectful to that idea or not be respectful to the idea that that’s what you’ve given to the audience.”
As for how The Big C ends, Bicks said the final scene of the series would be a “nostalgic” one. “We reintroduce ideas we have played with throughout the course of the series,” she said. “It’s visually stunning and a very happy moment.”
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