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The wait for Suburgatory is finally over.
Nine months after the ABC comedy last graced the small screen, Suburgatory returns with changes both in front of and behind the camera. Tessa and her father, George, are at odds after Tessa chooses her mother, Alex; George and Dallas’ heartbreaking breakup has a ripple effect on those around them; and two actors are no longer series regulars.
Ahead of the season-three premiere, The Hollywood Reporter sent nine questions via email to creator Emily Kapnek, inquiring about Tessa’s biggest obstacles, the challenges of a nine-month wait and the return of familiar faces (Ryan Shay!).
Last we saw the Chatswin gang, things were in flux. How different are things with George, Tessa, Dallas and Dalia when season three picks up?
Season three begins with the aftermath of what was an explosive finale. George is literally in fetal position, on the floor of the house he bought to share with Dallas right before she left him. Then comes the call. The call that his daughter needs him, and George shakes it off and runs to Tessa’s side. George and Tessa have been burned by Chatswin and enter into the season cautiously. They vow to look out for each other and stay close. Not to lose themselves this time. But midway through, George begins to wonder where he truly belongs and Tessa finds herself mourning the loss of Ryan, who made Chatswin (and life!) fun. Tessa and George are closer and stronger for the season-two experience — but still grappling with their own issues of where they belong. Meanwhile, Dallas and Dalia are similarly picking up the pieces and trying to fill the void left by the Altmans. This means spending more time together as well and doing some soul-searching for Dallas in particular.
Last time we spoke, you hinted that George and Tessa’s relationship would take center stage. How much repairing are they going to be doing?
George isn’t holding a grudge about Tessa choosing Alex and Tessa isn’t holding a grudge about George seemingly choosing Dallas’ feelings over her own. They have a common enemy to blame: and that’s Chatswin. The town shoulders the blame and provides something for the two Altmans to unite against. But Tessa does find herself feeling lonely this season. Keeping Chatswin at an arm’s distance isn’t easy, so George and Tessa find ways to engage without losing their sense of self. But ultimately they begin to question what they truly want. For Tessa, Ryan is a wound that won’t heal. She can rationalize their breakup and it all makes perfect sense — but seeing him come home with his new girlfriend is heartbreaking for her. And even though it’s painful it probably feels good to feel something again, because Tessa has kind of been shut-off romantically. We see her try to date this season without much luck.
How soon will it be before George and Dallas reconcile? How likely will their romance heat up again?
George and Dallas get off to an icy start. The first time George runs into Dallas, he is still reeling and not ready to be friends. But over time, that changes. It’s nice for them to be able to talk and interact. And it seems like they are both ready to move on, romantically, which should make being friends easier. But at the end of the season, George and Dallas stumble into dangerous territory that threatens the very solid friendship they’ve worked so hard to achieve.
How does Dalia navigate her mother’s breakup with George?
At the start of the season, Dalia is really suffering without “Daddy Altman” and Tessa knows how she feels. It hurts to get iced by Dallas, and the kids are caught in the middle of their parents’ breakup. We actually dedicate a whole episode to this, and the eventual realization that they aren’t willing to spend their lives navigating George and Dallas’ breakup. Dalia and Tessa don’t get along, that hasn’t changed — but they are done with the territory war over their parents and ready to allow for friendships to exist between George/Dalia and Dallas/Tessa.
This show strikes a wonderful balance between the absurd and the genuinely funny, especially with the Shays. What are some shenanigans they get into this season?
We have lots of emotion this season, but we also have tranq guns, beauty pageants, a brainwashed Noah, make-unders, a trip down south to meet Dallas’ family, Tessa joining a band, a Fatal Attraction for Fred, Dalia dating an elderly man and a truly unexpected storyline for Lisa and Malik.
With the show premiering midseason, how did that affect the way you arced the 13 episodes? Was there a particular challenge with the longer wait?
The midseason spot with no original airdate meant, for one, that we couldn’t do the holiday episodes that Suburgatory is known for (because we didn’t know when we’d be on). My instinct was not to treat it as a full season, but a half season. We really didn’t want to accelerate things too quickly so there are lot of juicy storylines that are still percolating at the end of our 13.
What are the chances we will see Parker Young and Malin Akerman at some point this season?
Parker is back for three episodes as Ryan Shay but Malin wasn’t able to return due to Trophy Wife and being a new mom.
Alan Tudyk and Rex Lee are also no longer series regulars. How significant were their exits?
I’m in total denial. We decided not to treat their exits as exits — but to simply write to them when we could. Alan is back for three out of 13 episodes. We weren’t able to tell Mr. Wolfe (Lee) stories this season. In my mind, they are both still wandering around Chatswin.
And lastly, do you have an end plan for how you’d like to wrap up these characters’ stories, whenever that may be?
As far as wrapping up the series goes? No. I’d love to think we’ll be back! There are still so many stories left to tell and I can imagine a whole second life to Suburgatory that explores the empty-nest syndrome the parents feel when the kids vacate and doing some college stuff or “Tessa in the city” stories. Until they pry it from my hands, you know?
Suburgatory premieres Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.
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