‘Parenthood’: Sam Jaeger Talks Joel, Julia and Season 6

“[Season 5] was a hard season for us to do and it was not enjoyable for us to shoot”

Parenthood Joel and Julia

The crumbling marriage of Joel and Julia Graham will remain front and center when PARENTHOOD returns for it’s final 13 episodes on NBC.

“We start off the season in a place where all of the fireworks — all the really heated argument — has really subsided,” star Sam Jaeger (Joel) tells me.

“They are still in different places.  Trying to figure out who they are and where they belong.  It is a little messy.  And then this big story line affects their relationship.”

He’s talking about what many fans of the NBC drama have come to believe will be a death in the beloved Braverman family.

So far, executive producer Jason Katims has vaguely confirmed the unthinkable.

“We’ve never told a story about losing someone in the family, and that is a very difficult story for us to tell,” he told TVLine. “But it’s one that I feel is a reality.”

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Thursday night’s premiere — which skips ahead several months from the season 5 finale — finds Joel and Julia [Erika Christensen] separated and living apart and one considering a relationship with a former college flame.

Jaeger admits that he wasn’t completely on board with producers’ decision to break up up the couple’s marriage so quickly.

“[Season 5] was a hard season for us to do and it was not enjoyable for us to shoot,” he says.

“To be honest, [the split] was toned down a lot from what it originally was going to be.  It was something really harsh.  I think these two characters… It was strange for me to do because it didn’t match what we had done the previous seasons.”

Sam told me more when we sat down at an NBC function in Beverly Hills.

It seemed to many people like Joel was really over-reacting last season…
Right.  And here’s what I think is great about what Jason does… Even though it is a small thing and most people would gloss over… There was some mention in one of their arguments toward the end of the season that Joel’s father had had an affair.  And once you get a hint of something like that, you can understand why people [react] to things.  For Joel and Julia, they had just gotten along and not really gone to that next level of their relationship and we needed to see that.

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This final season of PARENTHOOD came very close to not happening…
Oh, yeah.  We were talking.  We would text back and forth, Dax [Shepard] and Erika and I — and it seemed kind of strange to be at this point.  But it is business.  It is a TV show.  The ratings weren’t phenomenal, but thankfully we have the loyalty of amazing fans.

The fandom runs so deep.  How much of that was a factor in the show getting one last season?
To be on a show that has been running as long as ours is just amazing.  I just wanted one more season.  I wanted it to be a season that we all felt good about going in to.  I think it was more a measure because contracts were up for negotiation and it is a huge cast full of big stars, so that is where the expenses are.  And if they can nip that in the bud for the final season, I totally understand.

So the compromise is there will be 13 episodes and each family member be appear in 11.
Yes.  And to be honest, Joel should only be in 11 out of 13 anyway.

Are you cool with the big story line?  Do you think it will satisfy the fans?
Absolutely.  Last season could have been our last and there was a feeling like we had not gotten to tell the full tale of the Bravermans.  Since this is our last season, everyone [was] so excited to go back to work.  It really is going to be a celebration of what we have been able to do as a team.  So I know we are all going to give it the best we have.  God willing in six months we will get to say, “Season 6 was the best!”

PARENTHOOD airs Thursday nights at 10:00 PM on NBC.

Sean Daly

Sean Daly

Editor-In-Chief at TheTVPage.com
Sean Daly is a veteran entertainment journalist.His work has appeared in People, Us Weekly, The Toronto Star and other top publications. He was the west coast TV reporter for The New York Post from 2008 - 2013. Sean is the author of Inside AGT: The Untold Stories of America's Got Talent and Teen Mom Confidential: Secrets and Scandals From MTV's Most Controversial Shows.
Sean Daly