No tissues needed! Parenthood’s Sam Jaeger teased where Joel and Julia (Erika Christensen) would be today — and his answer was very Joel.
“I think they would be enjoying their life with their kids and maybe having a fifth kid of their own now. I think they got through the worst of it. At least I like to believe that,” the 40-year-old actor exclusively tells Us Weekly. “I think in any relationship — as dramatic as this may sound — I feel like you are either going further into a relationship or coming out of it. And I think that they needed that kind of catharsis. I believe that they are in a much better place than they were those last couple of seasons. And I am too, thankfully. Erika and I had really a hard time kind of going through that ourselves. I’m thankful to be on the other side.”
During the NBC drama, Joel and Julia went through a heartbreaking separation — and nearly divorced. The arc went on for so long that it was unclear if the Grahams would ever reconcile.
“I was a little bit nervous. I think the hardest part is I think I had asked for Joel to go through something. And I think [creator] Jason Katims was on the same page. Whether it was his idea or whether it was me nudging him, I don’t know,” Jaeger explains. “When the story had finally unraveled that Joel would walk away from his family I took it really personally. You spend four years creating a character and then in many ways the characters in Parenthood are very similar to all of us. Like Peter [Krause] is just as steadfast and kind and solid as Adam [Braverman] was. And across the board. So I was really worried they were not going to end up together.”
Luckily, they did. In the series finale, it was revealed that the couple — who had a hard time conceiving and adopted a son — was now a family of six. “I’m thankful that they took as long as they took to get them back together. I think there was damage done not only in the relationship but also with the foundation and trust we felt over the years with Joel and Julia,” the Law & Order True Crime – The Menendez Murders star says.
“I just adore her,” he adds of working with Christensen, 35. “I just think it’s rare to work with somebody as professional and talented as Erika. We really pride ourselves on being a team. We came in and did our work. We were always the Friday night crew because we can come in and get our work done quickly and everyone could go home early. And we did love that. We loved the family that was around us for six years. It was really a once in a lifetime kind of thing.”
Parenthood ran for six seasons from 2010 to 2015. It also starred Craig T. Nelson, Lauren Graham, Dax Shepard, Monica Potter, Joy Bryant, Mae Whitman, Miles Heizer and Bonnie Bedelia.
“I’m thankful we were all on the air for six years. As bittersweet as it is to leave a show like that it’s really rare to be able to say goodbye for 13 episodes. So many beloved shows are yanked at the 11th hour,” Jaeger tells Us. “We were on the cusp — there were a couple of seasons where we were really grinding our teeth hoping we would make it through. We had just enough loyal fans to keep us on air and thanks to them we were able to get a proper send-off. That, hopefully, will be the enduring legacy of Parenthood. That you can watch all 103 episodes and feel like you’ve read a complex family saga.”
For more, read the rest in our Now and Then series:
US: What was your audition like?
SJ: When I read the Parenthood pages — and even when you read the pilot now and look at the performance — there really isn’t that much to Joel. So I turned it down. Then two months later they had me in. It didn’t go any further. I met someone on the chain of command and they liked what I did but not enough to bring me in to test. And then they were one week out from shooting this pilot and they somehow coordinated one meeting with Jason where I went in and auditioned. The day after that I tested for the show and the day after that I was up in Berkley shooting the pilot. And Erika was in the room. I auditioned with her. And I just found her so lovely and down to earth and willing to just jump into anything. We just had a chemistry that has maintained.
US: What was one of your favorite scenes?
SJ: When Zeek [Nelson] tells Amber [Whitman] that after her accident that he dreamed the whole family and she can’t take away his dreams by doing something so careless getting into an accident. That’s when I knew we had something really, really special. And that’s just because of those two remarkable actors, the freedom they had, the incredible writing and just the spirit that Jason created on set. It was one of those moments where it crystalized for us like, ‘Oh, that’s what this show is. So the more we can do like that the better.’
US: The scene where Zeek told Joel to save his marriage with Julia was so emotional in “There Are The Times We Live In.” Was there a lot of ad-libbing?
SJ: We didn’t take a lot of takes, that’s the best part. Parenthood has really made the rest of my career because we worked so quickly and we weren’t married to every single letter on the page. Because that’s not how Jason crafted the show. And it created a sense of improvisation. I think Craig at the moment said he wanted to say something — he really wanted to say that ‘You need to fight for my daughter.’ And I think that knowing the character as well as he did by then — it was the right thing to say. I think it’s a really powerful scene because I just admire Craig. He’s just a lovely man. The emotional scenes, it’s not that they are easy to do, but it’s so exciting to do with a good actor like Craig. He makes everything feel better.
US: Was the cast surprised by Zeek’s death in the finale?
SJ: We weren’t sure what was going to happen. We had a feeling that there was going to be a death at some point but I wasn’t sure if it was going to be Camille [Bedelia] or Zeek. I think they did it in such a lovely way. I thought it was fitting for the series. It was not easy reading the pages. It’s hard to imagine the Braverman family without Zeek.
US: What was the final table read like?
SJ: What’s interesting about the show is other than the pilot, which we did a table read in private with the cast and Jason and the director of the pilot, we didn’t do table reads. I think that’s part of the freedom in the way that Jason empowered everyone. Because what often happens at a table read is that people start to lock into something. Table reads for comedies are the worst because depending on how people feel, even if there is a funny joke and somebody sneezes right there in the punchline, that joke has to go away. People are constantly changing things and not necessarily for the better. We would just get the pages emailed to us. I remember texting Erika when we finally got the last episode, because all of us were waiting to see truly how the whole thing would end that whole season.
US: Do you think there will be a reboot or special reunion episode?
SJ: I think Jason’s always had in the back of his mind — who’s to say we can’t come back every 10 years just to pickup where this family left off and peek in on the Bravermans? I would love to do that. But I would also want it to be as good as the series. I think with all these reboots there’s always a demand for it but I think people can sometimes get too clever with the execution and trying to make it something other than what it was. And I think Parenthood was remarkable in that it just felt lived in. It wasn’t trying to be clever and it wasn’t trying to be heavy-handed. It was just trying to be real. So if we do it again I hope we keep it as real as we were able to do those first six years.
US: Were there Braverman dance parties off-set, too?
SJ: It was always kind of a Braverman dance party. There’s a lot of big personalities in the Bravermans — a lot of alphas. I think we love being around each other and the big family days. We were just as chatty on those days as onscreen. I pity the director who came in and had to shoot those episodes where we were all talking around the dinner table because it was just a mess. A good, healthy, sloppy mess. And I think that translated to what it’s like to be a part of a big family.
US: Did you bring any memorabilia home?
SJ: I didn’t! No, I don’t think so — not that I can remember. I guess that’s the funny thing. There are certain shows you do that. But Parenthood was so much about the people in it. I took away the relationships. Those are the most important things to me. Those are my people.
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