Today’s TV Addict Top 5: Questions with FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, PARENTHOOD Showrunner Jason Katims

As much as fans have hated having to say goodbye to many of our favorite Dillon Panthers, would it be safe to say that the choice to have some of your original cast members graduate has resulted in some of the show’s strongest episodes to date?
Jason Katims: I think that in the third season we kind of made this decision that we were going to let go of some of our cast members. It was a really hard decision but we realized it wasn’t going to be good to have them hang around and be window dressing. So for Gaius Charles and Scott Porter we wrote these storylines for them that wound up being incredibly powerful. So when it came to the fourth season I felt — as sad as it is to do this because I love every member of the cast and feel lucky to work with them — I also knew that I could say with conviction that we were going to be able to tell a great story this way because it really does energize the writers into doing something good, knowing that they have to tell a big story about someone [Zach Gilford, Minka Kelly] in four episodes.

For those of us who do not subscribe to DirecTV, when we last left FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, Coach Taylor was forced to move from the comfy confines of Dillon High to East Dillon High. Where you at all apprehensive about such a big change in scenery for our favorite coach/father?
No. The move to a new school, to a new population and to a new part of town has really reinvigorated the show. We have four new incredible series regular cast members (Matt Lauria, Michael B. Jordan, Jurnee Smollett and Madison Burge) who have just stepped up and are all wonderful and at least to my mind are different then the characters that have come before it which just makes things very exciting and helps to keep having the show feel like its a retread and we’re revisiting the same stuff.

Something that we just discovered was that in real-life your son has Aspergers, a syndrome which has obviously played a large role in PARENTHOOD. On FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS you had Scott Porter in a wheelchair. Do you think your personal experiences have made you more open to shining a spotlight on different types of characters that aren’t traditionally given the kind of exposure they might normally have had on TV?
I came on after the second episode of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, so the Scott Porter storyline wasn’t my decision. However, I did feel that it was a great opportunity to tell the story of this guy, particularly with Scott Porter playing it so tremendously. He never doing it in a self-pitying way, or a woe is me way, and brought so much humor, life and beauty to the role which really meant the world to me. In the case of PARENTHOOD and the child with Aspergers, there was in the original movie a child who was having ‘issues.’ It wasn’t as specific as I have painted it in the series, but it was something that was there and I thought was an appropriate thing to build upon.

Is there a difference writing for such an established cast on PARENTHOOD versus writing for FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, which with the exception of Connie Britton and Kyle Chandler featured many young actors new to the industry?
You know, I don’t really approach it differently. The one thing that I’m able to do on both shows is write and know that I can throw anything at any of those actors and they’ll step up. It’s something that you don’t often get and I have it on both shows. It gives you an incredible amount of freedom when you’re writing and it’s very exciting to write a scene and think, “Oh My God, what is Peter Krause, Lauren Graham, Kyle Chandler or Connie Britton going to do with this?” I’m just in a lucky position, where there is no actor I’m trying to write around or write in a special way.

WIth Minka Kelly recently guesting on PARENTHOOD, is there any chance that the cast of PARENTHOOD would return the favour and drop by FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS?
PARENTHOOD’s Sam Jaegor actually did a small part on FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS this season, season four. He came in and did a really nice job. I would definitely be open to more of that if it was appropriate, it would be really fun for me.

PARENTHOOD airs Tuesday nights at 10PM on NBC (CityTV in Canada) FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS returns to NBC on May 7 at 8PM

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  • FeedTheBirds

    As unestablished as the FNL newcomers might be, I have to say I find their performances consistently more compelling to watch than the more famous performers on Parenthood. Of course FNL has Britton and Chandler as major anchors but the show really does rely heavily on non-big-hitter actors and actresses and the consistently follow through.

    I can't wait to see season 4!