It has not been smooth sailing for the good ship BROTHERS & SISTERS. Yet despite changes both in front of and behind the camera that began even before the series launched four seasons ago, the show has managed to weather the storms. Of course, navigating rough waters falls upon the shoulders of showrunner — or, to continue our cheesetacular metaphor, ship’s captain — David Marshall Grant. Recently, Grant stepped away from the helm long enough to chat with us about cast members walking the plank, pesky rumors that the voyage will soon come to an end and dealing with industry’s equivalent of icebergs: budget cuts.
One would imagine that you’ve had quite an interesting summer! Just how prepared were you for the multitude of changed that were thrust upon you?
David Marshall Grant: Rob Lowe leaving was something Rob had been considering for a while last season, something we talked about, and was not a surprise for me in the least. In terms of Calista [Flockhart], she’s got the same deal as all the other actors this year and is excited and happy about having a great season without any diminished episodes. That said, there certainly were some unexpected changes. Emily VanCamp is only coming back for two or three episodes, which is a change for us and of course losing Rob is a big deal for us.
So yeah, I think it was in some ways a lot of loss for us, yet at the same time I think that all you can do is look at the positive side and really try to move forward. As fans are aware we’re going to jump ahead a year this season and we’re just sort of hoping to start the show this year certainly honoring Rob because that’s a big thing that happened in the season finale, but at the same time move us forward into new and exciting directions.
Not to linger too much on the past, but from a writer’s perspective, just how much did Emily VanCamp’s exit impact your plans for this season and was her exit the genesis of the one year jump forward?
I really felt it was important to jump a year as a way to get people in different places, so that was always going to be a given. But in terms of Justin and Rebecca’s relationship, we weren’t sure what was going to happen and when Emily talked to me about her dreams for her career and what was going on in terms of other offers, we made some adjustments. It was very important for us to honor the Justin/Rebecca relationship, as well as Rebecca’s relationship with her mother Holly, both of which have been so key to Rebecca. So we’ve tried to create a really powerful arc that will explain why she is leaving and honor the love affair that Rebecca and Justin had.
That’s really good to hear, because as a fan of the show and TV in general, it’s always disappointing when outside forces play such a public role in the direction of a given storyline.
Look, I could not agree with you more. Outside factors are things that couldn’t bug a showrunner more. Whether you’re breaking an episode and find out that the actor you were going to cast suddenly got a movie and you can’t do that episode anymore, TV is just so full of that kind of thing. But that is, in a way also the life of television. The more you can think on your feet and the more that you can just accept that this is going to be the status quo now and what can we do to really make this sing? We could get depressed about Justin and Rebecca, or we can use it as a great opportunity to write something that really creates a completion for two characters that have been through so much on the show and so integral to what BROTHERS & SISTERS is.
What will keep Holly in the fold now that Rebecca’s is out of the picture?
I don’t want to tease too much, but there are reasons that Holly needs the Walkers right now. I think that in dealing with her relationship with her daughter, David, and Justin when Rebecca leaves, these are all ways that Holly is going to be a part of the show. I think she’s going to have a very interesting story this year.
Moving on to other members of the family, what’s in store for Kitty?
When we pick up with Kitty, she’s in the process of a great transformation. It’s not a Kitty that we’ve seen so much of, she’s really trying to reinvent herself. We’re sending her on a journey of discovery that will see her begin a new romance with ARMY WIVES’ Jeremy Davidson.
Rumor has it that Kevin and Scotty’s surrogacy didn’t quite go as planned.
In a way it’s hard to answer that completely. Personally I’ve been through a lot of disappointment trying to make a family. As a gay man I know that these things don’t always work out — and it did finally by the way for me. But my point is that there are lots of was for Scotty and Kevin to create a family and I was always interested in landing somewhere else that involved foster adoption, so I think that’s what we’re going to try and do this year. It was always sort of in my head that their journey was going to be filled with a lot of disappointment. And it’s nothing to do with being gay, fertility issues are very difficult for people and I know a lot of couples that have been trying to get pregnant for years and years and years and it just doesn’t work. It’s something worth talking about and I think will be a very compelling story for them.
Will Nora ever find a love interest that doesn’t mysteriously disappear after three episodes?
I know right! We are definitely as excited for her as she is I think. I think this is a season where we’re really going to see Nora finally admit to what she wants in live along those lines. I think there will be some bumps in the roads for her and I’m really hoping that she can that special person.
At the start of every season one imagines you pitch a multitude of story-lines to the Network and Studio. Would fans be surprised by the sheer number of ideas that are shot down by the proverbial powers that be?
[Laughs] You want to know the truth? I think you’d be surprised by the number of ideas they don’t shoot down. I honestly mean that. I think that ABC has been extremely supportive both on the network and studio side. They have allowed us to tell story-lines with Kevin and Scotty that every time I’m just grateful in some ways maybe because I’m old, but shocked they’re letting us do it. They let us tell story-lines that involve politics that are sometimes controversial and they really have been incredibly supportive that way. But yes. It’s always a dialogue.
That said, the real dialogue is in the writer’s room where the writers just scream at each other trying to decide what the best stories are for the season. But once that’s resolved you go to the networks with your pitch, and luckily we’ve done a one through nine [episodes] sort of pitch and the network is very excited.
Excited enough to reward you with another season? After-all, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention all the speculation surrounding the fact that this may be BROTHERS & SISTERS final season.
No. ABC has said nothing to me and hinted nothing. I know there is a lot of talk around town about it. But in all honesty, all the input I’m getting from ABC is about keep going, next season we can do this, make sure we do this. I’m really going forward with the assumption and hope at least that we can keep going one more year, if not more.
The fifth season of BROTHERS & SISTERS premieres on Sunday September 26th at 10PM on ABC (GlobalTV in Canada)