Ron Howard, Lauren Graham and Jason Katims Talk Parenthood
Reported by Kristen - 11:05 PM 2010.02.11
Ron Howard may be known now for his Academy-Award winning films and being the narrator on Arrested Development, but way back in 1989 he made a little film called Parenthood dealing with the dysfunctional goings-on of the Buckman family. With an all-star cast including Steve Martin, Dianne Wiest and Keanu Reeves, Parenthood is a classic in its own right. On March 2nd the movie comes to the small screen with a new take on family in writer Jason Katims’ version of Parenthood. Following a similar family called the Braverman’s, the new Parenthood boasts an equally impressive cast including Lauren Graham and Craig T. Nelson. ENI recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Katims, Executive Producer Ron Howard and star Lauren Graham to discuss the show’s strengths, its connection to the original film, and the wonderful cast assembled to lead the family.
Parenthood is a universal concept, whether you’re raising children or you’re the child in question. That is what Executive Producer Ron Howard and writer Jason Katims are hoping audiences will embrace about the series, it’s ability to relate to audiences whether they’re parents or not. The ride is one Howard especially finds relevant about the subject saying, “It is that elevator ride…that makes stories on the subject of parenting so relatable and entertaining.” He says anyone can see the humor of parenting in retrospect, “Others can always see how ridiculous people’s lives are” and the humor should hopefully derive from audiences seeing similar experiences in the situations presented on-screen. Katims agrees saying that he wants the show to be “a celebration of family” but on a more reality based scale where not everything is rosy, with “stuff that creates real challenges.”
This can be seen with how the show will follow a child with autism, something the creators were so passionate about getting right they had an autism expert on-set. The series is a dramedy, mixing elements of both comedy and drama but having more down-to-earth storylines and children with disabilities shouldn’t make audiences believe the series is a downer. Katims is quick to say “It includes the embarrassing funny moments” but that all dramatic subjects are dealt with “in a way that honors it” and not in a way that’s “self-pitying or depressing,” something he’s proud to have accomplished in directing shooting the first few episodes. At the end of it all everyone hopes that audiences will find the humor that comes with parenting and family and as Katims said “That’s what I like about the humor we’re finding, it feels very relatable and real. It doesn’t feel too broad.”
Howard is the first to say this time around “most of the elements from the movie and from the show now are coming from personal perspectives and personal experiences.” For anyone who remembers Parenthood isn’t new to television, being a series back in the 1990s although it only lasted one season. If anything that original series is famous for having Leonardo DiCaprio in the cast. Howard says of the film that he is “intensely proud” of it and it’s still a film that is mentioned to him and long-time collaborator Brian Grazer. The director goes into more detail about the events that led up to this new series saying, “We tried a television series a couple years on but it couldn’t capture the scope of the family and it was frustrating in a way. We thought that was the end of Parenthood [and] we toyed with [the idea of] a sequel. Then Jason came to Brian and I….and we were very open to the idea.” Katims himself says the idea of making Parenthood a series came from seeing the film as “rich.” He says that he constantly wanted to see more of the adventures of the Buckman family and the rest is history. “It’s a very hard thing to figure out the ingredients to what would make a good show. In the movie was the perfect foundation to what could make a really wonderful show, a show I would want to watch,” Katims says. While Howard fielded several questions about the series itself he is merely the executive producer, not the director as in the previous movie, describing this series as Katims “baby.” Although if he had to describe his role on the series Howard says, “This is Jason’s show and I’m totally supportive of it and he honestly doesn’t need my help. It’s been a very different experience and the nice thing is I really get to enjoy those episodes. It’s going so well…I’m just proud.”
The cast for this film is probably as well-known to television fans as the film cast is to film buffs. Describing the large ensemble Katims only had wonderful things to say, “It was an incredible experience casting this show. It’s a large ensemble for a TV show so it was all about putting the pieces together. You obviously want to find great people who connect with the roles but you’re trying to make a family. Not only are you getting wonderful people for the roles which is of course what you’re always doing but I wanted to feel when you saw these people they were a family.”
Made up of Lauren Graham, Craig T. Nelson, Bonnie Bedelia and Dax Shepard just to name a few, the cast has gone through quite a few shake-ups before setting on the group assembled. A pilot was originally shot with ER actress Maura Tierney in the role of Sarah, a single mother forced to move along with her two children into her parent’s house, a role now inhabited by Gilmore Girls star Lauren Graham. The pilot was shifted in the schedule and unfortunately Tierney dropped out due to discovering she had breast cancer. After that various names were thrown around including Helen Hunt before Graham stepped into the role. Graham herself said “I put a lot of pressure on myself to do a great job” after taking Tierney’s place. “This just felt like I hoped it would go well and I hoped we would all gel. The chemistry between these people…this is a very special group of people and a really great feeling on the set and an actual functional/dysfunctional family.” To Graham, a well-known actress of television and film, the decision to do this movie is described as “an instinctual one,” after 2 ½ years of reading scripts she couldn’t connect to. Graham goes on to say that “. I read this script and met with Jason and just the idea to collaborate with a writer who has a beautiful body of work. It was just a very different model than the show I had come from and it just seemed like a good idea.”
The show Graham is referencing is long-time fan favorite Gilmore Girls, a series fans are still missing. Many questions were asked in regards to whether Sarah on Parenthood mirrors her past single mother Lorelei Gilmore and any other show differences. “The experience of doing the show is so totally different. They don’t remind me of each other at all. This show is less about verbal dexterity and long speeches and more about people reacting to each other in the moment, there’s a lot more silence. This is someone who has much further to go to reach any of her dreams and that was appealing to me” says Graham. She also described Parenthood as “more ten o’clock than eight o’clock” alluding to the more serious tone of the show.
Fans can see Graham and a slew of other actors on NBC’s Parenthood. The series premiers March 2nd at 10pm