It is with a heavy heart that we must accept that The Fosters is coming to an end as Freeform is fully transitioning from family network to the go-to TV destination for young 20-somethings. The best part of that news is that The Fosters will live on in a spin-off centered on teens Callie and Mariana Adams-Foster, played by stars Maia Mitchell and Cierra Ramirez, respectively.
To fit this latest version of Freeform, the new series will time jump to see Callie and Mariana navigating life in Los Angeles in their post-college life as 20-somethings. And that's more than fine for the actresses.
"I am 22, about to be 23 so I'll often find myself reading [The Fosters] scripts, like 'Mariana, really? Why would she do this?'" Ramirez explained to TV Guide on the red carpet for the inaugural Freeform Summit on Jan. 18. "She is 16. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone goes through all those trials and tribulations of growing up. I think with the spin-off, it's going to be very fun to explore things as a 22-year old. She's going to make some more mature decisions."
Mature is the operative word. The Fosters has done amazing work in allowing its young characters to grapple with real, hard-hitting issues like sexuality, rape, suicide, gun violence and more. However, the core cast is still in high school, which limits the depths the show can go with those complicated subjects without jumping the shark. By aging the girls and the people they surround themselves with, the new series can still tackle difficult subjects, but from an older perspective that will allow for higher stakes and a deeper exploration.
The drawback to aging Callie and Mariana is that the show will shift focus to their personal and professional lives and scale back the family drama aspect that centered The Fosters. That makes room for Callie and Mariana to encounter problems more relatable to Freeform's target audience, but if the series completely dilutes their familial ties it could lose the critical ingredient that made the flagship show groundbreaking.
Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena's (Sherri Saum) relationship put The Fosters on the map because they're an interracial lesbian couple raising a mixed family of biological and adopted children. They are the poster characters of inclusivity and liberalism. More importantly, they are the glue that holds the show together and the backbone that allows The Fosters to have important conversations in a context that makes their viewers feel safe and understood. In the show's final episodes, they are also bringing the emotional heft between dealing with Jesus' (Noah Centineo) traumatic brain injury and Stef's increasing undiagnosed panic attacks, making the audience both laugh and sob within the same episode.
Hopefully we'll see a passing of the torch, and what made The Fosters so powerful will stick with the spin-off as things focus on the younger generation. Callie and Mariana won't need their mamas on a day-to-day basis in the new show as much as they do on The Fosters, where they are still teens driven by their emotional impulses. Though Ramirez and Mitchell both promised at the Freeform summit that fans will "definitely see familiar faces" in the new series, including Jude (Hayden Byerly) and potentially Callie's current romantic interest Aaron (Elliot Fletcher), it will now be on the young actresses to bring the spirit that Polo and Saum imbued The Fosters with as their characters embark on their own adventures and begin their own adult relationships.
It will be an exciting new chapter to see how Callie and Mariana approach the world as adults, when the stakes have been raised to "Can they pay the rent?" instead of "Who will be their date to senior prom?" (though it should be noted that even Callie's debate on that latter subject resulted in the first TV depiction of a cisgender female lead character in a sexual relationship with a trans man, because The Fosters is remarkable that way). It will be important to see the lessons they've learned as teens grow into their personalities as adults and how they will navigate even more complicated obstacles as young professionals.
The new spin-off won't be a replica of The Fosters, nor should it be, but as these characters move on to the next chapter of their lives, it is essential they bring forward the threads that have made The Fosters the important series that it is. They will need to continue to tackle real issues in an honest, grounded way and maintain the love and respect that brought them together in the first place. If they can handle that, The Fosters spin-off will be all we could have hoped for — but we'll also never say no to more Jesus.
The Fosters airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on Freeform.