ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee sent Castle fans into a frenzy earlier this month when he suggested the network had "ideas" for how the show could continue even if stars Nathan Fillion and Stana Katic don't renew their contracts. And even though executive producers Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter admit they are thinking about that possibility, it's certainly not their dream scenario.

"If we had our choice, it would be the same cast, it would be the same show," Hawley tells TVGuide.com "We've done some fun stuff this year so that it has a little different energy that could absolutely carry through to a Season 9. But both of us are very invested in this, and we understand that Castle has always been about Beckett and Castle. So the idea of that not happening is daunting, and we're rooting against that."

That said, the producers suggest that, with or without its stars, the show will go on if the network wants it. "What seems great is that Paul seems invested in the idea of the show continuing, which is always nice to hear, and we're excited about it," Hawley says. "We came in knowing there's a lot of life left in the show, and we hoped we'd earn a Season 9. We are starting to have conversations about what a Season 9 would be."

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While Lee seems confident that he wants some form of Castle on his schedule next season, Hawley also suggests that, like last year, the show may have to craft a finale that ends both the season and the series. ("In a perfect world, we'll have clarity going into the end of the season," he says. "Obviously, there wasn't clarity last season until the very, very end.") But Hawley says that wrapping up ongoing mysteries -- including Castle's missing time and Season 8's LokSat saga -- was always the plan.

"LokSat is definitely getting resolved at the end of this year," Hawley says. "Our hope was to take all the threads -- the conspiracies, Sen. Bracken, Castle's missing time-- and really tie them off in a compelling, satisfying way, so that in Season 9 we can tell really compelling standalone stories and leave the conspiracy part of it behind. I think ultimately those stories are about played-out."

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