Parenthood already has one of the biggest casts on network TV, but it's ensemble just keeps growing. Last season added Adam and Kristina's baby daughter, Nora, and saw the return of Sarah's ex, Mark Cyr (Jason Ritter). For Season 4, which premieres on Sept. 11 at 10/9c, the NBC drama has added a few more fresh faces. There's Victor, Julia and Joel's adopted son and, of course, Emmy winner Ray Romano, who will play yet another love interest for the eldest Braverman daughter. "I've been talking to Ray a bunch about his character and he's really excited about doing it," executive producer Jason Katims tells TVGuide.com. "He's a fan."
But Sarah's complicated love life — including whether or not she accepted Mark's surprise proposal — is far from the only obstacle the Bravermans will face. Katims filled us in on Romano's "acerbic" new guy, Amber's promising new romance, Julia's tough juggling act and whether there's another new Braverman baby on the way for Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Jasmine (Joy Bryant). As usual, it sounds like you should have your Kleenex ready.
The burning question on everyone's mind is: Will Sarah (Lauren Graham) say yes?
Jason Katims: The answer is going to be in the first episode. We're very excited to have Jason Ritter come back on the show because we didn't know whether or not he was going to be available. I think things are moving forward in their relationship. The wrinkle that we're throwing in is this new character played by Ray Romano who is going to wind up being Sarah's boss, but also a complicating factor to the relationship between Mark and Sarah.
How does Ray Romano's character compare to Mark? What kind of relationship will he have with Sarah?
Katims: Where we've seen that Mark is so flexible and open, Ray's character, Hank, is the opposite. He's a little bit acerbic and cynical. He has had life experience, so, in a weird way there's something that fits better between Hank and Sarah than with Sarah and Mark. It begins with her getting a job with Hank, who is a commercial photographer. Sarah gets a job as an assistant in this small photography studio. We want to watch as their relationship develops over time and, at the same time, watch Sarah and Mark's relationship develop and have those things slowly build to a conflict and try to follow it in a way that feels real.
Last year, Sarah and Mark clashed about whether to have a baby. Will that issue come up again?
Katims: What we have seen already and what we would continue to observe is that they're so great together, but they're also at different stages of their life. It's going to be very important for Sarah to also figure out her career and figure out things like moving out of her parents' house. This is an exciting year for her because it's a year of really trying to figure out some things in her life and taking the bull by the horns.
What's coming up for her kids this season?
Katims: We have always liked the idea of Amber working in Crosby and Adam's recording studio, so that's something we're going to establish this year. She's musical and she is an aspiring songwriter, so we thought it would make perfect sense. Then we also have an idea for a really interesting love story for her this year in a way that we haven't done before with her. What's great about Mae [Whitman] is that you really have watched that character evolve over the three seasons so far. So we want to go to the next step and have her get involved in a mature relationship.
So it's something that's more lashing than her previous relationships on the show?
Katims: It's not without its challenges, but yeah, it's something that is going to be a deep, real love.
What will marriage look like for Crosby and Jasmine?
Katims: I always get excited on a show, especially going into Season 4, when you get to explore a dynamic you haven't gotten to before. This gives us an opportunity to look at the first year of a marriage. It allows us to do a lot of interesting closed-ended stories — stories like sharing a checkbook, and figuring out how they're going to be as parents together. Not only as parents, but as people, and establishing what kind of couple they're going to be together. We have one story line coming up about making plans for the weekend and how much to plan stuff versus play it by ear. These two people are really very different in a lot of ways [and need] to find a balance with each other.
Is there any talk of them having any other baby?
Katims: I don't know yet. It's definitely something we've discussed. It's so funny because a lot of times we'll have these discussions as writers and you feel like you're having a discussion with your wife: 'I don't know. Are they ready to have another baby? Is it time? Well, she's not getting any younger.' We do have two new children on the show with Adam and Kristina's baby, Nora, and Victor, the 8-year-old son that Julia and Joel have adopted. I'm not sure when we would be ready to tell that story, but it's definitely something that I think would be, at some point, something we would want to play.
Another big element of the finale was the introduction of Victor. How will he shake up Joel (Sam Jaeger) and Julia's (Erika Christensen) world?
Katims: He shakes it up in a big way. Especially when you adopt a child who is a little older, it's one thing to say you're going to become a family and it's another thing to have that actually happen. We'll see that journey of Victor really becoming integrated into this family and the challenges that it takes to get there. It is a very serious subject matter and we want to honor what it would really be like. It's always great when you're dealing with a story that you feel will take a season to tell because there are so many aspects to it. We're excited to watch not only how this affects the inner-workings of their nuclear family, but also how it affects Julia emotionally and her work life.
Can you elaborate on Julia's struggle?
Katims: For the first time, Julia feels like she's not able to do it all. That's always been her mantra — that would she would be able to have the big career as a lawyer and also be able to be a great mom. I think that when she doesn't feel that it's necessarily working or as easy and natural as she thought it was going to be, it starts to affect her work. She feels like she needs to spend more time at home and she lets the ball drop on a couple things at work. It begins to create a very anxious environment for her and does come to a head fairly early in the season.
What's ahead for Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina (Monica Potter) this year? Is Haddie (Sarah Ramos) really headed to college 3,000 miles away?
Katims: Haddie is headed for Cornell and that is something we're going to be dealing with very much at the beginning of the season. Max is going to be entering middle school this year, and we're excited to tell the challenges that that brings him. I hesitate to go too much into it because I want to keep some of these things close to the vest, but we always feel that we came into the show through Adam's eyes and so we definitely have some big stories to tell for them.
It would have been very easy to have Haddie attend a college nearby like Berkeley or Stanford, so why did you choose to send her away for school?
Katims: I just felt that the story of when somebody moves out at that age is such an intense time. I had the same feeling when I did Friday Night Lights and we wanted to play the reality and let them graduate and watch them move on and watch what they wind up doing. I thought it wound up being a very important part of the show. I wanted to take the same approach with Parenthood.
And now Drew (Miles Heizer) could be next.
Katims: Drew might be next. He's a senior. That's also another big story to tell and a lot of what we feel is contributing to Sarah's need to really get her life together. We've watched Haddie graduate, but Kristina and Adam still have Max and Nora. With Drew leaving, that's going to be a really intense thing for Sarah because she's going to be empty-nested.
Season 4 of Parenthood premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 10/9c on NBC. Do you want Sarah and Mark to tie the knot? Should Crosby and Jasmine have another baby? Sound off in the comments below!