The Fosters concluded its fourth season with one of the most heart-wrenching cliffhangers yet, but the Freeform drama is looking toward getting back to family business in Season 5.
Callie (Maia Mitchell) will still be in deep trouble when the season picks up and she's still stuck in a seedy motel with Diamond (Hope Olaide Wilson) and her pimp as Stef (Teri Polo) chases a false lead in the opposite direction. This was the climactic moment of a season that also included traumatic brain injury rage sessions and Jude's (Hayden Byerly) advanced sexual awakening.
Once Callie's prostitution predicament is wrapped up, the show wants to get back to the dinner table topics that made it a hit in the first place. TVGuide.com talked to executive producer Joanna Johnson about what political issues The Fosters will tackle in the new season and what's next for the Adams-Foster family as they try to get back to normal — as normal as they can be anyway.
Where do we pick up with Callie in the Season 5 premiere?
Joanna Johnson: It's a direct pickup and as we know, Callie is in a very compromised position having gone with Diamond's pimp to hopefully get him put away. She knows now that the phone her mom is tracking [is in] the bag and that bag went out the window with someone else. Stef is tracking Callie's phone but Callie is not with her phone and we are picking up right there. It's pretty exciting and intense.
Is it going to be something that lasts a few episodes with Callie being in this situation or will her predicament be wrapped up in the first episode?
Johnson: It's going to wrap up in the first episode. There will be consequences that reverberate as always on the show as the season goes on. One thing we're trying to do this season is get back to the family stories and the smaller stories, also sort of the social activist stories that we like to tell on the show.
Are there any specific issues that you're planning to tackle this season?
Johnson: We're exploring the political climate on college campuses and a lot of the debate about whether freedom of speech should be totally protected on college campuses or whether speakers who are inflammatory or incite discrimination and violence, whether they should be allowed to speak. That's become a big debate like at Berkeley. We're also interested in students that are under the DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] Act right now and how long they'll be protected. We're looking into freedom of speech, immigration and the hot spot issues that we're facing right now after this election...Also, Stef is a detective in the human trafficking division now so we're going to continue to highlight those stories and how children are exploited in this country, the things we need to help them and the resources that they need.
Speaking of political activism, we saw Mariana taking charge of the student protest. What can you tease about the fallout of that?
Johnson: Losing their school is sort of this issue of privatization of education as opposed to public school. Anchor Beach is a public charter so it's affiliated with the San Diego public school system. We believe that public education is very important and when you privatize education, usually it affects people of less wealth — poor people and people of color. That's something that we'll definitely be debating this season.
Jesus had it pretty rough in the last season. Are we going to see things get better for him or is it going to get even worse before we can see him start to make bigger strides towards recovery?
Johnson: A traumatic brain injury is not something that you just get over quickly. It usually has lifelong effects that you are still dealing with. We really wanted to be true to that so he doesn't just instantly get better. He's still struggling a lot. He's not back at school yet. He's trying to figure out what his future is. He still has trouble with these outbursts, emotionally and physically...This is something that is going to be a long-term recovery for him, and the family because it affects everyone.
It definitely caused some tension between him and Brandon last season. Are we going to see them repair things?
Johnson: They're going to have their issues, for sure. We're not just going to kiss and make up. They're going to go through a journey with each other of trying to regain trust. Again, part of Jesus' TBI is that he doesn't see things completely logically and maybe can't really process things like someone without a brain injury.
Brandon took a supporting role last season after he didn't get into Juilliard. Will he continue that next season or will he be starting out on his own path again?
Johnson: He's slowly finding his own path. He is still trying to deal with the ramifications of what he lost and what his future is going to be. He's really looking at this gap year because he can't reapply to colleges for a year, so trying to figure out what he can do in this year to be productive and not lose faith in his future. He's definitely struggling but also trying to be as supportive to his family as can be.
What are you most excited for fans to see in Season 5?
Johnson: I'm excited for the fans to see Callie struggling more like a regular teenager, to find out who she is and what she wants to do. Even though she does get involved in some causes as she always does, it's a really personal season for her and her relationship with Aaron, which I think is an interesting relationship between these two people. It's interesting she's dating someone who is trans and them just having a normal male/female relationship and going through those ups and downs of that.
The Fosters Season 5 premieres Tuesday, July 11 at 8/7c on Freeform.