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9-1-1: Lone Star's Jim Parrack Weighs In on That New Baby Shocker

This family is growing bigger by the minute

Max Gao

[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Tuesday's episode of 9-1-1: Lone Star. Read at your own risk!]

Congratulations, Judd Ryder! You're going to be… a grandfather?

In the latest episode of 9-1-1: Lone Star, Judd (Jim Parrack) and his wife, Grace (Sierra McClain), are given the mother of all surprises when Judd's 19-year-old son, Wyatt (Jackson Pace), whom they met for the first time last year, reveals that he is expecting his first child with his college girlfriend, Leanne.

Intent on finding a way to support his new family, Wyatt tells Judd and Grace that, while Leanne is studying to become a teacher, he is planning to drop out of school to become a firefighter. In fact, Wyatt goes as far as to ask Judd if he will "put in a good word" with the chief of the Austin Fire Department, without immediately realizing that his father has some qualms about him throwing away his own promising future to follow in his footsteps.

After Judd openly admits that he thinks Wyatt is "too soft" to become a firefighter, Grace offers her husband some words of wisdom late one night. "Sweetheart, if you don't believe that your son is tough enough, then you should toughen him up," she says. "That's your job. You're his father." (And toughen him up he does.)

On a recent video call with TV Guide from Los Angeles, where he's nearing the end of production on the fourth season, Parrack breaks down the key moments of the episode and previews what's next for Judd (and Grace).

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It seems like we can't have Wyatt around for too long before he drops another life-changing revelation on Judd and Grace. How did you react to this latest twist, and how would you describe Judd's reaction to the news?
Jim Parrack: My reaction was, "This is gonna be fun to act." I think I've played parts where the character supposedly has kids, but I've never really done stories about being a father. I didn't know where I'd find that, and it kind of freaked me out a little bit last year, because we had Charlie coming into the picture and we also had Wyatt coming into the picture. So I got the ball rolling a little bit last year and started to find some places inside myself that seemed to be sensitive to the idea of fatherhood, and it was like, "Oh, this is cool." And then the season abruptly finished, and then we didn't get into it for a while. So first off, I was excited that we were going back to that.

I also liked that it was a problem. Right on the heels of starting to have a clean slate with each other, there's some new thing to disagree about, and it's important. And then Judd's reaction was, "Nah, man, you're not supposed to be held down by the trappings that any fool like me could fall into. You're bright and you've got this dynamism to you. I think I could help in some ways even, but the world is your oyster, and you're not gonna just be putting the brakes on all that to raise a kid. That's not how it's supposed to be."

That's followed up with: "But since we're a family, we're gonna help and love each other through this, and I've got your back." That, to me, was the really satisfying thing to act. It's a terribly human thing to have a negative first reaction to something that we're not comfortable with, right? But to take some time and maybe bounce it off some other people, suss it out and come back and do the right thing is the less common thing, so it was cool to see [Judd] rise up to that and say, "I don't like this. This scares the hell out of me. But I'll tell you what, man: If you're in it, I'm in it with you."

Judd's sense of identity, from the moment we meet him in the first season, seems to be tied to his work as a firefighter. How does Judd feel about Wyatt's desire to follow in his footsteps both professionally and, in a sense, personally?
Parrack: It's tricky. I think it's a little ambivalent, frankly. On the one hand, it is a big part of my identity [as Judd]. I think, ultimately, my identity is a guy committed to protecting and caring for his family, and that, of course, extends over to the firehouse. That extended over to the original 126 that we lost in the first episode, and then these new guys too.

I remember early on trying to figure out what motivates this guy, and it could have been being a hero or being a firefighter. But before we even had stories to back it up, I opted with [the idea] to protect and care for your family. And then the scripts started kind of intuiting that as well, which is always a fun phenomenon. Tim Minear and his [writing] staff are sensitive enough to what makes some of us tick that they find their way into us by way of their scripts. But it's one of those moments where it's like, "Alright, you know that thing you're all about? Well, the rubber just hit the road."

Over the years, Judd's been loved and shaped by that love from Grace and God and from these beautiful people around him, and he is becoming more sensitive, more humble, right? [Laughs.] He's quicker to pause and see whether other people might be right. He gets some good guidance in that episode, and by the end of it, the guidance, the time and Judd's heart for Wyatt wins out, and he decides not to just say "Hey, I'm upset with you," but "I'm on your team and I've got your back." In my own life, when my dad has said something like that, I've burst into tears. It's been a really meaningful thing. I don't have any of my own children yet, so it was nice to get to act that out.

Jim Parrack, 9-1-1 Lone Star

Jim Parrack, 9-1-1 Lone Star

Jim Parrack, 9-1-1 Lone Star

What does Judd learn from his conversations with Grace and Tommy that makes him rethink his parenting approach?
Parrack: That acceptance is always the beginning to the solutions of our problems, and I'm an advocate for that concept in life. It's probably not the solution you wanted; [otherwise], you wouldn't have to accept it, and it would just come easy to you. So they both, in their own way, point [him] towards that.

And there's a bit of humble pie eating there too, which is like, "Hey man, who on earth are you to think you have a clear purview of what this boy's life should be like?" Judd got a bit of that from Grace's dad, for example, and probably from his own dad when [Judd] said, "I'm not going to school. I'm going straight to work." [But] here I am acting that way. It was kind of a dawning of, "Hey man, I don't know what's best for this kid, but firefighting is a pretty fair shake, meaning if you can do it, you'll probably be allowed to do it. And if you can't do it, we're gonna find out right away."

Are we going to see much of Wyatt in the subsequent episodes?
Parrack: He's coming back, and he's off to firefighting school. Just for the last three episodes [of the season], let's say, he's back.

It didn't even occur to me that Judd and Grace are going to be grandparents. They're too young to be grandparents!
Parrack: [Laughs.] Yeah.

Grace and Judd have been the grounding force of this show, in the same way that Athena and Bobby help to ground the original 9-1-1. What have you enjoyed most about playing out this relationship with Sierra?
Parrack: Oh, man. Honestly, the thing I've enjoyed most about it is doing it with Sierra. These stories are just fun, but at times they require you to really connect with the other person. Everybody can do their best, but not everybody at the end of the day can, when the cameras are on, really connect with another human being and really experience what's going on instead of just demonstrating it.

Sierra is an experiential actor, and that is the highest compliment you could give any actor. What you see happening is her going through it, not showing you what she thinks someone going through it ought to be like. She's a deeply feelingful, honest, truthful actor, and for me to work with somebody like that has been the most gratifying part of it.

What do you think Grace and Judd bring out in each other that they don't show the other people in their lives?
Parrack: I think Grace takes more risks because of Judd and his encouragement. I think her life is bigger because she gambled on this guy, right? And she didn't preach at him. She showed him the love of the God she believes in. She showed him what it could do to a human life and gradually he's been letting it in. And that's salvation, right? So she doesn't get full credit, but she gets as much credit as anybody gets.

What has it been like for you guys to work with these twins who play Charlie?
Parrack: It's been great. Their names are Kobe and Kobi, they're two little boys, and their mom and their dad are terrific. It's a weird thing to thrust your really young kids into this world of make-believe, but it's also a world of professional working adults and schedules. They're stepping out in faith, and they've been awesome. The kids will be gumming, and they'll have teeth. Then, all of a sudden, we won't see them for maybe a couple months, and one will stand up on my lap and I'm like, "Wow, man, you feel how strong they've gotten."

They've come to know us, and Sierra will roll her eyes at this, but only because she knows it's true—they really love their TV daddy, I gotta say. [Laughs.] They don't put up with their TV mom, but man, they love their TV daddy!

Jim Parrack and Jackson Pace, 9-1-1: Lone Star

Jim Parrack and Jackson Pace, 9-1-1: Lone Star


Talk to me about shooting the alternate universe portion of the episode, in which you play a milkman in a retro-style comedy. Was it surreal to see your colleagues, who you've come to know in their respective roles within the 126, play such different characters?
Parrack: Yeah, it was surreal that we were getting to do something so far out and playful. We weren't doing some weird indie film; we were doing this gigantic show. They put some details in that made it [feel] so far out because they were so real, and on the day we just kept saying how much fun it was. I think, at first, probably for myself and maybe some other people, we were like, "So how are we supposed to act this part?" And we kind of decided to act it like what we thought those shows looked like, and everybody did their own version of that.

Is there a particular episode or storyline coming up that you're most excited for fans to see?
Parrack: For me, there's one story that covers the course of [episodes] 16, 17, and 18. That is one of my favorites that I've gotten to tell with this role and on the show so far. And the stuff that we've already shot, I'm excited about the way it's coming along.

There's also an episode coming up involving Grace and her father.
Parrack: Grace sometimes comes off like a spiritual superhero, but she's a person too, so she runs into something that's hard for her to do, which is to forgive. So Grace gets to tackle the problem of forgiveness.

I don't know how much of episodes 16 through 18 is about Judd's past, but I'm still waiting to see or meet more of his family.
Parrack: I know right?

Do you have an idea of what the rest of his family looks like or sounds like? What kind of image have you dreamed up in your own head about that part of his life?
Parrack: That's so interesting, man, that you asked that because all we know is that I have brothers. It doesn't say that we don't have sisters or that I don't have a sister. It seems to be that mom passed on and we've got dad, and I've got at least two brothers. Two of my dear friends, Adam Lowder and Katie Barberi, are both living in Texas now, but they're actors I know from New York and we've done plays and movies and stuff together. I just always pictured them in my mind as brother and sister-in-law. We've still never seen these brothers. I think they were given names last year. I don't even remember their names at this point. [Laughs.] But I pictured mostly a bunch of men and a sweet, loving mom and a tough dad and lots of competition.

Owen and Judd have had conversations in the past about how, when Owen decides to give up his position as the captain of the 126, Judd will be next in line to take his place. Do you think captaincy is ever in the back of Judd's mind? Would he be ready for that kind of senior role?
Parrack: These are good questions, man, and I'm trusting that the writing staff's asking 'em too. These are good questions because there's a fine line between loyalty and ambition, right? I've asked myself this and there's an upcoming episode where I just outright say, "Man, when he puts me in charge, I always feel a little nervous. Like, I wonder if I'm up for it, you know?" But anytime he has, Judd's always done a great job. So we haven't really seen him express that, if he does feel that way.

But I think in real life, a lot of the firefighters that I've talked to seem to have something like it. What makes them courageous is they have the fear and the doubt as well, and they show up for work anyway. When we call them with our problems, they put their own lives on the line, and my admiration for that grows every episode and every season. And I was glad to get to show a little bit of that, like, "Yeah, I have my doubts too. We're not superheroes."

9-1-1: Lone Star airs Tuesdays at 8/7c on FOX. Episodes are available to stream the next day on FOX Now or Hulu.