Beauty and the Beast has had to continually triumph over low ratings and being shuffled around the CW's schedule to earn a renewal. But now that it's back with — at least! — two more seasons executive producer Brad Kern is putting his focus back on the heart of the show: Vincent and Cat's romance.

"In Season 2, the mandate was to broaden the characters and the reach and see if the network could attract a bigger viewership. At the time, a future pickup was dependent on that," Kern tells TVGuide.com. "It didn't work, but the good news was that the network was exceedingly happy with what we did and they really liked the pitch [for] Season 3. Luckily, the loyal audience stayed with us and they'll be happily rewarded."

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The Season 2 finale saw Catherine (Kristin Kreuk) and Vincent (Jay Ryan) defeat their friend-turned-beastly foe Gabe (Sendhil Ramamurthy) as they found their way back to each other romantically. When the third season begins, the duo is in a bizarrely normal circumstance: figuring out how to be a couple. As fans are already anticipating, a proposal is also on the way, which will set the stage for the remainder of the season. But that's not to say the 13 episodes will be all puppies and rainbows. Kern warns that there are many obstacles ahead - just more relatable ones than we've seen on the show in the past.

"We're not challenging them with external threats anymore," he says. "We don't want to do that and the audience doesn't want to see it. The engagement period will run through Season 3 and will show that this wonderful romance still needs to grow. There's a difference between being engaged and being married, and there are real world and real couple issues that will be both fun and emotional for Vincent and Catherine to have to work through. We'll tie that into the overall story, leading into the discovery that Vincent and Catherine will have to be at their best in order to survive the season."

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One of those internal struggles will be Catherine's past. "There's nothing like being engaged without it triggering old family issues," Kern says. "Her dad is in prison, her mom isn't there, she died, and she has a sister (Nicole Gale Anderson) who is there, but they have different recollections of their mom. So, we'll use that to delve into Cat's family backstory and a lot of revealing, cool elements that come out and help her grow."

Although this season's story is intended to be more grounded, there will be a new enemy for the season: a threat "that is worthy of Vincent's beastly skills, but not a beast!" Kern says. "The reality is that Reynolds [Ted Whittal] used Vincent to eliminate, we think, all the other beasts and there are only so many beasts Vincent can fight that can look different. So, in looking for new threats, we decided to come up with a story where innocent [people] are being experimented upon to see how far the human being can evolve. It's how they'll react as far as speed, thinking, agility, jumping, strength and what would a human look like in 10,000 years? As we discover more and more of these innocent people, we have to save and not kill them as they're trying to attack Cat and Vincent. We'll then begin to reveal the reason why the people are being experimented upon which will lead us back to our mythology."

Joining Vincent and Catherine in this fight will be the show's other couple, a pairing Kern admits he wasn't sure he wanted to see play out. "I was frankly resistant to the idea of Tess [Nina Lisandrello] and J.T. [Austin Basis] together, but Austin and Nina surprised me and [CW President] Mark Pedowitz with this wonderful chemistry," he says. "It's something we'll be further developing. I look at them as the more relatable couple, and through them we can enjoy the more fantasy, epic couple which is Vincent and Catherine. [Catherine and Tess'] friendship and partnership will actually be tested because of a change in their work relationship, but the goal of the season is to bring the 'Scooby Gang' together — and that includes Heather. They're all a part of a greater destiny and the fun is how each comes to that realization in their own separate ways."

Beauty and the Beast premieres on Thursday, June 11 at 8/7c.

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)

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