If you've watched 7th Heaven over its 11-season run — or even caught a glimpse of one episode — you know that the Camdens aren't just about achieving family harmony but about helping the entire community that surrounds them. This week's new episode (Sunday at 8 pm/ET, on the CW) is no exception. In fact, it covers a pressing issue that we've been hearing about every day: Darfur — a topic so devastating, it's a real departure from the common troubles we usually see on this family drama. Filled with information about the crisis abroad, executive producer Brenda Hampton spoke with TVGuide.com about the motivation behind this episode, 7th Heaven's again-uncertain fate, and saying goodbye to some of our favorite Camdens.
TVGuide.com: I just watched the Darfur episode, and it's amazing how much dialogue can come from food. Why was it important to you to cover this topic?
Brenda Hampton: It's important to the world. It's the No. 1 topic right now; I think it should be, anyway. And Catherine Hicks brought the attention of 7th Heaven to Catholics in the media, so it came about by trying to, in turn, shed light on Catherine and what she's doing with the Catholic Church in regards to Darfur.
TVGuide.com: Was it difficult to construct a script about such a serious issue? Because there's this line between entertainment and wanting your audience to listen to something so informative.
Hampton: Right. Well, we have a lot of experience doing this at 7th Heaven. We've been doing this for 11 seasons now, and every year, we bring light to a number of issues.
TVGuide.com: You even had the little kids participating. Did you talk to them about the situation while they were learning the script?
Hampton: No, I would assume that their teacher or their parents did, but we did actually do what we wrote in the script. We sent $50 through Nicodemus [A. Lim] to his friend, who's a Lost Boy, Andrew, just to see if we could get it to Darfur, and we were able to do that. We had already put it in the story line when we decided that we'd better test out the theory! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: It's great that you actually did that. A lot of questions also arose in the episode about what was really happening in Darfur, and how people here could help. Were those questions that you had and wanted to get across?
Hampton: Those are things that I know, and they are things that we researched to make sure I was correct. [Laughs] But yes, I'm well aware of the situation and of the efforts being made by a number of groups. Unfortunately, we weren't able to mention all of them, but we did suggest a number of ways that people can help if they want to.
TVGuide.com: I hope people really take note of that and use that information.
Hampton: I hope so, too! I hope the story's interesting enough that they will get interested and end the issue this time.
TVGuide.com: The photos of people in Darfur, featured at the end of the episode, were really effective, as well.
Hampton: And there is an actual picture of Andrew at the Western Union picking up the money, I don't know if you noticed.
TVGuide.com: I'll have to go back and look for that!
Hampton: I think there's also a picture of the people that he gave it to, but I'm not sure about that. We'll have to see if that one made the final cut. We're many episodes past that at this point [in production].
TVGuide.com: Well, I definitely think it's a strong episode, and I hope it's well received.
Hampton: Thanks! I hope a lot of people watch. Regardless of your politics, I think this goes beyond that and is a humanitarian issue that everyone can do something [about] — if they want to do something.
TVGuide.com: That's always the message of 7th Heaven, no matter what the topic is.
Hampton: We try to do something that's uplifting every week. This is just a bigger issue than most.
TVGuide.com: When I spoke with Beverley Mitchell in September, she expressed how happy everyone was to have 7th Heaven return. Will it continue after this season?
Hampton: We don't know anything yet. I don't imagine we'll know until the CW takes a look at the season's ratings, their other new pilots, and the possibility of who will come back and who would not be available.
TVGuide.com: So there may not be a decision until spring?
Hampton: Right. As far as I know.
TVGuide.com: Will we see more new people come onto the show in the second half of this season? More kids needing a home?
Hampton: We have all the new children and young adults. That's it for the season, and it's not the first time we've brought in people. We've had to do that throughout the run, because we've lost cast members.
TVGuide.com: Will Stephen Collins be leaving the show because of Eric's heart condition and his diagnosis of having six months to live?
Hampton: I think we won't know that quite yet, either! [Laughs]
TVGuide.com: But will more be happening with that story?
Hampton: Yes. That's a story line that continues to the very end of the season.
TVGuide.com: And how about Simon?
Hampton: David Gallagher is very happy at school right now, so I don't think we'll see him this season. We would always welcome him back and we love to have him, but he's finishing up college this year, and that's probably more important.
TVGuide.com: Sometimes it's hard to see the original cast members fade away or grow up. Like Mackenzie Rosman — she was so small when the show began, and now she's involved in story lines about sex!
Hampton: It's been on a long time, and we like to keep as many of the original cast as we can, but that's just not possible. We always like to have them stop by or come in for an episode when they can and if they will, but we have to go on!
For an exclusive look at the next episode of the CW's Smallville, pick up the Jan. 15 issue of TV Guide, now on newsstands.
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