Good Trouble, the spin-off of The Fosters, one of Freeform's flagship dramas, takes its title from a quote by Senator John Lewis. It represents the rebel spirit that yearns to do good embodied by the show's lead characters, Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez).
The new series finds the Adams-Fosters ladies freshly graduated from college and moving into their first big girl apartment together in downtown Los Angeles. Callie has secured a job as a clerk for a conservative federal judge, while Mariana is starting at the ground level of an L.A.-based tech company. As they are no longer living under the ever watchful eyes of their moms, the twosome naturally waste no time getting themselves into, well, trouble — but it remains to be seen whether it can be classified as good or not.
The mere fact that the young women are now in their early 20s allows the series to tell different stories than The Fosters, which was a traditional family drama about an untraditional family. Callie and Mariana are still the women the established fan base knows well, but Good Trouble will tell their stories in a completely different light.
"There's something about having the safety of those four walls at home — that once you age and grow up and go into the world, that safety net is completely gone," executive producer Bradley Bredeweg tells TV Guide of the new dynamic. "You're on your own. You're raw and you're faced with these very complicated truths. I think you fall on your face in your early 20s more than you were ever used to or thought would happen."
The tone of Good Trouble also reflects the chaos of Callie's and Mariana's young adult lives as they learn to survive on their own for the first time.
"We didn't set out to change the tone. That wasn't the drive. It wasn't, 'Oh, let's do it differently.' It was, 'What are the stories that we want to tell? What's the world we want to explore?' and then it was, "OK, what is the most interesting way to tell those stories?'" executive producer Peter Paige adds. " That birthed the new tone, which is brighter and funnier and messier and sexier and dirtier. It's all of those things that, frankly, life is in your 20s."
There's more art, including a flashy new opening credit sequence that is drastically different from the opening to The Fosters, but the show also uses camera tricks and storytelling devices that were never used on the parent series too. We're meeting Callie and Mariana at a different point in their lives, and the technical aspects of Good Trouble are growing with them.
"What's great about dealing with kids in their 20s coming into downtown Los Angeles is that they're creating their new lives," Joanna Johnson, also an executive producer on the series, explains. "We really wanted the style of the show to really match that dynamic — to have that energy. We're doing a lot of interesting camera work that's untraditional and doesn't follow the rules of basic filmmaking. That's because in your 20s you don't really want to follow the rules."
There will still be notes that feel very familiar to fans of The Fosters, of course, but it's also clear that Callie and Mariana are forging a new path. They will explore their sexuality more — be careful watching the first episode with your parents, FYI — as well as making bigger mistakes than they've ever made before.
"[In your 20s], you are suddenly are faced with the entirety of what your life can be with all the amazing things that go along with that, but also the really terrifying ones and the really hard ones," Paige says. "That's what we really wanted this show to be about, with the same kind of ethos and heart that The Fosters always had, the same notion that for anyone that has ever been marginalized, the political is very personal. With that same beating heart intact, we wanted to explore the hot mess of life in your 20s."
The newfound freedom of the characters echoes the freedom the writers have to tell their stories as well, whether it's tackling a social justice issue on a different level, or a different perspective, or simply being real about the struggle to make it on your own. As the characters grow up, so do the stories of their lives. Good Trouble is there to capture that strife.
"We told pretty brave stories on The Fosters, but there's no moms to save the day. There's no one telling you it's going to be OK. You have to go find somebody who sees you and gets you to support you on that journey," Paige tells us. "That freed us up for them to make bigger mistakes, have bigger victories, surround themselves with people on similar journeys. I am so excited what this soup cooked up to be."
Good Trouble premieres Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 8/7c on Freeform, but you can stream the first episode now on Hulu.