"Mae and I both, within the first couple of episodes, thought that we had really landed on something special," Lauria tells TVGuide.com. "So we both put our whole hearts into it."
Thankfully, this was no instance of puppy love. In the final moments of last Thursday's season premiere of the heartwarming family drama, Ryan returned home from military duty and proposed to Amber. "Everything is fuzzy, figuratively, and blurred and confusing and then Ryan sees the one warm sweet face that seems like a semblance of home and normalcy and comfort and, in that moment, he just knows that he has to secure her for the rest of his life," Lauria says. "I think it was a spur of the moment thing."
However, this spur of the moment decision was a long time coming, at least in the eyes of Lauria's co-star, who planted the seed with showrunner Jason Katims when filming Amber and Ryan's spontaneous beach excursion last year. "I think Mae grabbed him and, while waiting in the van, she was having this really excited, impassioned conversation with him where she was using hand gestures," he recalls. "She was really trying to sell the idea of us getting engaged."
Break out the Kleenex and re-watch the proposal here:
Whitman was far from the only one rooting for Ryan and Amber — or "Ryber" as they are so affectionately called on social media. Lauria was originally only set to appear in several episodes last year, but his budding relationship with Amber quickly stole fans' hearts and he remained a fixture for most of Season 4. "When [Amber] was 16 or 17, there were a lot of different guys and a lot of darkness and a lot of confusion," Whitman says. "Right when she started to get on track with her own life, all of a sudden from nowhere comes this completely different guy. ... He's so different and quiet and strong."
Although Lauria knew the couple had struck a chord with fans, he was largely uncertain how, or if, Ryan would factor into Season 5. "I figured that they would need me for at least one or two episodes if they wanted to tie up the story line and ship him off somewhere, but I'm glad they gave us a chance to deepen the relationship even more," Lauria says. "It was such a long time after we wrapped up last season, so I'm just grateful that all the pieces came together harmoniously. It just was meant to be."
After years of seeing her character flirt with danger time and time again — see: her relationships with Haddie's boyfriend in Season 1 and her and Kristina's boss in Season 3 — Whitman is excited to see Amber settle down. "[Last season] was one of the first years that we got to see Amber really happy and just enjoy her life, and I just loved the idea of that and I loved the idea of her having a partner," Whitman says. "I think it's beautiful and great to watch how they help each other grow."
But will they be able to grow together? "As Amber's career moves forward too, you have two individuals who are needing to, and wanting to, grow as individuals and then trying to find some solid ground and a strong foundation that can be shared amidst that individual growth," Lauria says. "I feel like there's a myriad of challenges that could come from this story line."
Those challenges also include telling the Braverman clan that Ryan is putting a ring on it. "There's going to be some shock and surprise and concern. Anything that abrupt in a relationship is met with certain amounts of trepidation," Lauria says. "It's not just convincing others, but making sure that it's the right decision within the relationship between the two of us."
In fact, Amber and Ryan's biggest hurdle may be Ryan himself as he struggles to re-acclimate to life in Berkeley and away from the combat zone. "From what I've heard from veterans, there's this disconnect," Lauria says. "If you've been somewhere living under certain conditions for six months, 12 months, you're accustomed to that. You're accustomed not only to your lifestyle and routine, but what is expected of you and what your responsibilities are. Then there's that shock of returning and immediately having to adjust to being the person who left, whom people are familiar with.
"They know that you're going to be dealing with struggles and overcoming struggles, but they still expect you to be, basically, the same individual."
Parenthood airs Thursdays at 10/9c on NBC. Are you happy that Amber and Ryan got engaged? Do you think they'll make it down the aisle?