My Parenthood-related predisposition towards tears will be tested like never before in tonight's all-new episode, which picks up following the shocking revelation that Kristina Braverman will battle breast cancer this season. And only one man was capable of directing such a deeply personal and hugely important episode: series star Sam Jaeger!
The only downside to Sam taking the reigns for tonight's episode is that we'll get far less of Joel & Julia's storyline -- although, as Sam told me, there are major bumps ahead in the coming weeks for the newly adoptive parents.
TheInsider.com: First of all, prepare me for the quantity of tears that will be shed in tonight's episode.
Sam Jaeger: Oh man, [the writers] have it down to science now. When I read a scene between Monica Potter and Peter Krause, I know it's always going to make fans emotional. Especially tonight's episode. Her work is unbelievable. Monica Potter is the best crier on television – the woman is such an emotionally available actress and that's why they were able to tell this story through her so successfully.
Insider.com: What was important to you when preparing to direct the episode?
Sam: My whole goal was to empower [Monica] and alleviate any pressure she might feel so she could focus on the story. It's so exciting to be a part of the work she does tonight. The episode is also the first moment we've had to truly discuss the issue. And since we have a whole season to go through this battle, it was important we set the tone right. From the writing on down, this is a storyline everyone will relate to.
Insider.com: Typically when actors direct episodes of their own shows, it means their characters disappear for the episode. Is that true of Joel and Julia tonight?
Sam: Strangely enough, not by any will of their own, it was an extremely light Joel and Julia episode. I don't know if anyone planned that, but it was pretty easy. I'm used to directing, acting and catering on the other projects I've directed, so it was a relief to only focus on one thing here.
Insider.com: I have to say, I loved how the show gave Joel and Julia exactly what they wanted ... but in a way they weren't quite ready for.
Sam: Me too, I think it was a real stoke of genius. Victor is such a complex character and it's really heartbreaking how this boy comes into our lives. But if anybody can handle this, it's the Braverman family. Victor is now in an extremely loving family, but that doesn't mean it will be easy. There are storylines coming up that show how complex and convoluted adoption can really be.
Insider.com: We've already seen this a bit, but how does Victor continue to change Joel and Julia's relationship?
Sam: In some ways, we move forward, but in a lot of ways – as you'll see coming up – they begin to revert back to some old habits and the family dynamic shifts in a big way. The family life affects the work life, and vice versa. We'll start to see how complex this new relationship with Victor is for Joel, Julia and their marriage. I love watching two people that are so earnest in what they’re doing, but still failing. It's so honest.
Insider.com: It must be exciting that your characters can still be shaken up so much in season four.
Sam: I've said this from day one – I'm thankful for any job, but I'm glad I'm not on a cop show listing DNA samples of sperm. Seven seasons of lifting it up and holding it to the light would be boring. We get to grow with our characters and it's exciting to see how they evolve. It's funny to see that alongside the actors as well. When we started, our daughter (played by Savannah Paige Rae) was just a little girl. Now she's 10 years old and it's amazing watching these kids grow up on the show.
Insider.com: It's like you guys are like running a TV orphanage over there -- between Savannah, Max Burkholder, Miles Heizer, Mae Whitman, Tyree Brown and Sarah Ramos, every age group is constantly represented!
Sam: [laughs] It's so true! And I was worried with Victor we almost jumped the shark, like The Cosby Show, where they brought in a new cousin every season. Hopefully this is the last addition for a while, but I don't have a crystal ball, so...