Does 'Parenthood' Make Even Craig T. Nelson Cry?
Craig T. Nelson at NBCUniversal's 2013 Summer TCA Tour in Beverly Hills, California (Valerie Macon/Getty Images)
NBC's "Parenthood" is many things: a finely crafted and achingly authentic family drama; a triumph of ensemble casting; the best hour-long series on network TV. But mostly, it's a relentless tear-jerking machine, turning us all into blubbering messes on a weekly basis. (Last season's Christmas episode, with a cancer-stricken Kristina recording a video for her kids? We're still not ready to talk about that.)
We thought if anyone might be immune to "Parenthood's" cry scenes, it'd be TV veteran Craig T. Nelson, who's a pillar of stoicism as Braverman patriarch Zeek. But nope: As he confessed to Yahoo TV last month during NBC's summer press tour, even he tears up while watching "Parenthood."
"All the time. Yeah, it really touches me sometime. Hell, while we're doing a scene, I'll get it. Sometimes it's so close that I can't do it. I can't pull it off. I'll have to make a change," he admits, crediting the show's writers (led by creator Jason Katims, whose "Friday Night Lights" also made us sob uncontrollably) with constructing a TV family that hits painfully close to home. "Some of it is really, really close. I mean, I've got these kids. I've got a Crosby. I've got an Adam. And I've certainly got a Sarah. I've always thought, 'There's someone spying on my life!'"
Pictured: (l-r) Monica Potter, Sam Jaeger, Dax Shepard, Peter Krause, Mae Whitman, Craig T. Nelson, Lauren Graham, Max Burkholder, Erika Christensen, Joy Bryant, Jason Katims, Executive Producer of "Parenthood"
Another element that adds to "Parenthood's" naturalistic feel: the overlapping cross-talk of the family scenes, which comes from plenty of on-set improvisation. "A lot of people tell me, 'I can't keep up with it. Everybody's talking,'" Nelson says. "And I say, 'Well, listen more.' A portrayal of a family like the Bravermans, it's almost essential that you have that. There's a lot of dysfunction, there's a lot of rage and anger and temper, and there's a lot of funny things going on, too. So it is a cacophony at times. And then it gets very mellow and has its quiet moments."