When "Parenthood" (Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC) viewers haven't been crying over Kristina's devastating breast cancer, they've been caught up in the budding love triangle between Sarah (Lauren Graham), her fiance Mark (Jason Ritter) and her photographer boss Hank (Ray Romano).
After a darkroom kiss -- which Hank initiated, but Sarah didn't stop -- she can't sleep and has decided to move herself and her high schooler son Drew (Miles Heizer) in with Mark. In the upcoming episode, "I'll Be Right Here," Drew's not happy about the move and Sarah opens up to her brother Adam (Peter Krause) about the kiss.
Below, Graham discusses her excitement about working with Romano -- whom she knows from their early days -- and Romano opens up about improv-ing with Graham, playing Ritter's rival and when everything will blow up in their faces.
Lauren, what was your reaction when you found out that there would be a character coming in between Sarah and Mark?
Graham: Well, I can just tell you that I had heard that Ray and Jason Katims [the show's creator and executive producer] had been talking and I jumped on that bandwagon too. I very much wanted Ray to be on the show and very much wanted to work with him. I didn't really know what that would look like, but I was a huge fan of "[Everybody Loves] Raymond," but also "Men of a Certain Age" and I knew he could do something really interesting and that this show would be a really good place for him. Sarah is sort of a character where every year, at the end of the year, I'm like, "What's going to happen next year?" I'm sort of untethered in a way that sometimes feels bad. I'm the only one that doesn't have a set family unit in a way so I rely on a new character like that to move things forward and I knew he would be amazing and I was right.
Romano: And just a little tidbit is our paths crossed in New York at The Improv.
Graham: That's right! [Laughs.] Well, our paths have crossed in so many ways, but I was a cocktail waitress at the comedy club The Improv when Ray was just kind of starting out.
Romano: Yeah. It was about two or three years in, when I was just starting stand-up.
Graham: So that's where it all began. [Laughs.]
Ray, what made you want to be a part of "Parenthood?"
Romano: Well, I actually kind of requested the role. I was a fan of the show and I knew Jason Katims. It was after the finale of last season that I just called and left a message on his answering machine, just telling him how great I thought it was. Then I kind of half-jokingly said, "I'm not working now and I work cheap." It's kind of one of those things comedians do: They half-joke, but that's what they mean for real. But I really didn't think anything would come of it and he called me back and he said, "Are you serious?" And I said, "Kind of," meaning yes. We talked about what I could do and then he ran his idea by me and I said, "Yeah. Sounds great."
What was Jason Ritter's reaction to finding out there'd be someone in the middle of Mark and Sarah? He's said he gets jealous of Lauren's other "Parenthood" boyfriends.
Graham: Ritter sent me a text that was like, "Everybody doesn't really love Raymond, right?" There have been lots of plays on words.
You know, this is a show that people come to and love. As actors, we get a wide berth in terms of contribution and improvisation. I've never seen someone guest on the show and not want to stay. We've have an unusual history with Ritter, who Katims liked so much, he did a pilot for him -- and so, we kind of don't know year to year, and he doesn't know, if he's coming back. We really don't know what's going to happen in any of the relationships between these characters just yet.
We see in the upcoming episode that Sarah talks to Adam about what happened between her and Hank. As a viewer, it seemed like the kiss took her by surprise -- at that point, she either didn't have feelings for him or was still processing what her feelings were for him. So what does she tell Adam and what is she thinking?
Graham: I think she's processing. I think they had a relationship that she would not have defined as anything in particular. I think in that conversation with Adam she's just literally reporting the news. But the fact that it has stayed with her, what that episode is about, is kind of allowing the idea in that she has some feelings. It's not really defined yet, but something is unsettled.
That's why she's trying to move things along with Mark.
Graham: This is a person who has a history of not really making the right decision. And I think it sort of feels like even though she didn't go outside the lines by instigating a kiss, she went outside the lines to have received it. So she's trying to pull it back to the road she was on, but once you've seen the other road, it's hard. [Laughs.] It should just feel like chaos. That's what's happening. Things are going in this chaotic direction once again for someone who's tried to so hard to settle down.
How does what's going on with Kristina affect Sarah? Does she feel bad about laying this on Adam?
Graham: It's a trickle down, like it would in any family. That's something we really don't know yet either, but it's devastating. It's devastating to everyone in their own way. It's definitely the central occurrence of the year so we'll see what happens.
Since Drew's still in high school, he's kind of just along for the ride. Sarah tells him they're moving in with Mark and he's going to push back. How will that affect their relationship?
Graham: I mean, it creates conflict. Sarah's trying to take care of herself and tells herself she's doing the right thing for her kid and she thinks she is, but maybe she isn't. He's growing up and there's some of that she doesn't want to accept.
It's this thing where the kiss that sort of derailed you for one second then has this house-of-cards effect where she's making decisions that are maybe being rushed and everyone is thrown into a certain amount of chaos just because of this one diversion. And I think that's very real.
Going into the season, I think a lot of viewers wanted to dislike Hank because it had taken so long for Sarah to get to a happy, settled place and he's shaking things up. But he has a likable factor. Ray, how did you approach the role and his dichotomy?
Romano: Well, when Jason Katims told me who the guy was, we kind of talked about it before the first episode. This is going to sound hokey and corny and all that crap, but I actually wrote a backstory for the guy. And believe me, I'm the least actor-y. I don't know anything.
Graham: That was a very actor-y thing to do.
Romano: Yeah, I know. But I'm just saying, I don't even know what I'm doing. This has seemed to work for me in other roles, which have failed. [Laughs.] It worked for "Men of a Certain Age," which is no longer on the air and also, for some small movies that no one will ever see.
But I did it for this guy. And he kind of was a hybrid of a couple people I know.Then you kind of bring yourself into it. I kind of just figured out where the guy's been and what's bothering him and what's tormenting him. And you don't know: Is it going to work? Is it going to be the right thing?
That first day with Lauren on the set I didn't know if this was the kind of tone that fits for this guy. And believe me, I love hating my stuff. But when they showed me a cut of the first day ... First of all, I just love the way they edited it and I love the way it looks and I love the way they film it. You can do so much with execution. And they just did it. It all kind of fit. And so far, I've been lucky. It's all going to go away.
Graham: Everything good has to end.
Romano: That's true. It's a circle though. It's a circle. [Laughs.]
We saw Sarah discover some work from Hank's past and he didn't want to talk about it. Will that come to light?
Romano: I hope so. I kind of don't know, but I hope we get into this guy and what his passion is. Because as much as I'm reading good things about it, we've just got to keep showing hopefully what's good about this guy because sooner or later, the audience is going to say, "Enough of this."
Graham: I feel the same way. We have to make sure this isn't just another, "I'm going to wreck the happiness I have." It has to feel motivated.
Romano: I remember when I found out that there was going to be a little more between Hank and Sarah. I called up Jason Katims and I said, "Listen. If I'm going to get in the middle of this thing with Jason Ritter, please, we've got to make sure we see something that she sees in this guy. Please, give the audience something to hang on to." [Laughs.]
"Parenthood" has such a huge cast. Even you, Lauren, don't even get to do scenes with everybody. Is there anyone either of you wish you had the opportunity to work with more?
Romano: First of all, I love doing these scenes with Lauren because it is a loose set there. They write these things very tight. You could do the scripts word-for-word, but they allow the actor to go. And I think the person that goes the most is you, Lauren. Am I correct? [Laughs.]
Graham: I think you're correct.
Romano: And I'm saying that in a good way. So that's great and I know we have a couple scenes coming up where we'll be able to do a bunch of that so that's good. I will say this though: I got a lot of feedback on my scene with Max in that first episode. I was amazed! Because first of all, I thought I blew the scene. I thought, "Eh. I kinda stunk in that scene." And I was amazed at the number of people that connected with that and reacted to it. People were kind of commenting, "I bet we find out Hank has Asperger's." I'd love to act with any of the guys, but I'd be curious to see Hank interact with Max again.
What can you say about those upcoming scenes that will allow for a lot of improvisation?
Graham: We have a big couple episodes coming up where Hank and Sarah and Mark all sort of confront each other. We haven't shot any of it yet, but I'm really interested to see how it goes. It definitely heats up.
Romano: Yeah, it does kind of reach a point in the next episode we film that's going to be interesting.
Fans have been going crazy over recent guest spot reunions, like recently on "The Good Wife" and "Don't Trust The B---- in Apartment 23." Lauren, have you talked to Alexis Bledel about doing a "Gilmore Girls" reunion on "Parenthood?"
Graham: I, as a viewer, don't like that. [Laughs.] I don't like when my world is confused like that. On the other hand, I'm guesting on Matthew Perry's show "Go On" in a few weeks, [who Graham worked with and reportedly dated]. I hope that doesn't seem weird, but I'm friends with people over there so it felt OK to me.
But, no, I haven't talked to her about that. I'm not sure what it would take to have that happen. I mean, if this was a show I created or if I was a producer, I would bring any number of those people back on: Kelly Bishop is working right now anyway, who played my mom and Ed Herrmann who I love. They're some people I hope to work with again, somehow, somewhere.
"Parenthood" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.