Kristina Braverman (Monica Potter) has battled cancer throughout the current fourth season of "Parenthood." On this week's highly-anticipated episode, Kristina's health took a turn for the worse on Christmas Eve and she went into septic shock, leaving fans were worried it could be the end of the line for "Parenthood's" supermom.
Below, Potter talks about Kristina's fate for Season 4, filming that video message for her three TV kids, acting high, being directed by her TV husband, her connection to breast cancer and more.
What was your reaction to finding out Kristina's health would take a turn in this week's episode?
I didn't really know what was going to happen. I mean, I was hoping that she would be OK at the end of the episode, but I wasn't 100 percent sure. The whole season's been sort of like a roller coaster, but the episode itself was a mini roller coaster. I didn't want to do this episode for shock value and ratings. That was the biggest thing for me. I wanted it to be how things really happen. I questioned the whole thing about her condition and can things really turn this quickly? And apparently, they can. I haven't seen the episode yet, but everyone's really proud of it and I think we did a pretty good job.
Were you surprised by the audiences concern that Kristina would die? I read that Jason Katims didn't anticipate the episode being teased in that way.
Oh, I had heard about the promos and stuff because people were texting me and emailing saying, "Are you gonna die? Are you done?" I was like, "I don't know. Why?" [Laughs.] And they said, "Because of the promos for Episode 11." I was like, "I have no idea what you're talking about." So it was heightened for sure and it got people thinking and watching, which is always good. But like I said, I didn't want it to become something where we were baiting the audience. [But] I guess that's what networks have to do.
At what point in shooting the episode did you film the video that Kristina left for Haddie, Max and Nora?
That's funny that you're asking me that because when I saw the schedule I was like, "You guys, are you kidding?" [Laughs.] It was early on in the episode. It was Max's [Burkholder] birthday, November 1 and I remember because I remember taking my kids out for Halloween … and I had to be up early because I knew the workload was kind of heavy. You have these mini-panics, like, "Oh my God. How am I going to do this?" I studied it for a little bit, but then I just put it away because I didn't want it to feel rehearsed. And I'm so glad I did it like that because I feel like the true emotion came through. It was a weird morning. Everything was very quiet and still and there were only a few people on set. I couldn't get through it the first couple of times and then finally, I was like, "Let's go."
Was Peter [Krause] really watching it for the first time on screen or had he seen it previously?
No, he hadn't. That was the first time he was watching it from what I know. So just sitting next to me and having this computer in there, it was weird. I could hear him watching it. I turned my head and at one point, I was crying while I was unconscious. I was like, "Crap. Can't do that." [Laughs.] It was hard. Then I turned my head so it wouldn't be as noticeable. [Laughs.]
A lot of people have said this is their favorite season yet and that's in large part thanks to Kristina's storyline. Were you at all worried it wouldn't be well received?
No, I never worried about that. We just sort of dove in and did it. I didn't want to make it melodramatic. I just wanted to make it very realistic and it's really strange because a lot of people that I've grown up with and women that I know now have gone through this and some have done really well and others have not done so well.
I just got a call from my friend last night about a girl I grew up with that had breast cancer and it was in remission. Then, last Friday, it had spread to her lungs and her brain. So that was just last night. Obviously, a lot of women survive this, but, you know, some don't. And when it hit home like that, you just think, "Oh my god. I was on cheerleading with this girl and I worked with this girl at the flower shop and our families were very close." It's very strange and it's not unusual.
So I guess I never thought about how it would be received, I just wanted to make sure it was done in a really, really realistic way. And adding humor and joy to it as well. I think, because the scenes are so heavy, those moments have to be there.
Like when Julia [Erika Christensen] came over to ask Kristina for some motherly advice and she was high.
[Laughs.] That was the most fun. But that was also a hard scene to do because I wasn't high. [Laughs.] Obviously. It would have been really fun if I was, but I don't have pot. [Laughs.] But I'm so glad that they did that scene and I'm so glad that that was the only scene I was in I think in that episode because it stood alone. That's part of what happens when you're going through chemo and also what happens when you're a mom and having these real conversations with your sister-in-law and all this stuff. It just gave it some much-needed realistic components to a storyline that was so tough.
I talked to Max Burkholder last week and he thought it was hilarious.
[Laughs.] You know, I asked my boys [22-year-old Daniel and 18-year-old Liam] to watch it and they're like, "That was really realistic." And I said, "How do you know?" They're like, "We just know." Not that I'm saying my kids do that, but they watch movies. [Laughs.]
It was so nice to see Sarah Ramos back at the end of the episode. Will we see more of Haddie when the show returns in January or is there a time jump?
Episode 12 is my favorite episode. They've all been really wonderful, but Dax Sherpard directed it. There's definitely a time jump because the last we saw Kristina she was in the hospital and very, very sick. The next episode, you see her going out with the girls, getting out of the house and trying to have fun with Julia and Jasmine [Joy Bryant] and Sarah [Lauren Graham] and wanting to feel like she's normal again. It's sort of heartbreaking to see what happens when she does try to act normal and go out. That's a very rich episode and it's my favorite also for personal reasons, just because I happen to love Dax. He pushed me a lot and I liked that. There's not one flat line of emotion; it's everywhere.
And Peter Krause told me he directed Episode 13 and he directed another episode last season too. What's it like being directed by your co-stars?
I'm not gonna lie, it's kinda weird. With Peter, I feel like we're such a team so when he's directing, I'm like, "Wait a second. Don't do both. I feel like you're leaving me here hanging." And I told him that. I said, "I like that you direct, but it's so awkward when you direct me." But I kinda thought, "Well, we kind of do that anyway." When we're working and someone else is directing, we'll say, "Well, what if we do this? What if we do that?" But Peter did a great job. He did a really, really great job.
Kristina going into septic shock in last night's episode was due to her body's reaction to the chemo. So that doesn't mean everything's all good with her in regards to the cancer?
No, not at all. Oh no, not by any stretch. You see in Episode 15 that it can go either way. So that's the episode that I'm most concerned about.
I loved the scene with Camille [Bonnie Bedilia] and Kristina this season, but it didn't sit right with me that Kristina's mom wouldn't come see her. I felt like I couldn't understand why because we don't know much about the in-laws on "Parenthood."
I think the writers purposefully did that because if you bring three more characters into the mix -- say, her mom and her dad and her sister -- we have such a big cast anyway that it would be hard to fit that storyline in. It's been sprinkled throughout the last few seasons -- there's been mention of her dad -- but I think the less you know about Kristina's family the better. I mean, I made a whole backstory for her for myself because that's all I had to go on. But I think that's part of the reason she's so locked to the Bravermans because she really doesn't have that connection with her family and she doesn't have a mom or a dad that really care too much.
She's such a good mom though.
I think that's why. I think she just totally veered the other way and said, "I'm not going to do this with my kids." I see a lot of that with people that I know. It was hard actually because I really love my mom so doing that scene I had to think about Kristina being from a broken family. I wrote three pages about it to pull from. She's just so holding on to the Bravermans as hard as she can.
What have you loved about playing Kristina this season?
Gosh, everything. I love the moments that are a little bit lighter in tone. I love the moments that are just raw. I love everything. I love the fact that everybody rallies around her. You know, it was hard because I felt guilty. I told ["Parenthood" director] Larry Trilling this. I was like, "There's a fine line. Sometimes, I feel like I am sick and then I feel guilty because I'm not sick." There are moms at school that are coming up to me, giving me hugs, saying, "Are you OK?" Psychologically it's been weird. It's been really weird. I definitely have been mentally, a little bit off. [Laughs.] It messes with your head.
Should the show -- fingers crossed -- come back for a fifth season, what do you hope for Kristina and her family?
I think that since they've gone through this, for sure, their bond has never been stronger. I would hope that for poor Kristina, we'd see a lot of funnier moments next season. I like to do comedy and I think that'd be a lot of fun to show another side of her and just show her celebrating life.
Having gone through this, I think she'd be the type to loosen up.
I 100 percent agree. That's exactly what I mean. She's always been sort of the cautious one, the meddler, the this and the that and it always came from a place of wanting to protect people. I also feel like going through this she's going to become a lot looser next year and, like Jason said, she won't sweat the small things as much. I think for me as a person I'll be able to relate to that a lot too.
"Parenthood" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on NBC.