"You definitely see that this adoption is tearing this couple apart," Jaeger told HuffPost TV via phone. "This week, things really come to a head."
Below, Jaeger discusses more about Victor's fate, Matt Lauria's return, which awkward "Parenthood" scene rang true for him, why he's OK with not being as perfect as Joel and much more.
(Click here for more from Jaeger's TV wife Erika Christensen)
When you learned of the story arc for Joel and Julia with Victor this season, what did you think? Did you have any concerns?
I was actually really relieved. Our creator Jason Katims is one of those rare creators -- most can be dictators and once they've got their vision, sometimes it's hard to get another through -- but Jason is that rare leader of our group, who really feels that the best way to get the team to create the best work is by empowering them. So we got to talk about where the story was going to go and how things with Victor would unfold before the season started.
I'm really thankful that this show has a lot of complications. Victor has highs and lows throughout the season in regards to his adapting to this family and it's messy, just like not only parenting is, but particularly, adoption. You take in this person who's not your blood and give as much love [as you can] to and that's a difficult situation for anyone involved.
When the woman from the adoption agency stopped by, we saw that Joel and Julia are in different places. Is this going to affect their marriage?
Yeah, I think so. When there's a question this big looming in any couple's life, it can only cause a lot of friction and they are clearly not on the same page here and they need to get on the same page pretty quickly. These next couple of weeks are about them trying to come to terms with their decision yet to be made and thankfully, unlike some seasons previously, we've known that we were going to have this many episodes so the writers and Jason took the care to make sure that this was, in a sense, wrapped up as fulfillingly as possible. I'm really excited to share with our fans what happens at the end of this season.
Joel is incredibly understanding and patient, but this just a really difficult situation. I actually think he's too perfect. Is this the situation that is going to kind of crack him?
[Laughs.] I've heard that for years! I've been trying to live up to Joel. One of the questions I get asked most is, does my wife get pissed that I'm not more like Joel? And the answer is surprisingly no. She had very low expectations for me going into our marriage so the fact that I've surpassed that level is a success story on her part.
But I think he is the patient one and I think it takes a patient person to marry a Braverman. [Laughs.] When there's a family this dynamic that's so full of these really passionate people, there's always the in-law, kind of on the outside looking in, who is the patient one, who is the one who tries to see the throughline and I think that happens in a strong relationship, too -- if there's someone who's more frenetic, then there needs to be a stable one.
I won't say Joel cracks -- he doesn't go on a rampage or anything like that. [Laughs.] But you definitely see that this adoption is tearing this couple apart and in the second-to-last episode this week, things really come to a head.
Matt Lauria, who plays Ryan, also comes back in this week's episode. Will he finally apologize to Joel?
[Laughs.] Yeah, but the question is: Is it too little too late? So there is an apology scene and then there's another scene beyond that. But I really like their dynamic because for one, it's nice to see what Joel's life is like beyond the Braverman home and two, I think Matt's character Ryan is in many ways Joel's equal. He has a lot of issues, but is kind of the younger version of what Joel turned into.
So you were happy to learn that Joel was going back to work this season?
I was. I think it was an interesting storyline to see Julia really struggle with being at home. I know a lot of mothers who define themselves by their success or failure in the home, so to speak. I think there's a lot of pressure on mothers -- it's not enough to be a great mother now; you have to be a great mother and a great professional. So I think seeing Julia struggle with how to define herself has been really exciting.
The storyline with Ryan and Joel led to more scenes for you and Mae Whitman. Is there anyone else you wish you worked with more?
I loved working with Mae. Everything she does is so fresh and fun. I love working with Craig [T. Nelson] too because just like with Mae, you never know what you're going to get from Craig. At this point, I've been on the show for so long. In the past, I always worried about my position on the show and where Joel was going and what I was going to do; now, I'm just so thankful to be on this show. I mean, it is so rare to be doing the job that you love. I think this is one of three jobs I've had in my entire career that I can legitimately say I'm proud of so I have no other hope beyond getting another season or two to tell the Bravermans' story.
Do you guys do anything to keep the mood light on set? That "Girl On TV" music video was pretty great.
[Laughs.] Well, one of the great things about this cast is they're some of the funniest people I've been around. Monica Potter has this huge, tremendous responsibility this season and yet -- thank God -- she has such an incredible sense of humor. I think even when you're dealing with an issue as big as breast cancer, even survivors would say that humor is one of the only ways to get through some of the hardships and man, I just laugh my ass off on set all day. We have a great time putting out really, really depressing material for all of you. [Laughs.] I would say that the show is about the fact that the Bravermans do endure. At the end, there's always some kind of uplift, which I think separates our show from a lot of the other great shows on television. It doesn't hurt to have some happy endings every once in a while.
You also directed an episode this season for the first time, which did deal a lot with Kristina's cancer ["Everything Is Not Okay"]. What was that experience like?
It's not as different as you would think because it is such a collaborative show to begin with. A lot of our days start with talking through scenes as a group with the director and the other actors in the scene so it's kind of like there's just one less person collaborating. [Laughs.] But it was kind of my responsibility to keep Jason's spirit alive in what we were doing. I directed an independent film called "Take Me Home" and there is a difference, which is, with "Parenthood," I'm trying to lend my voice to someone else's vision and I tried to do that as good as possible. It's so much easier to fulfill that when the cast is so good. They create this world that I just have to navigate here and there so I look forward to doing it again.
Has anything ever happened in your life, maybe as a husband or as a father, that you wanted to incorporate into the show?
I don't know if there's anything directly that's gone in the show because my son is much younger than my children on the show and my step-daughter is much older, but there have been moments on the show where I realized that we were doing a scene that happened to me directly. When my step-daughter was about seven or eight, I remember her asking specifically, "How do babies get born?" Her mother wasn't going to lie to her and say, "This is 'hoo hoo' and this is 'na na.'" So she said, "There's a penis and a vagina and that's how it happens." We were on a car trip and my daughter just said, "So ... Mom, I get that the sperm goes into the egg, but how does it get there?" [Laughs.] And my wife and I knew she had just put us in a huge corner and it was almost identical to the show: The only thing we could do was turn up the radio. [Laughs.]
What are your hopes for Joel in Season 5, should there be one?
I just have hopes for Season 5. I don't have any specific aim. [Laughs.] I don't know. I'm wondering where the storyline with Victor would be come September, but really, I just hope these Bravermans stay alive for another season.
You have a couple movies coming out soon too.
Yeah. I'm going out to Sundance for this indie film with Jessica Biel called "Emanuel and the Truth about Fishes," which is a really unusual story. I play Jessica's estranged husband. It's just a small scene, but it's pretty integral to the plot so that was fun to do.
And the other movie I got to do was the Spike Jonze movie "Her." It's been one of my dreams to be in that guy's movies. They are just so wonderfully bizarre and this was no exception. Actually, for the longest time, it was called "The Howard Something Something Project" and there were rumors that Charlie Kaufman had written it so it was all shrouded, what this movie would be about. The whole making of it was as strange as the film itself. [Laughs.] But it was fun to do.
"Parenthood" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on NBC.