On "Parenthood," Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel (Sam Jaeger) have been struggling with adopting 9-year-old Victor (Xolo Mariduena), who's made it more than clear that he's not a fan of his new mom. (He called child services on Julia, continues to compare her to his "real mom" and refuses to eat anything she cooks.)
When we left them at the end of last week's episode, it was clear Joel and Julia were not in agreement about whether or not to proceed with the adoption, especially after he threw a bat at their birth daughter Sydney (Savannah Paige Rae).
(Click here for more from Christensen's TV husband, Sam Jaeger.)
Below, Erika Christensen opens up to HuffPost TV about whether or not Joel and Julia will get on the same page by the end of Season 4, why Mae Whitman (a.k.a. "Parenthood's" Amber) should be winning Emmys, a scene between Crosby (Dax Shepard) and Julia that "Parenthood" creator Jason Katims called "one of my favorite scenes that we've done on the show" and much more.
When you learned about the story arc for Julia and Joel with Victor this season, what did you think?
I was excited because I knew it would be heartbreaking. That's what we do on "Parenthood." [Laughs.] It's such an interesting thing to examine, adopting a fully-formed human. It's kind of like an arranged marriage or something. It's like your hearts are in the right place, but there can definitely be bumps in the road. Obviously for Julia, it's been really trying, like, "How much can I give without getting something in return here?" That's the selfish side of it. The non-selfish side of it is, "How do I know that I actually am the right person for this child if he's not responding to me?" Which is really the bigger issue.
Julia and Joel are at a crossroads now and as we saw when the woman from the adoption agency stopped by, they're clearly in different places about Victor. How will that play out?
In tonight's episode, they find a way to get on the same page.
Jason Katims talked to TV Guide about an upcoming scene in tonight's episode with Julia and Crosby. What can you tell us about that without giving too much away?
He emailed me saying the scenes went so well and I'm so glad! What I can tell you about that scene is there's a level of honesty that can be achieved between siblings that is so valuable in getting to the bottom of things and it just happens that Crosby is able to provide that for Julia in what seems to be the end of this crisis -- she keeps getting closer to the end of her rope.
What was it like shooting a scene with Dax since you two don't get to work together too often?
It was so much fun! When we shot the scene, we were like, "Man! We should work together more often. This is really fun." [Laughs.] We were actually friends before the show so it's been a real treat. He's such an incredibly insightful and intelligent and spirited fellow. It was really fun to be directed by him as well.
Peter Krause and Sam Jaeger directed as well this season. Was it strange being directed by your TV husband?
Not really, actually. It's a pretty smooth transition because we're used to talking about what we're getting at with the scene anyway and then he just happens to also have the overall responsibility. But he's right there as an actor and then, he wants to adjust things he probably would have anyway as an actor. And there's that trust that you really need.
It's been a a really heartbreaking couple of seasons for Julia with Zoe and now Victor. Is there a scene that was particularly difficult for you to film?
Not as an actor or as a character -- I've had more difficulty basically as an audience member, as I read the script and as I realize how rough this is from the outside viewpoint. From the inside, of course it's really rough, but it's exciting. You flip back and forth between, "Oh, this is wonderful! It's so heartbreaking" to, "This is terrible. It's so heartbreaking."
There have been some lighter moments for Julia, like when she and Sarah (Lauren Graham), Kristina (Monica Potter) and Jasmine (Joy Bryant) went out for a girl's night. Do you guys savor those kind of moments since they're so few and far between?
[Laughs.] We did have a good time that night. That was Dax's first day of directing and he had such a great vision for how the episode was going to open with these wild party girls. He basically wanted viewers to be like, "Who are these people? Are these the characters on 'Parenthood?'" [Laughs.] So we had a great time with that. Of course, leave it to Jason Katims to throw a hard left in the middle of this fun scene with Kristina's hair falling out. But that's prefect because that's life and it was fun for all of us to laugh together.
And great to see you four together, which is a rarity. Is there anyone else you'd like to have more scenes with?
Yeah! Well, we've already established I would love to have more scenes with Dax. I would love to have more scenes with Craig T. Nelson and I would really love to have more scenes with Mae Whitman because she's incredible and she should be winning Emmys.
What has it been like to see Savannah grow up on the show?
Oh my gosh. She's grown up so much. When we first started shooting, she didn't know how to read. So, as an actor, you have to have someone read the script out loud to you and help you memorize your lines. It's a whole different operation than reading it and being able to take it in and just have it be a very pure thing between the page and yourself. So she's grown so much as an actress. It's really cool. And she has a great time, which is a really important thing for a kid.
Can you relate to that a bit since you were a child actor too?
Yeah. I had a great time too. People treat you very much like you're an important part of this equation. They hold you responsible and nobody says, "Don't worry about it. You're just a kid." They go, "Hey! Get it together."
What can we look forward to for the season finale?
I think it's pretty interesting the way Sarah's dilemma resolves because she has the wonderful and terrible problem of choosing between two great guys. [Laughs.] And the whole progression that Kristina has to go through -- obviously it's not like, "OK. Wash our hands of that and movin' on!" It leave its mark on what will be the rest of her life. For Joel and Julia, Joel has a really intelligent observation that seems to make things make sense even though there's a lot of emotion that you have to get through. Oh my gosh. I can't say anything more than that! [Laughs.]
In Season 5 -- because, fingers crossed, there will be a Season 5 -- what do you hope to see for Julia?
Gosh. I don't know. At the end of last year, I was saying that I would love to see Julia completely out of her element because that's what the writers seem to enjoy doing: taking Julia, who feels like she's got the world on a string, and putting her in situations where she has no idea what she's doing. In the first season and second season, it was socially and they did exactly that [for Season 4]. She's a competent lawyer and they took her out of her work place, which was her safe haven where everything made sense, and put her full on into the home life, where things don't make sense to her. She has to work really hard to keep things under control.
So I don't know. Next season, I don't know if we'll be wrapping up storylines or how many seasons we're gonna go, but ... what seems to be happening is Julia ultimately becoming somewhat more comfortable in the home life, giving her some relief there. And, of course, she has a great resume. She could move on to great things career-wise. If she did decide to do that, it'd be really interesting to see how she could work with other family members. That'd be really cool.
"Parenthood" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on NBC.