After three seasons of tear-inducing strife, Parenthood fans hoping Kristina Braverman would face an easier road in season four were dealt a big blow as the closing moments of tonight's episode revealed the mother of three would be battling breast cancer this season.
Turns out, star Monica Potter was not only excited to explore this storyline, but actually suggested it to creator Jason Katims after going through a scare of her own. I caught up with Potter to talk about this deeply personal character arc, how The Braverman Family handles it and what lies ahead in Parenthood season four.
ETonline: What were your thoughts upon learning Kristina would battle breast cancer this season?
Monica Potter: I actually had to go for a mammogram in April. I'd never had one before and didn't really know what to expect. The [technician] was reading the film afterwards and said she couldn't get a good reading, so I was a little nervous [because]. Then, I got a phone call to come back to the office and did the whole process again. The doctor said there was something there they wanted to keep an eye on. I ended up being fine, but it sparked an idea because that is really scary. As a mom, as a wife, as a friend, a sister, as a woman, you have to be the person who takes care of everybody. You can't be sick. So I called Jason [Katims, creator] and asked if we might explore Kristina having breast cancer this season. He emailed me back right away, saying he had the chills because the writing room just broke the story. Which is insane. It was so weird that this was a storyline they also wanted to explore.
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ETonline: What have you learned from preparing for this storyline?
Potter: I've learned a lot from friends and family members who've had it. The whole process has been interesting because you see how many people's lives change going through this. It's not just the woman, it's everyone in her life as well.
ETonline: How does Adam (played by Peter Krause) react?
Potter: Adam goes into care-taking mode. "Are you OK, Kristina? Is everything fine? Are you feeling OK?" Inundates her with questions. For her part, Kristina is a little bit in denial since she feels fine. She keeps saying, "I don't feel sick." I know that's what a lot of moms in life would do. Keep calm and carry on.
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ETonline: Kristina is a character who always seems in control. Has it been exciting as an actor to play her in a situation where she has to give up a lot of her control?
Potter: That's been the toughest part. She's a control freak, she really is [but] it comes from a place of love, not a place of selfishness -- she just wants to make sure her family is taken care of. So when this hits them, as a family, she feels helpless. She doesn't know how to react. At certain times, when she's alone, you'll see her break down – but she doesn't show that too much because she has to be strong for the family.
ETonline: Kristina barely goes an episode without crying, and neither does the audience since your performance makes us empathize with her so deeply. But is playing such a raw nerve exhausting on you?
Potter: I'm not a big crier in real life, I tend to laugh a lot more than I cry, so I guess I have a reserve of emotions. I don't cry at home, so I get to do it work. It's a good release. I also take everything Kristina does to heart, and feel everything she's going through so deeply. I modeled her a bit after my mom and my mom didn't always have the easiest life. She's such a care-taker and a go-getter [starts to cry]. Oh man, see, I'm fine talking about me, but switch it over to think about her, and those emotions are right there.
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ETonline: Looking ahead at what's to come in season four, what are you excited for the fans to see?
Potter: I'm excited for them to see the family get closer and more grounded. We really go to the depths of each character this year. Anybody who has ever watched the show will feel big emotions very deeply this year. That's such a gift to be able to explore as an actor and to bring to our audience. I feel like some of the shows on TV don't go as deep as we do. They're more like cotton candy shows. You can watch with no emotion. Parenthood makes you feel and I think that's what our audience is hungry for.
Parenthood airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on NBC.