Producers Jonathan Green and Gabe Miller talk to ET about Ferrera's farewell and if season 6 will reflect a coronavirus-affected world.
Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday's season finale of Superstore.
Are Amy and Jonah jetting off to the Golden State?
Superstore ended its fifth season on Thursday, one episode shy of its intended finale due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a cliffhanger that left the futures of Cloud 9 manager Amy (America Ferrera) and Jonah (Ben Feldman) up in the air. Titled "California, Part One," the episode was originally planned as the first of a two-parter that would've seen Ferrera off as she exited the series. Now, the conclusion of Amy's story will be pushed to the fall (or whenever season 6 is able to resume), showrunners Jonathan Green and Gabe Miller promise.
But back to Amy and Jonah: With Amy quickly accepting the cushy corporate job at Zephra -- after learning the company was deliberately hiring a Latina to fill the position -- that would send her away to the West Coast, the abrupt news of her departure from Cloud 9 (and St. Louis, Missouri) didn't initially sit well with her boyfriend. But ultimately, when it mattered most, Jonah came around to the idea. And in the last scene of the finale, Jonah made a big move too, saying he would relocate to sunny California with Amy.
So, what does this cliffhanger mean for Superstore's central couple? With Ferrera's imminent departure and Feldman sticking around, Green and Miller spoke with ET about what they plan on doing to wrap up Amy's storyline in a satisfying way, what the show will look like without its No. 1 and if season 6 will reflect a coronavirus-affected world.
ET: How much did you have to tweak for this episode to have it be a true finale?
Jonathan Green: We didn't have to tweak the episode, other than the fact that it became our finale. We sort of lucked out in that we had a cliffhanger moment planned for the end of the episode going into what was planned as our finale anyway. The way it's going to work now is that has become the end-of-season cliffhanger and we will answer it in the first episode of season six.
But what [coronavirus] did impact was we were supposed to shoot our finale the following week. In the planned finale we had some pretty big crowd scenes planned. It became clear that it was not going to be very responsible to bring together a big crowd and then eventually it became clear that even bringing our crew together on set was not going to be possible. Right up until the decision was finally made [to shut down], we were still considering replacing that entire story a couple of days before -- on the Thursday before we were supposed to start shooting on Monday. In the end, we pushed that episode to the beginning of next season, which is good in some ways because it allows us to bring America back for one episode next season. We still plan to do the full "farewell Amy" episode that we were planning to do as the finale.
What changes do you anticipate having to make to the second part of this conclusion? Are you toying with changing the episode in some way, shape or form?
Green: Yeah, that part of it will be determined by what the situation is and what we're able to do at that point. But yeah, we're sort of in a little bit of a wait and see mode right now -- not only to find out what we're able to do production-wise but to see what the status of stores like Cloud 9 is in the real world. We don't want to do anything that doesn't feel true to reality, as far as social distancing, if that is continuing to happen in stores by the time we're eventually going to air or how much restrictions have been lifted. We're going to wait and see how much we have to modify things.
You mentioned America will be returning to wrap up Amy's storyline. What conversations have you had about with her about that? Was that a discussion between you guys to see if that would be possible?
Green: That was pretty clear as soon as we had to shut things down and not shoot the finale. It was pretty clear on both sides that we all wanted her to come back. She wanted to come back and have the proper ending and leave the right way -- and not just have that character suddenly disappear. We obviously wanted her back too for that episode, so it wasn't much of a discussion. It was just sort of a no-brainer that we would bring her back. And we'll do whatever we need to do production-wise and scheduling-wise to make it fit her schedule so that we can bring her back.
When did you first learn that she was leaving after this season? How did that affect future plans you guys may have had for season 6?
Gabe Miller: We knew it was a possibility about halfway through the season. We basically started talking about one version where she stayed and one version where she left. We were working on both at the same time for a little while, until we knew for sure.
In teeing up Amy's exit, why was this the road map to her goodbye? Why was her getting a corporate job in California the best route?
Green: It seemed to be the route that made the most sense given what we had set up with her character. It's sort of the next step for her as she's evolved from a floor worker to a floor supervisor to manager. We had showed early in the season that she was starting to get noticed by Mia, the district manager, who was putting in a good word for her at corporate. And it seemed to work with Amy's trajectory, which was largely inspired by having met Jonah in the pilot, when she was pretty stuck before she met him. He helped her at least see the possibility of not having every day be exactly the same as every day before it. And that movement was possible basically. It just felt like the most natural path that would feel satisfying for her character.
We also like that it allows us to keep Amy in the world of the show a little bit, the fact that she'll be at corporate. We're hopeful we'll be able to possibly bring her back from time to time, all schedules permitting and if everything works out to be able to do so. We really liked that idea that this is a victory for her when she gets this job and it pays off some stuff that we had set up for her character-wise.
Speaking of the cliffhanger, Jonah makes the choice to move to California with Amy. How do you plan on tying up that loose thread since Jonah, I'm presuming, is sticking around but Amy's leaving?
Miller: You will have to tune in to the season 6 premiere to find out exactly how that's all going to work.
Green: We don't want to reveal what's happening.
Miller: And Ben Feldman is not leaving the show.
Should Amy and Jonah fans be worried over the fate of their relationship? The cliffhanger presents this big question of whether there's the possibility that they will be splitting up.
Green: We probably don't want to say too much more at this point about that. But obviously their relationship has been one of the pillars of the show and we're hoping that we will see what they have brought to each other through their relationship.
What are you looking forward to kind of exploring further with Jonah without having Amy there?
Green: This past season was largely about him becoming more and more politically active and with his involvement with Raise the Wage. In previous seasons we had seen that some of his options were being closed off. He was no longer able to go back to business school and he had committed to staying at Cloud 9. His political involvement isn't going to take him away from Cloud 9. But just that he has become more and more involved in causes and found a cause that he really cares about. We plan to follow up on that next season.
Miller: He's going to continue and probably step into the role even more that both he and Amy had played, of being the heart of the staff or looking out for the staff. He's one of our characters that when things start to get out of control he is able to step back and question things. And he is going to continue to look out for the staff in a way that Amy did.
Amy served almost as the straight man on the show and grounded the series amid the chaos that Cloud 9 can sometimes present. It sounds like Jonah's going to maybe take up that mantle a little bit in season 6?
Green: Yeah, and when you think about it, he always has somewhat. It's been the two of them exchanging looks while the craziness goes on around them. But yeah, he definitely is one of our point-of-view characters.
Miller: And Ben is so skilled at getting laughs just off of his reactions. We often find that he's a great person to go to in a break room scene, just off of the crazy thing that someone says. Just seeing his reaction can often give a lot.
How different do you suspect Superstore will be in the new season, not just because it will be without Amy, but within the landscape of the world? Are you actively monitoring potential changes to policies and guidelines that may be set in the near future for big box stores?
Miller: Yeah. We always want Superstore to be a show that reflects what people are experiencing in the real world. We are actively keeping an eye on how things are changing in stores and that'll be a trick that with our TV production schedule. We'll have to start working on it before we know for sure what it'll look like when it airs. But we'll do the best we can with that. The stores are some of the front lines of where this crisis is hitting and it seems natural that the show should look a little different. Or feel a little different to reflect the reality of it.
Green: And the specific thing that we wonder about is, we've already set in motion some automation in the store because that is something that has been happening more and more in all of these stores. With new restrictions and social distancing, is automation going to really take off at even higher rates? And if they're going to be, are our employees' jobs going to be in jeopardy even more because of that? We have to wait and see what things are like to be able to write to it. But yeah, it is a whole new area that we never expected to have to consider.
So fair to say season 6 will reflect a coronavirus-affected world?
Green: I don't know if I would say a huge part necessarily. It all depends, really. I don't think there's any chance that we would ignore that this has happened. I think it might feel strange to watch the show and see like, oh, business as usual and everything's completely back to normal.
Miller: The only thing I will say is that the premiere we're playing more or less continues from the end of this season. It might feel more like 601 is happening pre-crisis and then we jump in time to 602. I don't know if that's getting too in the weeds.
Green: But also, we're just beginning to talk about all of this stuff for next season. So who knows, that could not be the case.
Miller: That's true. That's true.
Green: Don't put any of this in stone.
Miller: It's so fluid. It's hard to impart to the public.
Are you planning on introducing a new cast member to the ensemble? Is that something you're also discussing at this point to kind of fill the void America will be leaving behind?
Miller: We're lucky to have a large, strong ensemble that has established dynamics between the characters. We're excited to explore those and go even deeper with those characters that we do have. We're just starting to talk about possibly bringing in another character at some point in the season, but if we did, we wouldn't view it as replacing Amy. We would just see it as a way to kick up the dynamics with our other characters as a series would often do when it's been around for several seasons.
What else do you want to mention about the finale before I let you guys go?
Green: We're excited to see what America ends up doing next. I want to emphasize how we're very sad to see her go because of all her contributions to the show, but she's definitely leaving on good terms.
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