On March 7, the cast and crew of Parenthood were honored by the Paley Center as part of the annual PaleyFest. We spoke with actors Mae Whitman (Amber), Miles Heizer (Drew), Lauren Graham (Sarah), Max Burkholder (Max), Xolo Mariduena (Victor), and Jason Ritter (Mark).
1. Mae Whitman and Miles Heizer live together in real life.
Yep, Mae Whitman is renting out her guesthouse to her TV sibling Miles Heizer. “We’re definitely unusually close, just as far as human beings go,” Whitman said. “Miles is definitely my best friend.” Cuuute.
2. And they bonded early on.
“I remember being surprised that there was a 14-year-old boy who could, with such ease and nonchalance, hang out with me and Sarah Ramos, a 20-year-old and a 17-year old,” Whitman recalled. “He was just casually chatting, like no weird macho boy stuff. And I was like, this kid is something special.” Heizer, however, has a simpler explanation for their instant connection: “I thought [Mae] was cool because she liked Tegan and Sara. We just went from there.”
3. But even for newcomer Xolo Mariduena, the “Parenthood” cast was warm and welcoming.
“I thought that they were gonna be distant, and as the episodes went along, we would get closer,” Mariduena admitted. “But I got there, and all of them were just so nice and so welcoming.” He praised the acting talents of his costars and added, “They’re just super, super nice.”
4. It helps that he’s nothing like his character.
“It was definitely hard, but it was also very fun being Victor,” Mariduena reflected. “Because Xolo, me, is nothing like Victor. So it was like my alter ego. I got to throw bats and do a bunch of stuff, and it was definitely a whole different side that I’d never done before.”
5. Max Burkholder also has to step out of his comfort zone to play Max, but he loves the challenge.
“I love being able to play something that not everyone gets to play,” he offered. “I’m playing pretend that I have Asperger’s. I love being able to really get into that mind-set and just do something different.”
6. He’s enjoyed seeing Max grow throughout the series. And really, haven’t we all.
Playing Max has also gotten easier over time. “I think I’ve grown along with Max a little bit,” Burkholder said. “In the beginning it was certainly more difficult to play him. I had to really think about every little thing I was doing. As I’ve progressed, I’ve sort of been able to understand who Max is more. It’s been easier to play him, but I definitely have been trying to develop his character.”
7. There’s one major similarity between Max the actor and Max the character.
In terms of passions, there’s not a lot of overlap between Burkholder and Braverman. “I don’t like bugs,” Burkholder conceded. “The main similarity between me and Max is that we are both very, very nerdy.” And he wears that badge with pride.
8. As challenging as Victor and Max can be, there are characters who are basically perfect. Like Joel.
Does Joel have any faults? “None that I can see,” Sam Jaeger said. “I think Joel is just earnest, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.” Nope. Nothing at all. Marry me?
9. Sam Jaeger didn’t like Joel being in the background either.
Fans of the character have often lamented how frequently Joel gets sidelined. “I had a tougher time with it in seasons past,” Jaeger admitted. “I just wasn’t sure what his role was, but to support whatever Julia was going through.” Luckily, this season put Joel in a more active role. “I’m thankful that this year we got to see a side of him that stands up for what he feels is right,” Jaeger continued.
10. Joel’s childhood helped him relate to his new son.
“There’s a lot in Victor’s character that Joel recognizes,” Jaeger said. He recalled a conversation that he had with creator Jason Katims before the season started filming. “That’s a guy that is without family, without his mother, and we don’t get to see Joel’s side of the family. I think it was a rougher childhood than growing up Braverman.”
11. Speaking of perfect men, Jason Ritter is also bummed that Mark got shafted.
“I am equally heartbroken,” he promised. “I took to the internet after that. I already knew what was going to happen, but after it aired, I looked for kindred spirits.”
12. And seriously, that breakup was ROUGH.
Those weren’t just crocodile tears. “A lot of times in a movie or something, when you’re shooting something, you have to pretend like you’ve known someone for your whole life,” Ritter explained. “But at the end of the day, we’ve been on this road for about four years. There was a part of me when she was standing there and telling me, ‘I’m gonna make it work with Hank,’ I was like, ‘I can’t believe that this is where it all ends.’ It was all building up and it hit me, because I do love Lauren and I love this cast and I love this family. I mean, who doesn’t want to be a Braverman? And I was so close! I was so close.”
13. Incidentally, Hank was the wrong choice. Obviously.
Jason Ritter isn’t having it. “Sarah and Mark were engaged, so what is this guy doing coming in and messing with a couple? It’s not like Mark was hedging his bets, being like, ‘I don’t know, I’m not sure if I want this,’ and then [Hank] steps in and goes, ‘Hey, I’m here for you forever.’ Here’s [Mark] who says, ‘I’m here for you forever,’ and then [Hank’s] like, ‘Eh, I dunno, I kind of like you.’ And then she’s like, ‘Oh, this guy! I’m gonna throw it all away for this guy.’” Yep. Which is why we’re still hurting too.
14. At least Jason Ritter is rebounding with Lauren Graham’s former TV daughter. And she’s fine with that, really!
“I’m so happy for them both!” Graham gushed. News broke recently that Alexis Bledel (Rory on Gilmore Girls) is playing Ritter’s love interest in the Fox pilot Friends and Family. “They’re the most beautiful blue-eyed duo ever on TV. And I just had a funny moment. It’s like two people I dated in different ways are dating each other! Oh, god. But then I got over it.”
15. Provided there is a next season (fingers crossed), Mae Whitman hears wedding bells.
The Season 4 finale made it look like Amber and Ryan were ring shopping — which could very well mean a wedding is around the corner. “I think it would be great if they got married!” Whitman said. “I think it would be a good way to bring conflict but not unhappy conflict into the situation, just because the family would all have different opinions. But I think it would also be really happy, and I think it’s a really nice adventure for her to go down, young marriage.”
16. Miles Heizer imagines a slightly darker future for his character.
“I secretly hope that Amy did not get an abortion and I had a baby,” he confided. Well, it’s not a secret anymore. He went on to say, “I think it would be interesting if Drew went away to college and started drinking and was like, following in his father’s footsteps and was becoming a bad person.” Poor Drew. I’m already worried about him.
17. Sam Jaeger is fine with whatever, as long as there’s drama.
“I hope there are more struggles,” he said. “I like that our show is messy. I like that it’s complicated. I don’t want things to be solved. And I think that’s what the fans come to rely on, is that we have characters that fail and get back up. They lose touch with one another.” On a personal level, he just wants to keep working. “I’m just looking forward to another year of incredible writing and getting to work with great people like this,” he continued.
18. Meanwhile, Max Burkholder is thinking even further ahead.
When asked about Max’s future, he had a clear answer. “He’s going to be one of three things,” Burkholder said. “Max is going to be an astrophysicist, a writer of books of facts about bugs or airplanes or whatever he happens to be into that year, or a writer for Wikipedia.” Those sound like solid career choices to me.
19. We watch “Parenthood” to cry, but these actors turn to other shows. Like “Chopped.”
While Whitman and Heizer agreed on Friday Night Lights as tearjerker entertainment, they also had a few odder choices. “I get emotional easily, I feel like,” Heizer said. “Cupcake Wars, Chopped — the right episode just breaks you apart. The lunch ladies! That pretty much does it.”
20. And when “Parenthood” does make you cry, just remember that you’re not alone.
Xolo Mariduena said he’s gotten great feedback from his friends and family, but yes, Parenthood turns them into emotional messes too. “They cried during my parts,” he said, “and the cancer scenes with Monica Potter and Sarah’s scenes.” Finally he admitted, “During all the scenes. It’s sad.”