‘Parenthood’ Interview: Sam Jaeger On Joel And Julia’s ‘Growing’ Experiences With Victor

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It’s true: season 4 of Parenthood is coming to a close soon, and as Sam Jaeger puts it, it’s a complete “bummer!” To say there’s two tissues boxes waiting to be used for the next two episodes would be a lie too (there’s actually three). As viewers of the NBC series prepare for the season finale, the trend in rooting for the Braverman’s will surely continue. From Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina’s (Monica Potter) cancer struggle, to Sarah’s (Lauren Graham) rocky road with Mark (Jason Ritter), the Braverman’s have dealt with a lot of heartbreak recently. But the story line that’s had it’s hurdles since the start belongs to Julia (Erika Christensen) and Joel (Jaeger) and their difficulty on trying to expand their family.

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What will come of Victor’s (Xolo Mariduena) hopeful adoption after Julia’s shocking response now? According to Jagear, the way the season wrapped will hopefully be rewarding for viewers that have been watching the family’s journey. Plus, what’s it like to play Joel to Christensen’s Julia? Jaeger’s fantastic acting and chemistry with Christensen is more than just award-worthy. It’s a relationship most fans of the show would like to mirror themselves in their own lives.

Just in time for the finale, Jaeger also talked to me about being a part of the Braverman clan (we consider him one!), if he’ll be directing another episode soon, and yes, his thoughts on the show possibly getting nominated for their work in the future.

And bonus: does he seriously know that we cry during every episode? His run-in with a certain fan made that answer pretty obvious.

Have you and the rest of the cast caught on that viewers basically cry during every episode?
SAM JAEGER: 
Yeah, I was at Costco the other day and one of the guys that works there was handing out samples and he gave me a fist pump [Laughs], and said, ‘Dude, I cry every time!’ So if I can affect the sample givers at Costco you know you’re doing something good.

Julia and Joel have been through a lot over the years. What’s your take on their experiences?
I really feel like the show keeps growing every year and I think our story line and our relationship within our family is no exception. We have a really complex subject matter, but like all the subject matters onParenthood, we try to show it with enough realism as possible. So it’s pretty exciting to just go into a character—I’ve never played a character for this long—to just enjoy all the avenues we’ve gone down with this show. It’s just such a rare opportunity for me. So, I love the family that Joel and Julia have created. I think they stumble like all parents, but they’re trying their best.

Being that this has been the longest role you’ve ever played, can you relate to Joel? Relate to being a somewhat calm stay-at-home dad for a bit?
Yeah! Well, it’s funny because of this job I am in a way a stay-at-home dad. We have to set up days because our show there are so many actors shooting we have a lot of time off. So, I get to spend time with my son and really enjoy watching him grow up. And at the same time, between myself and Joel, I realized last year that it did me no good to try to—I think if you play a character this long you start to defend what you would or wouldn’t do as a parent. And sometimes that can be a disservice to the story itself. And so, this last season I just decided that I’m just going to not take what Joel is going through so personally because I have to separate myself. Sometimes it’s hard as a parent and you make mistakes. In many ways it’s interesting because when you do a show for this long you have a lot of directors come in, and some of them really understand the whole scene and how the show feels and how its run. And sometimes a director will have ambition that’s doesn’t quite hold up who the characters are. After four years, you end up being, ‘Well, I’m the ambassador for Joel.’ [Laughs] So if there’s something that just doesn’t make sense because it contradicts something that may have happened the day before, I have to defend what his story arc is, but at the same time that’s difficult. It’s difficult not to attach yourself to a character personally and make their mistakes.

Did you ever expect that Joel and Julia’s relationship with Victor would once again turn for the worse?
Yeah, I hoped it would happen again. If things were resolved after five episodes on the show something’s off at this stage of the show. He has distinct memories with his mother and if we didn’t we would be doing Victor’s character a disservice. I think it’s up to us to try to show an example of just how complex, and ultimately what a rewarding character he is. Especially with these parents who’ve adopted, they have a difficult struggle and feelings of detachment, while he’s trying to figure out where he fits in the world. So I’d like to go deeper into that story line.

What’s it been like being the Joel to Erika Christensen’s Julia?
We introduce ourselves at parties like, ‘Oh hi, this is my TV wife.’ [Laughs] And I think that says something. I get to take what I’ve experienced in my relationship with my wife and I bring it up in rehearsals and I think like in any relationship, we just trust each other a lot. And I love being around her. We just lucked out. I couldn’t think of a better person to kind of go through this long journey with. She is so talented and so giving. And on another level, it’s kind of exciting to see just how she treats people in general, and how she treats the crew. She’s just someone that I respect and admire, and I think that shows in the work we do.

You’ve directed the episode “Everything Is Not Okay” and Peter Krause and Dax Shepard have also worked behind the camera. What’s it like directing your co-stars?
I think what’s great is that I have insight into how all of these people operate. It’s funny because Dax and I have had conversations over the years about directors that we’ve enjoyed and directors we’ve had issues with, and so I knew going in what to do as a director. Kind of understanding how they work and I think directing is one of the hardest jobs in television. You have to come into this well-oiled machine and try not to break it. So, it’s a real advantage coming into the well-oiled machine that I’m already a part of operating.

One of the things, I loved not having to worry about was when the caterer was going to show up. [Laughs] Things like that like, do I have all the props? There’s a whole department for that so I got to just concentrate on this thing called directing! To make sure the actors are there and the crew is doing the best job possible.

Is there a chance you’ll be directing again in an upcoming episode?
I think Parenthood is a show everyone would love to direct. I’m hoping to direct again next season.

Viewers love to root for the Braverman’s. What’s been one of your favorite Braverman moments?
Man, there’s a lot! Oh, you know what—one of my favorite scenes from the entire series was I think after season 2 when Amber got into the car wreck and Zeek takes her to the junk yard and just really lays into her about how important his family is to him and don’t ever do something as stupid as that again. I think that really encapsulated the love and hardships that’s seen every week. As far as my story lines, I think a pretty sweet one was when our daughter asked about death when the bird comes and crashes into our window and dies. It was kind of a first glimpse into Joel’s background and how he lost his mother. It has a lot to do with faith and how we communicate faith to our children.

What can we expect to happen for Julia and Joel in the last two episodes?
I think the end of this season is really—I think they do a nice job wrapping up this season. It’s always tough when you’re trying to bottle up a whole season, but we knew that we’ve had this number of episodes this season to finish up this story line the way it does I think it’s really going to be rewarding for audiences.

To put it simply, Parenthood deserves so much recognition. What you, Erika,  Peter and Monica Potter have done this season is award-worthy.
That’s sweet. To give awards certainly helps the show and bringing more viewers to the show. But we love the viewers that we have and we love the work we do, so if you focus on getting Emmys you’re kind of living outside the work you’re doing. But yeah, if I were on the committee I would certainly put this show on the top of my list!

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