*“Parenthood” fans breathed a sigh of relief in April when NBC announced it would return for its 5th season – and cast members were exhaling right along with the viewers.
Although embraced by critics, the show’s less-than-ideal viewership has the Jason Katims series always teetering on the edge of cancellation at the end of each season. The show wrapped its fourth in January as if it were its last – with Sarah (Lauren Graham) choosing Hank (Ray Romano) over Mark (Jason Ritter), Kristina (Monica Potter) learning she is cancer free, Ryan (Matt Lauria) and Amber (Mae Whitman) back on again, and Joy Bryant’s character Jasmine expecting a baby with her husband Crosby (Dax Shepard).
In a season 5 teaser shown to critics last week, time jumps ahead seven or eight months, and Jasmine’s baby is not only born, but wreaking havoc in the middle of the night – causing what appears to be friction in the marriage.
Having shot just two episodes when we spoke to Bryant after “Parenthood’s” July 27 TCA panel, the actress had no idea what her character’s arc would be this season. But she presumed Jasmine’s main struggle will be adjusting to the differences between raising the new baby with Crosby, and her experience raising their first son, Jabbar (Tyree Brown), as a single parent early on.
“The first time, I pretty much did it on my own with my mother’s help. So when [Crosby] came into Jabbar’s life, Jabbar was like four or five years old,” Bryant tells EURweb. “Now, we’re doing this from scratch, both of us. I’m sure we’ll see what kind of tensions, and what happens to our relationship because of having this new baby.
“I don’t have my own, but I have friends who do, and I know that a baby brings a whole other host of complexities into a relationship. So I’m sure we’re going to explore that.”
“Parenthood” – which has one African American male writer on staff and one woman who is half-black, according to Bryant – had prided itself the first three seasons on presenting Jasmine and Crosby’s relationship without ever calling attention to the fact that it’s interracial. Although it was a welcome step forward for Bryant, “we can’t ignore the differences,” she stressed, “especially since we have mixed kids.”
“Twenty some odd years ago, probably the storyline would be the fact that I’m black and he’s white – and every episode [would be] about the same s**t,” she said. “At least now we can be seen as like a couple first that are going through the same things [as other couples]. …But we have some culture differences.
“That’s why I was very excited when we had to do the whole thing about n**ger, and saying that word – I’m not gonna say ‘n-word,’ just ‘n**ger’ episode.”
In the episode “The Talk,” which aired in October, Jabbar hears a rapper say “ni**a” while recording a song in Crosby’s recording studio and asks his father what it means. Crosby fumbles through an awkward explanation, then simply tells Jabbar he can never say it.
Crosby warns Jasmine about their n-word conversation and said he handled it – but Jasmine wasn’t happy with his explanation and felt it was time for her to have “the talk” about race with their son, alone. This leaves Crosby upset on two fronts: one, believing the discussion will destroy Jabbar’s innocence; and two, that Jasmine believed only she was in a position to talk to Jabbar about race.
Below, Bryant explains how that season four episode came about, and her hand in making it happen.
Watch the entire episode of “The Talk” below. “Parenthood” returns for its fifth season on Thursday, Sept. 26 at 10 p.m.