Television producer and writer Jason Katims is known for tackling emotional stories. Even his new
On "Parenthood," the character Max Braverman (played by
It's something that I was very hesitant to do in the beginning, because I was not really sure I wanted to tell a story that was that autobiographical. What has been so rewarding is the response that we've gotten over the five seasons of the show to that character — and not only to Max but to the family surrounding him. Telling the story has been very meaningful to both people who have children on the [autism] spectrum, people who are themselves on the spectrum or to people who just have friends who have kids like that. Also, I've gotten so much response from viewers who have other challenges going on with their kids, who have found that they very much related to the experience that was being written about in the show.
This season a related thread has been that of actor Ray Romano playing Hank, who gradually comes to the realization that he probably has undiagnosed Asperger's. Where did that story line come from?
One of the things on my mind, as my son gets older, you start to worry about: What is the future? People think about autism as something with kids. Well, those kids grow up. It's not an easy story to tell. You have an actor like Ray Romano doing it, and it's just such a fantastic experience telling the story, making it feel authentic and real.
Another ongoing story is that of mom Kristina Braverman (played by
I feel a tremendous amount of responsibility because my wife has been going through that. Even after you've finished treatment, it's still an ongoing story.
One of the things you realize when you have a health crisis in your immediate family is that life does not stop so that you can go through that experience. Life goes on. That made me really want to tell that story in this way, so, yes, Kristina is going through this, at the same time, [her husband] Adam is still starting what's a relatively new business. And then Max decides to run for student council president and it scares the living hell out of them because they don't know how it's going to go.
The show frequently explores what makes different marriages work. This season the patriarch and matriarch of the clan, Zeek (
It's actually one of my favorite story lines this year. What is going to be the third act of their life, when it gets to the point when they've raised their kids and they have to make choices about what's next?
It's about two people who have very different visions of their future but are trying to figure out a way to make it work. It's about Zeek having to dig deep to change and evolve. My dad passed away a few years ago. He was a World War II veteran who had this sort of tough-guy persona, not unlike Zeek. What I found really fascinating, in the last decade of his life, was how much he was open to new things that never in a million years I thought he would be open to.
What are you most proud of about
I'm proud that we've been able to tell stories that go on for very, very long arcs. Like the Asperger's story, it's actually not even an arc, it has just become part of the show. It's one of the things that I think makes "Parenthood" what it is. We didn't say, "Oh, we want to do a story on autism," so some neighbor has autism and it's three episodes and you're out.