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WB’s heavenly series adds black-sheep theme

Special to The Times

A lot of his fans may not be old enough to drive, but 19-year-old David Gallagher is now a proud USC Trojan and eager to have Simon Camden, his character on the WB Network’s family drama “7th Heaven,” grow up as well. And it looks like he’s getting his wish as the show begins its ninth season Sept. 13.

“Simon is the first Camden to have premarital sex,” says Gallagher, while shaving in the makeup trailer in preparation for a kissing scene with actress Rheagan Wallace, who plays his new girlfriend, Georgia. “Simon is a stud all of a sudden.”

With three of their seven children -- Matt (Barry Watson), Mary (Jessica Biel) and Lucy (Beverley Mitchell) -- already married, the Rev. Eric Camden (Stephen Collins) and wife Annie (Catherine Hicks) have never had to deal with this scenario before.

“It’s amazing when you think about it,” Collins says, taking a break between scenes in the outdoor set of the Camden backyard. “The three oldest kids all got married without having premarital sex that we know about. You could think that maybe Matt had, but you don’t really know. We never addressed it.

“I must say, it doesn’t seem so earth-shaking to me. What’s great about it is how we try, probably very unsuccessfully, to deal with it, in that way that people think they can control things. As a hands-on parent, you do the best you can. You lose a lot of battles, and I think they’re going to lose this one. But I love it because it’s real.”

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Gallagher agrees. “It’s up to me to be the bad boy. I love it. It’s the most interesting work. I talked to the writers. They have a lot of funny character stuff that they want to do with that, how the family reacts, how everyone freaks out and makes a big deal of it.

“In the end, Simon decides, ‘This is great, I respect everyone’s opinion, but I really like having sex, so I’m just going to keep doing that.’ When Brenda [series creator Brenda Hampton] told me that, I said, ‘Good for you, Brenda, and good for me. That’s brilliant.’ I was waiting for her to say that everyone talks me out of it. I was like, ‘No, that’s no fun.’ ”

As an issue-based family drama, “7th Heaven” has tackled topics ranging from the personal to the societal, and Collins feels this is just another step on that path.

“He’s in college,” Collins says, “so while it’s earth-shaking in the world of ‘7th Heaven,’ I can’t imagine too many parents of 18- or 19-year-old kids that aren’t thinking about this or dealing with this in some way, shape or form.

“So, for those more easily shocked or more conservative families watching, from what I’ve seen so far, it’s handled really well. Listen, they’ve got seven kids. They can’t really expect every one of them to grow up precisely the way they were proscribed -- a preacher’s kid especially.”

Absent for much of last season, Gallagher has juggled his schedule of classes at USC to work Mondays on “7th Heaven.” Also back in the fold for 11 episodes is Watson, who was absent a couple of seasons ago while he successfully battled Hodgkin’s disease. During his recovery, Hampton brought him onto the writing staff to pen an episode.

Now feeling fine, Watson is happy to be home. “The core family’s back now,” he says, “which a lot of the audience wants to see.”

Although Matt’s marriage seemed in trouble last year, Watson has hope for this season. “There were some dodgy bits last season, but I think everything’s going to work out. A young couple that gets married on their way to medical school -- that’s a tough thing. I’m sure there are going to be some issues, but they seem like they’re solid people.”

Asked if Biel might reappear at some point as Mary, Watson says, “I don’t know. I was in Canada working when she was in Canada working, and we were talking about it. I have a feeling she may come back, for at least one episode. It’ll be fun. Bev and I left her a message last week about it while we were doing a scene.”

Mary’s character has already had a baby, and now Lucy is following suit, expecting a child with her new husband, police Officer Kevin Kinkirk (George Stults). Lucy, who is studying to be a minister, has always been a little high-strung, and according to Stults, that hasn’t changed -- more or less.

“It’s hard to believe,” he says, “but in this episode, she’s always crazy but now she’s pregnant, so she’s been acting normal, which throws everyone off, especially her husband. He’s like, ‘What’s going on here?’ That, of course, only lasts for a brief time, then she’s back, crazy as always.”

With kids having sex, kids having babies and kids just growing up, Collins thinks that “7th Heaven” -- the WB’s most-watched show for several seasons now -- still has plenty of gas left in the tank.

“I think Brenda is inspired by the shape of the show this year,” he says, “and having Barry and David back. This premiere script is as fun as any script we’ve ever done. Brenda seems to get that this show is about telling the story of this family in real time.”

Speaking of which, Collins recalls shooting a scene in which the overburdened Lucy asserts that she can juggle marriage, impending motherhood and taking over as assistant pastor at her father’s church.

“She says, ‘You never asked me because you still think I’m a hysterical teenager,’ ” he says. “There’s a wonderful thing that we see all through this episode, which is the parents looking at the kids and suddenly seeing them nine years ago, the way you do as a parent. At the moment, I look at her and I just see 12-year-old Lucy.”

Kate O’Hare writes for Tribune Media Services.

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‘7th Heaven’

When: 8 to 9 p.m. Mondays

Where: the WB

Rating: TV-G (suitable for all ages)


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