Parenthood was the original NBC tearjerker, with a multitude of strong actors capable of bringing audiences to helpless tears at least once per episode. Now, Mae Whitman is giving insight into how the show was able to convey emotion with such poise and authenticity for six straight seasons.
The Good Girls Revolt actress revealed to PeopleTV’s Couch Surfing that the actors on Parenthood improvised all of time, citing one memorable example with her on-screen grandpa, Zeek Braverman (played by Craig T. Nelson).
“We improvised so much on Parenthood,” she remembered. “So much of this stuff, we’d go into rehearsal and say, ‘Okay, what needs to come across here?'”
She then referred to a scene in season two between Amber and Zeek, after Amber gets in a drunk driving accident and refuses to take responsibility for her reckless actions. (It is 100 percent scientifically impossible to get through this scene with eyes dry and unaffected). Zeek takes Amber to the junkyard to see the car she crashed in, which is now totaled. He tells her how the dream of his future family got him through the war in Vietnam, and how part of that dream was her.
“You do not have permission to mess with my dreams,” Zeeks says, as Amber bursts into tears.
As it turns out, Nelson improvised every word of his speech.
“I went into that scene and I didn’t know what he was going to say,” Whitman recalled. “And he improvised this like, incredibly beautiful, honest, real, raw speech of like, pain and heartache. And stuff that I knew he really felt about his own family. So all of my reactions in that scene are totally surprised and genuine.”
Watch the full video and sob with fond recognition below.