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Parenthood – Ron Howard on Executive Producing the second tv spin-off and breaking new ground

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Parenthood - Peter Krause, Sarah Ramos, Dax Shepard, Lauren Graham, Miles Heizer, Sam Jaeger, Monica Potter, Max Burkholder, Craig T Nelson, Bonnie Bedelia, Mae Whitman, Erika Christensen, Savannah Paige Rae
Parenthood cast - Peter Krause, Sarah Ramos, Dax Shepard, Lauren Graham, Miles Heizer, Sam Jaeger, Monica Potter, Max Burkholder, Craig T Nelson, Bonnie Bedelia, Mae Whitman, Erika Christensen, Savannah Paige Rae © NBC

In 1989, Ron Howard directed the dramedy Parenthood, which starred Steve Martin, about the misadventures of the large and diverse Buckman family. In 1990, the movie was turned into an unsuccessful TV series, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio. In 2010, Jason Katims has re-imagined and updated the concept (they are now called the Braverman family) for another series starring Craig T Nelson, Lauren Graham and Peter Krause.

Ron Howard, who is Executive Producing the new show, spoke with us about his unique inspiration for the movie, and the two series that were created from it.

How did this show that is based on a 1989 movie, which also had series in 1990 come about?

Parenthood -  Executive Producer Ron Howard
Executive Producer Ron Howard

Jason Katims, who did such a spectacular job on Friday Night Lights, came to Brian Grazer and I and wanted to talk about Parenthood. And frankly, in our little pre-conversation we were scratching our heads. Parenthood is a project that I really cherish. It’s a great memory. It was a great creative experience. To this day, it’s probably the most personal film that I’ve ever really been involved with.

We had tried once to do a sitcom version of it that was misguided. Didn’t work, didn’t live up to, in my mind, the potential of all the stories and the characters as they existed in the movie.

And my first question to Jason was, ‘Why do you need Parenthood? You’re a great writer. You can develop your own family.’ And he made an argument for why the foundation of that family worked; ultimately it’s about the unbelievable ups and downs of parenting, the absurdity of it, the pain of it, and significantly to me the nobility of it.

That always creates great suspense and great drama, and that was a thing that Jason started talking about. And we felt that he could take this thing that meant so much to Brian and me, and bring it forward to today in a way that was compelling.

Parenthood - Sam Jaeger, Savannah Paige Rae and Erika Christensen
Sam Jaeger as Joel Graham, Savannah Paige Rae as Sydney Graham (about to throw up?), Erika Christensen as Julia Braverman-Graham © NBC

You once said that the very beginning inspiration for the story of Parenthood happened 20 years ago when your daughter, Bryce Dallas Howard, was throwing up on you on an airplane – is that true?

Yeah, we were all going on location to Buenos Aires to make the movie Gung Ho. Bryce was sitting next to me, and I proudly thought I was a forward-thinking dad and she might like to try this appetizer sushi. She took one bite and projectile vomited all over my shirt. And it was within the first hour of a 17-hour flight. And I began think that it was both funny and it’s painful and it’s profound. And the idea for the movie was born.

Parenthood - Max Burkholder, Monica Potter, Peter Krause and Sarah Ramos
Max Burkholder as Max Braverman, Monica Potter as Kristina Braverman, Peter Krause as Adam Braverman, Sarah Ramos as Haddie Braverman © NBC

Any one of this cast could headline their own show.

It’s very important to Brian and me that the show be great and that it have this kind of cast. It’s just incredible from the pilot on and already the dailies and first three episodes is that just everybody is completely in stride, making these incredibly nuanced entertaining choices left and right. It’s pretty exciting stuff from projectile vomit way back in ’87 to the show today!

How hands-on are you going to be on this?

Truthfully, Jason came in. Brian and I knew that this was a fantastic opportunity to let this idea grow, with Jason’s voice. I’ve been reading scripts. I was thrilled with the pilot. I’ve been a part of creative conversations, but it’s Jason’s show, it’s this cast’s show, and I’m a big fan.

Parenthood - Mae Whitman, Lauren Graham and Miles Heizer
Mae Whitman as Amber Holt, Lauren Graham as Sarah Braverman, Miles Heizer as Drew Holt © NBC

With the state of the industry today, is it easy for you to get shows developed?

It’s always a challenge in movie and in television, probably more so today than ever. This however, under Jason’s auspices, has gone very smoothly. And we just keep trying to find projects both in movies and really in television that feel like they are breaking new ground and feel like they are going something that entertains the audience in a way that makes Brian and I proud. (They are also the producers of 24) This show falls into that category.

How would you categorize yourself as a director, is there any genre that you prefer?

A long time ago, I stopped trying to look at projects as genre exercises. But early on in my career, when I had been basically a sitcom actor for all of those years, I made my first movies and they were comedies and they were successes, and it was very important for me to stretch.

Parenthood was on of those. Even though it was a comedy, there was a great deal of authentic drama in the piece as well. In the last ten, twelve years, I just look for ideas and great characters that I relate to.