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After Thursday night's mid-season finale, there are just four episodes of “Parenthood” left — ever. Viewers aren’t the only ones feeling blue. Sam Jaeger, who plays Joel Graham, talked with TODAY.com about the bittersweet end.
“It feels like the last semester of your senior year,” he said during a break from filming earlier this week. “I’m feeling a little wistful.”
While some members of the cast are emotional, others keep things light. “The funniest person on set is Dax [Shepard]. He’s always fun to sit back and watch,” Jaeger said, adding that Shepard, who plays Crosby Braverman, is “the most unique alpha male I’ve ever met. He’s made a career out of playing bumbling idiots — and the man is highly intelligent.”
The cast will miss each other, Jaeger said, and also the plum gig. There are 74 series regulars, so nobody works too much. For Jaeger, that means more time with his real-life family: his wife, actress Amber Jaeger, and kids, a 20-year-old stepdaughter and two sons, ages 4½ and 2 months.
Jaeger’s also attached to his onscreen family, especially Erika Christensen, who plays his wife, Julia Braverman. The two became fast friends when they filmed the pilot.
“One of the reasons we’re such a tight-knit group is we had three or four weeks ups in Berkeley, out of our element, just being together,” he said. “I distinctly remember laying on a hotel bed, watching four or five episodes in a row of 'Friday Night Lights' with Dax and Erika.”
When Christensen was actively dating, Jaeger’s big-brotherly instincts kicked in. “I was pretty protective of her early on,” he said. “She’s a catch! I wanted to make sure that whoever asked for her hand in marriage knew that he was getting a great woman.”
Last Monday, Christensen announced she’s engaged to cyclist Cole Maness. But does Jaeger approve?
“Yes, I definitely do,” he said. “I’ve known him for years, and they work really well together. They have the things you hope for in a relationship.”
Jaeger said he’ll stay in touch with Christensen and his onscreen kids — Xolo Maridueña, who plays Victor, and Savannah Paige Rae, who plays Sydney. “At the end of this, I hate the idea of them feeling like they don’t have me as a resource or someone to lean on.”
It’s a particularly sensitive time for 13-year-old Maridueña, he said. “Seventh and eighth grade? That’s the worst. I think it’s the lowest point of life. All I remember is painful acne and terrible clothes. And lots of getting dumped.”
Speaking of heartbreak, Jaeger was glad to finally see “a few wrinkles” in Joel last season, as he left Julia — and the kids — following her extramarital kiss. But he was surprised that fans turned on Joel. “I thought, 'Wait, hold on a second. I don’t understand! Julia was the one who…'”
Now, with Joel and Julia on the brink of divorce (though possibly poised for reconciliation), he’s pulling for them. “We hope as much as our viewers do that these two can work it out.”
How will it end for the Bravermans?
He offered this crumb: “People will be sad. But I think it’ll be so worthwhile when they get to the end.”
When TODAY.com asked if we can look forward to a reunion show, he said it’s unlikely. “Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like the way they’re wrapping it up won’t leave much need for that.”
Then he added, “It’s such a colossal ending that I don’t think we’ll need to find out where people are down the road. We’ll already have a sense.”
“Parenthood” returns to NBC in January for its final four episodes.