Hot on the heels of its biggest episode to date, The Fosters gets ready to close out its third season on Monday night as the family attempts to move on from a tragic loss. Jack’s (Tanner Buchanan) shocking death will affect each member of the family in different ways. Callie (Maia Mitchell) will lose trust in the foster care system and see her relationship with lobbyist Justina (Kelli Williams) start to break down. Meanwhile, Jude (Hayden Byerly) will start questioning himself and turn to spiritual means in order to cope with the loss.
Executive producer Joanna Johnson recently spoke with The TV Junkies about the upcoming finale, “Kingdom Come,” which she co-wrote and directed. She previews an upcoming identity crisis for Jude, the major impact Jack’s death will have on Callie and what’s ahead for her relationship with Brandon (David Lambert), especially now that their secret may be in danger of coming out. Johnson also discusses what controversial issues the show may tackle next, and weighs in on the current controversy surrounding representation on television.
TTVJ: How will Jude react to the news about Jack?
JJ: It’s not going to be the kind of thing where he has an immediate meltdown. I think what happens in these cases is that you’re in shock at first. As you process it, and let the grief come up, you realize just how much it’s damaged you. Jude is going to go through a lot, and is going to think that maybe God is trying to give him some sort of message about his life and some of his choices. He’s going to question everything. It’s going to take a little time for him to get back to who he is because it really does shake him up.
TTVJ: The previews show him possibly questioning his sexuality, and he’s stated in the past how he doesn’t believe in labels. Is that something he’s going to be exploring?
JJ: I don’t know if he’s questioning his sexuality as much as he’s wondering why bad things happen in his life, and maybe in some ways he’s supposed to be something he’s not. He feels like he’s not supposed to be who he is because bad things are happening because of who he is. That’s more what his journey is really, rather than questioning his sexuality, he’s questioning his identity as a whole.
TTVJ: Does Callie start to question things as well because of what happened to Jack? How will that affect her relationship with Justina?
JJ: We’ve built a very complex relationship between Justina and Callie. There will be some realizations that Callie has that will have a big impact on that relationship and journey we’ve been on, and hopefully make a statement about some practices in foster care that aren’t ideal. When you try to privatize any kind of human resources or services, and there’s a profit component to it, that pressure to make money, but also giving welfare services, there’s a conflict of interest. You don’t want people making money off of foster kids. I just personally don’t think that’s right. So hopefully we’re bringing light to that issue.
TTVJ: Foster care reform is just one of many hot button issues you guys have tackled. Are there any you’re looking at for next season or ones you’re eager to address on the show in the future?
JJ: We started this story about people on the sex offenders’ list and how there are people that should be on that list 100% absolutely and we support that. But there are a lot of people that get put on that list, and they really aren’t pedophiles or a risk to society, and it destroys their lives. I’m interested in continuing that story with Gabe (Brandon Quinn).
It’s kind of interesting right now, they are trying to pass laws in certain states that won’t allow transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. I think that’s something we want to explore, how transgender is becoming very much like LGBT. The “T” is just one of the parts that a lot of people just aren’t that aware of and are becoming more aware of, which of course is always going to create a backlash.
It’s not like we actively look for social issues. We look for things we want to say in the world. We like to often show different sides of it, even the sides we don’t necessarily agree with, but to get people talking. Mostly it has to have a real personal affect on our family and our characters. If we can’t make it a show that really brings up drama and conundrums in our characters’ lives then we don’t do it.
TTVJ: There’s been a lot of controversy surrounding representation on television in the past couple weeks. The Fosters is a positive example of both representation and diversity, and I’m curious, how conscious are you guys, when writing and coming up with story ideas, of tropes that exist and are there ones you actively try to avoid?
JJ: Peter [Paige], Brad [Bredeweg] and myself are all homosexuals. We obviously have a vested interest and point of view about it. We want to tell stories that aren’t white-washed and we don’t want to be afraid to tell stories, but sometimes those tropes or stereotypes are stereotypes or tropes because there is some voracity to it in life. I wouldn’t be afraid to tell a story that might offend someone. We want to protect all our characters, no matter what their sexuality is. I wouldn’t try to make the gay person always heroic because I don’t want people to think gay people are bad. I wouldn’t do that.
I think in some ways it’s a little unfair for people to be up in arms because they killed the gay character. You can’t be afraid. I’d like to treat all the characters–in an ideal world–equally. It’s not about ‘oh you killed the gay character. Of course!’ It wouldn’t even matter. It would just be like ‘oh they killed a character.’ It wouldn’t matter that that character was gay. It wouldn’t be such news. It would just be representative of what our world really is, which is a mix of diversity.
That’s what we try to show on the show, and some of our fans do get upset if we ever show something they deem as a negative way to represent a gay couple. Sometimes with Stef and Lena they get upset because ‘Why aren’t they kissing and hugging? Why aren’t they happy all the time?’ But that’s not a true marriage. That’s not how it works. That’s what we try to strive for. Even for this story with Jude that we’re going to do, I know some of our fans are going to freak out because they are going to think ‘Oh, they are making him straight,’ and not really understand that he’s having an identity crisis.
TTVJ: Stef and Lena have been through a lot in their marriage as of late, but seem to have come through stronger because of it. What’s next for them?
JJ: Just like any couple there are ebbs and flows. You get closer, but life also gets more complicated. With children, you parent these kids who are not always making the best decisions, who are struggling, some of them getting ready to graduate and hopefully go to college, or not. Brandon is 18 now and how do you parent an 18-year-old who legally doesn’t have to listen to anything you say? Who legally can make some of his own decisions. They are going to continue to be challenged as parents which affects your marriage. My wife and I have two kids, and when our kids are very challenging it tends to stress us out and our relationship. They are going to continue, like you have to do in marriage and in life, scratch your way back to each other. You have to really carve out that time to be intimate and to connect.
TTVJ: Despite deciding not to tell their parents, it looks like Brandon and Callie’s secret may be coming out anyways. What can you share with us about Brallie’s struggles in the finale?
JJ: Secrets are hard to keep, especially on our show. [laughs] I think Brandon and Callie have had a really complicated journey because they have this love that has been romantic, but also has just been brotherly and sisterly. The truth is they aren’t biologically related and Callie has only been living with them for a little over a year. I think when Callie came they thought it was temporary and feelings happened. I think they’ve tried very hard to move on in their lives, and try to protect the family in the best way they know how–which maybe was not the best way. Their relationship is going to continue to evolve. But Brandon is seeing Cortney and he’s serious about her, and Callie is still up and down with AJ. I think we’ll continue to be on this fascinating ride between these two characters.
Are you excited for the season finale of The Fosters? What do you think will happen? Sound off in the comments below!
The Fosters airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on Freeform and ABC Spark.
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.