A new season of The Fosters kicked off Monday night as Stef (Teri Polo), Lena (Sherri Saum) and the gang returned with a whole new set of issues and problems to face. The premiere ended with many of us getting ready to reach for the tissues as Stef–along with many fans’–biggest fears were confirmed as she received a breast cancer diagnosis. As she and Lena prepare for their biggest battle to date, Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Brandon (David Lambert) tried to move on in a world where they must still keep a huge secret about what really happened between them in last summer’s finale. Meanwhile, Jude (Hayden Byerly) prepared for Connor’s (Gavin MacIntosh) impending move.
What will happen to Stef? How will she and Lena handle this diagnosis, as well as the fact that Lena still is working with Monte (Annika Marks)? Will Callie’s work with her “Fost and Found” app get her into trouble this season? The Fosters’ co-creator Peter Paige spoke exclusively with The TV Junkies about what we can expect out of those stories, as well as what controversial issues the show will look to address this season.
TTVJ: What will Stef’s battle with cancer look like this season and how will you keep it from being depressing so I’m not crying every week? PP: I promise we won’t make you cry, but I do think a good cry is worth it. I promise it’s not super depressing. I promise it’s not. That journey is a very complicated and personal one. I think we’re doing it in a way that we’ve never quite seen it handled on TV. It’s breast cancer in a relationship with two women and that makes it inherently different and specific. There’s a lot of body image stuff that comes up through it. Of course Teri and Sherri are brilliant in it. They are so good this season it’s astounding. But I promise you it’s not a “watching Stef get chemo” story.
TTVJ: Stef and Lena did have some relationship issues last season so is this something that will bring them back closer together? PP: Mostly. But like everything in life and on The Fosters, it can be mostly good but also have it’s challenges.
TTVJ: Stef and Lena’s marriage has always been portrayed as having issues and fights but they’ve always been committed to each other. How important is it to you to show that their relationship is solid but yes, they do have problems? PP: It’s everything. We’ve said from the very beginning that they are the center of the show, they are the heart of the show. We’re not interested in doing a divorce story. We’re not going to break them up. It’s hard, but relationships are hard. It’s super important to me to see a relationship that is challenged but that continues to grow.
TTVJ: How will Lena navigate the working relationship with Monte this season? PP: It’s always a challenge when there’s this horrible, awkward, messy moment in your past and you have to continue to be in proximity to someone. It comes up in all sorts of different ways. Lena is trying to navigate Stef’s cancer and needs support and can’t go to Monte–which is where she would’ve gone probably. It’s also causing problems at work. It’s a little bit of a muddle.
TTVJ: Can you preview the big Romeo & Juliet musical later in the season? PP: Brandon and Callie are seniors and part of Anchor Beach is that you have to do a senior thesis. So Brandon and Mat (Jordan Rodrigues) decide to write a musical version of Romeo & Juliet together that creates all sorts of complications for them–in terms of people they navigate, and the other people that get involved in the show or don’t get involved in the show as the case may be. It’s Romeo & Juliet, there’s a lot of Romeo and Juliet on The Fosters. It’s certainly something they can all relate to in one way or another. We get a powerhouse cast to do the biggest episode of The Fosters later in the season.
TTVJ: You guys seem to be tackling the state of the foster care system with Callie’s “Fost and Found” app story. What sort of dialogue are you hoping to start with that storyline? PP: Callie is now adopted so that’s off the table and it was one of our biggest drivers in the first two and a half seasons. Now it’s ‘who is Callie once she’s safe, once she has a home and a family? Who does she become?’ So many foster kids come to us and tell us their stories now and almost universally they all want to help fix the system. They want to become social workers, they want to become lawyers and they want to have a voice in making the system better for the kids who are behind them on the path. That’s such a beautiful and noble thing and something that feels so true to Callie.
We’ve seen that Callie has always advocated better for others than she does for herself. “Fost and Found” we thought provided this really interesting opportunity to get Callie a little into the spotlight and have her start become a little bit of a voice for the foster community. That has an amazing power that comes with it but also some real challenges. People start having access to you and people start wanting a piece of you. Callie gets a new mentor, Justina played brilliantly by Kelli Williams. It’s a really compelling and interesting journey where we start to dismantle the system, reforming the system and privatization. Callie for the first time in her journey starts to disagree with her moms, disagree with Rita, so I think we’re going to see some really exciting stories. I call it our house of cards.
TTVJ: Jude is facing the fact that Connor is leaving town. How will that affect him? PP: They are going to try and have a long distance relationship, but Connor wasn’t just Jude’s boyfriend, he was his best friend and only friend really. He hasn’t made a lot of friends so there’s a bit of a vacuum that has to be filled. Jude makes a new friend in an effort to do that who plays a big role, not just in Jude’s life, but in some other stories in our family too.
TTVJ: Jude and Connor made history as the youngest same sex kiss on television but the next step in many relationships is sex. Will teenage sex be something you’re exploring for Jude this season? PP: It is something we deal with this year. I don’t want to say ‘sex’ exactly, but teenage sexuality is something we are talking about every season, but it includes Jude this season. It’s a really fun and interesting story.
What did you think of The Fosters premiere? What are you most looking forward to this season? Share your thoughts 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.