In early May, ABC dropped the axe on Brothers & Sisters amid reports that a shortened sixth season of the veteran family drama was being considered. In the end, budgetary issues brought the Walkers’ journey of secret siblings, partnership issues, lost love and family ties to an end.
Below, executive producer David Marshall Grant tells TVLine what he would have changed about the de facto series finale, hints at what was in store for the Walkers — another health scare for Kitty? — and reveals what it was like saying goodbye to the show’s on and offscreen family.
TVLINE | What was your reaction when ABC told you the show had been canceled?
I was, of course, sad. But everything must come to an end at some point. We had five great years. That’s a long run on television. I am so grateful for those years, and I’m so glad that we could tell as many stories as we could.
TVLINE | Did ABC give you a reason for the cancellation?
It really ends up being a budgetary situation. Our show was very expensive to produce and there are ways that we were saving money along the years. I think that there was an attempt to find a way to hit that magic number that [ABC] could produce the show at. And I think they just finally were unable to do it.
TVLINE | Over the years, you’ve had to say good-bye to a number of castmembers. Was it a relief, in a way, because now you wouldn’t have to trim the cast further?
I don’t think anybody was going to get cut, but [we would’ve had to] lessen the number of episodes that people were going to be in. I think that we could have augmented some of that with new faces. But yes, the truth is we were a family drama and at some point if you start to lose more and more of the family, it becomes less and less of what it was in the beginning. I think that as was said at the end of the finale, families change and they adapt and they become something else. I think that’s true of all families. So I think you could choose to look at the possibility of a different kind of evolving family and keep going. So I don’t think that it’s a relief that way, but you’re correct to point out that the original stories of just that family had shifted.
TVLINE | Speaking of the family, have you talked to any of the cast? How are they handling the news?
I’ve spoken to some of the cast, and I’ve exchanged e-mails. Brothers & Sisters was a family show, and I think it was a family that put it together. Starting from Robbie Baitz, who created it. His creation and his imprint on the family has lasted all the way through to the the finale. Likewise, [executive producers] Greg Berlanti, Allison [Schapker] and Monica [Breen], [director] Ken Olin… I bring up all these names because television is such a collaborative art. I think especially when you are doing a family drama, it really becomes sort of the essence of collaboration because people bring to the table their stories. And the actors brought their stories and their views of the world and that always made an impression on the writers. … You see it on the screen, and the truth is that their contributions really are parts of a whole. It’s all part of this family dynamic that intersects and creates this larger thing, which is larger than the brother, or the sister, or the uncle, or the mother. It’s the family.
TVLINE | In the finale, there were a lot of storylines that had closure. Did you see the writing on the wall?
I felt that we had a chance of getting picked up, but we also had a chance of not. I have to be honest: I thought it was a possibility. It came down to the wire. With that in mind, I felt I needed to do two things. What we tried to do was create a finale that had some closure in the sense that we had Scotty and Kevin with their family, Sarah getting married to Luc and discovering that Beau Bridges was her father, Nora falling in love with Brody, and Justin reconnecting to the girl he met in Season One… These are ways of trying to give closure to this family, but at the same time the closure also represented the beginning of a new family, which was Brody’s daughter, who showed up in that finale; and Kitty being pregnant with Seth’s baby and the idea that that had some kind of medical jeopardy for her. And the fact that the girl that Justin reconnected with was married. Also, if Brody and Nora were going to live together, they had a new, larger extended family now to deal with because Brody clearly, as he says, has five children, if you count Sarah. So it was both closure and, at the same time, we were hoping that we were opening the door to a new world where there was a new family, a larger family.
TVLINE | Is there anything you would have changed about the episode had you known going in it was going to be a series finale?
I would have probably not had a medical problem looming for Kitty and her pregnancy. And I think I probably would have taken Justin’s relationship with [Tyler] further. The fact that she was married was setting up conflict and problems for him next season.
TVLINE | Were there any storylines you already had in the idea bin for next season?
We were definitely interested in Brody’s kids. I thought that his daughter would have been a great character. … Sarah had new brothers and sisters. So we were really interested in exploring Sara’s new family with Brody and how that could present conflict with the Walkers, because she now would have one foot in two worlds. Kevin and Scotty had finally created this family that they always wanted, so we were looking forward to telling the story of a gay family with two kids and what that means in terms of the world that we live in today. There was always the possibility of trying to think of that series ending [with] big drama. Something that would have been big for Nora. For Kitty, we were thinking seriously about whether or not we were going to put her in real medical peril because of the pregnancy and give her a choice — a choice that she clearly made: Her unborn baby was going to be more important to her… Kitty was going to, obviously, refuse the chemo or whatever therapy she needed so that she didn’t harm her baby. And then the baby was going to be born fine and then we were going to decide what happened to Kitty.
TVLINE | Was the plan to have Seth back next season?
Yeah, we were going to bring Seth back.
TVLINE | Was there any thought about bringing back Emily VanCamp or Patricia Wettig if there was another season?
We would have loved to have brought Emily back and Patty. The Harpers were part of the show for so long, so it would have been so great to have had them come back for a few episodes.