Erika Christensen honed her dramatic chops in ‘Traffic,’ stalked like a pro in ‘Swimfan,’ rocked alongside Susan Sarandon in ‘The Banger Sisters’ and portrayed an unrealistically gorgeous flight attendant in ‘Flightplan.’ Yet even with those roles and many more under her belt, NBC’s Parenthood‘ (Tuesdays at 10/9c) has managed to give her brand-new territory to explore: “Mom.” Fancast invited the actress to take us inside Julia Braverman-Graham’s world, preview what’s to come in these final two weeks, and also let us in on her “risqué” secret.
What brought you to ‘Parenthood’ in the first place?
I hadn’t really been wanting to do TV, and [last] pilot season I read approximately 50 million scripts, give or take. But this show just seemed real. There was a warmth to it without corniness. And it was funny, the characters were great… I was just like, “This is what I need to do.”
Had ABC’s short-lived ‘Six Degrees’ soured you on TV?
That was a wonderful experience but in that case there were a lot of cooks in the kitchen. Here, [executive producer] Jason [Katims] is the man and he does his thing, and we all love him.
How has ‘Parenthood’ Julia changed since you first met her?
She has expanded a lot. One of the first things I learned about her was she had a sense of humor about her life and who she was, but how uptight and controlling she is has become the focus, and I’m really happy about that.
And how do you see her place within the brood of siblings?
She’s the youngest, of course, and she’s treated as the “outcast,” but everyone also has to remind themselves that she’s not older than Crosby (the man-child played by Dax Shepard). Certainly his maturity has developed over the season, but by the more-traditional measures of maturity, Julia seems to be winning!
What’s your take on her marriage to Joel (Sam Jaeger)?
They’re obviously such opposites. I think we kind of marvel at the fact that he loves her so much and understands what he got himself into. Yet he loves her for all of that.
You must be thanking your lucky stars for the rivalry they gave you with Erinn Hayes‘ Racquel.
Oh my gosh, yes, it is fantastic. Erinn Hayes is hysterical in person, and I love that. [That storyline] is such an exploration of how controlling Julia is – and also how capable of foot-in-mouth moments she is. She has all this confidence because of her competence in the workplace, but it doesn’t necessarily transfer over to her interpersonal relationships.
What is Julia up to in the May 25 season finale?
Julia is fairly selfish and Joel makes her join a committee at Sydney’s school that helps out other parents when they go through hardships of all kinds – illness or whatever it may be. So it’s perfectly ironic that Julia ends up having to help someone she thinks completely does not deserve her time. She gets a little learning experience out of it.
‘Parenthood’ has made you a swim star, soccer coach, lawyer extraordinaire… When have you felt most out of your element?
Hmm, let me think about that….
Maybe it’s just in playing a mom?
Yeah, that may be it. I mean, hey, I grew up in Los Angeles so I love swimming, and soccer is great, but being a mom is something that’s further away from my own life. It requires a thorough and interesting representation.
Is the role getting your own biological clock ticking?
[Sheepishly] It is! It’s so weird. But the actress who plays Sydney is 6, so maybe I’ve just missed the tough part. The openness and the unconditional love… I’m going to start with a dog.
When they did the swimming storyline were you like, ‘Really? We’re going to open the ‘Swimfan’ can of worms?’”
[Laughs] I guess so. I used to go through this thing in my mind where every time I went to [a job], I would count, “OK, this is the fifth time I’ve been a patient,” “This is the first time I’ve graduated from high school.” I didn’t really put it together that people would be so jumping at the opportunity to draw that correlation [with 'Swimfan']. But yeah, all right – there I am, in a pool again! But this time there was nothing romantic in any way, shape or form about it.
Who on the cast has surprised you in any way?
I don’t know what I was expecting from Craig T. Nelson (Zeek), but he is a man of such integrity. Beyond that, in my eyes he is the biggest kid! And he’s a scene-stealer. Every scene! And Monica Potter (Kristina) is many times over sillier than I ever expected – and “silly” is one of the qualities I most admire in people.
And lastly, did I read that you had released a single or something…?
No, no, I haven’t released a single. I wrote and recorded a song that I highly doubt I will release. The lyrics are somewhat risqué. I may have to create an alter ego, and she can be the “singer.”