Jason Katims: Mining turbulent adolescence in ‘Parenthood’

Youth Impact Report 2012: Channeling Talent

Jason Katims’ first TV gig was writing for the seminal teen drama “My So-Called Life.” Ever since then, he’s been fascinated with depicting adolescence at its fullest and most turbulent.

“I’ve always thought adolescence is a great story idea,” he says. “It’s when people are forming, obviously, so there’s so much to say.”

After exec producing high school-centered shows “Roswell,” “Boston Public” and “Friday Night Lights,” Katims developed the primetime adaptation of Ron Howard’s 1989 comedy “Parenthood,” which follows the extended Braverman clan: four adult siblings, their parents, partners, and eight children.

The Braverman cousins range from infant to late teens, and unlike shows that skimp on the younger actors’ storylines to focus on the higher-profile (and higher-paid) adults, “Parenthood” provides the kids with some of the series’ most interesting subplots.

“As we’ve gone on, because we’ve got these young actors who are so strong, as writers we’ve been inspired to write to them more. The great thing about television is that we get to see these actors evolve as their characters evolve.”

For example, as Max Burkholder grew more comfortable portraying a boy with Asperger syndrome, Katims and his writing team felt compelled to offer him more screen time.

“When we first cast him, I wasn’t sure how much we’d be able to lean into that storyline,” admits Katims, whose son has Asperger. “But when we saw how incredible he was, the more we were able to tell stories specifically for him.”

As a result, Katims feels confident that, like Claire Danes, Taylor Kitsch, Minka Kelly and other young performers he’s worked with, this cast will also graduate to successful acting careers.

Impact: The Emmy-winning showrunner develops solid stories for “Parenthood’s” youngest generation.
Next: The fourth season of “Parenthood”
Cause: Autism Speaks

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