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Ronen Rubinstein and ‘9-1-1: Lone Star’ Showrunner on Carlos and T.K.’s Big Finale Question

9-1-1: LONE STAR: L-R: Rafael Silva
Fox

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “A Bright and Cloudless Morning,” the May 16 season finale of “9-1-1: Lone Star.”

The third season of “9-1-1: Lone Star” came to an end Monday with a moment years in the making: T.K. (Ronen Rubinstein) proposing to his boyfriend Carlos (Rafael Silva). It’s been a long and rocky road at times for these two, but “9-1-1” and “Lone Star” showrunner Tim Minear finally gave the couple what they — and fans — have long hoped would happen.

But, in typical “Lone Star” fashion, the proposal was very unconventional and prompted by advice T.K. got from his father, Owen (Rob Lowe), who had just survived a building collapse and serious 9/11 flashbacks.

Variety spoke with Rubinstein and Minear about the happy turn of events and the behind-the-scenes making of the “Tarlos” proposal.

Do you think it had to be T.K. who proposed to Carlos? 

Ronen Rubinstein: For multiple seasons now, everybody is always asking the question, who would do the proposal? Actually, the fans were always correct. I always remember it being polled in the high 80s-and-90% of everybody guessing that it would be T.K. I always thought it was going to be T.K. as well, because I think it sort of had to be T.K. in order to redeem himself. Obviously, we have the trauma of the pilot and his first proposal going terribly wrong. I think it’s a beautiful full circle of T.K.’s wish to come true: hopefully spending the rest of his life with the man that he loves and he feels is the perfect person for him. And I think that’s what Carlos symbolizes for T.K. And I was very relieved that it was going to be T.K. that asked for his hand in marriage.

What did you think of the way T.K. proposes to Carlos?

Rubinstein: I loved it. As soon as Raphael and I found out, we started nerding out like little kids. Where’s it going to happen? How’s it going to happen? Who’s going to do it? And we always thought it was going to be like really classic, like Carlos comes home and I’m cooking for him and it’s like a very classic, one knee, “Will you marry me?” But that wouldn’t be “Lone Star” and wouldn’t be Tim Minear. I think Tim is such a genius at thinking outside of the box and going against the norms and going against what people might expect.

A perfect example is starting off the season with Carlos and T.K. being broken up. I thought that was genius. But I love that it is an irregular, quirky proposal — but it also goes really beautifully with the scene right before, where Owen is in the hospital bed after almost dying and telling his son, “You need to lock in the things in your life currently, because that’s all we have. We only have the present moment.” It was an example of, T.K. just couldn’t wait and couldn’t contain himself. And I thought it was adorable that he went setting up in bed at three in the morning and just needing to let it off his chest. And I think that’s very much T.K. So I loved it, actually. I thought it was adorable and sweet and very unique. I don’t think we’ve seen a proposal like that before, and I’m just really, really, really, really, really proud of it. I just watched it yesterday, actually, and was beyond happy with how it came together.

What do you imagine the wedding will be like and when it will happen?

Rubinstein: That’s the second thought I immediately had, “Oh, man, we’re going to have to have a wedding.” And I have no idea, but I have a feeling it’s going to be an epic episode that focuses on the wedding, and then something goes horribly wrong. Like, there might be a rescue within the wedding, which I think would be so “9-1-1” and would be awesome and hilarious. I just hope we get to say “I do” first, and then something terrible happens. But then again, I would also be very happy with just a very safe and successful wedding that we get to get the entire cast together. Maybe we could do it somewhere beautiful and it could be like a party in real life and on screen. And I would love to do it earlier in Season 4. I think get it out of the way, let’s start the season off fun and fresh and happy and then let the drama of “9-1-1: Lone Star” unravel.

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How far out did you plan on the proposal happening in the finale?

Tim Minear: If you had asked me at the beginning of the season if I thought it was going to happen this season, I probably would have said no. And then as the story unfolded itself to me, it just felt like it was time. It felt like they had earned it. T.K. had been through a lot with the loss of his mother. The question for me was always, who was going to propose? And to me, it always has to be T.K., because he’s the one who flaked out and broke them up. And in order for Carlos to feel like that it was something mutual, it would have to come from T.K.

How did you decide on the way in which T.K. would pop the question to Carlos? 

Minear: We had tried a couple of different ways, and it really felt like the Owen and the T.K. stories were commenting on each other, in a sense. Owen’s going through his own thing, but it’s all in telling T.K., “You’ve got to live for now, we’re not promised anything, we’re not guaranteed anything. And you can’t be waiting to live and you can’t be living in the past, you need to kind of carpe diem.”

So Owen’s story handed off to T.K. in a way that those things felt connected, even though they were two separate things. I had been toying with this idea of T.K. not having a will, just because I thought it was kind of funny that the guy who’s constantly almost dying is the guy who doesn’t have the will. But it sort of made sense to me, too, because I don’t like to go to the doctor. I feel like if I don’t get bad news, bad things won’t happen, right? I’m sure I’m not unique in that sense. So to me, that’s kind of T.K. as well. So the idea that he woke him up in the middle of the night just felt right to me. T.K. is impulsive. The last time we saw him propose, he planned it out in the pilot. But here it felt like he had a lot on his mind and just the image to me of him just sitting there watching Carlos sleep, that felt like a very T.K. thing to me. So I wanted it to feel like the decision before the actual proposal, that’s why I did it that way.

Why was now the time to do a 9/11 flashback for Owen, and bring back Lisa Edelstein? 

Minear: I’d been wanting to do a 9/11 episode, and this is the 20th anniversary of that catastrophe. So I really wanted to do it this year. I also felt that for Owen, obviously, he had the big confrontation with his absent father. So we got to learn about the trauma at the core of him being a first responder, that he couldn’t save his little brother. But also, 9/11 was a very formative thing for him. And I was very interested in having him go through some kind of crucible about 9/11 that didn’t minimize it, but allowed him to move on from it. And I knew I wanted to do it this year. So because I don’t have unlimited funds, I couldn’t really re-create that day. I had to find a way to let you know that it was about that day, but I don’t have the budget of “Benjamin Button,” right? I can’t go in and make everybody look like they did in 2001. So by having a building collapse and then having an act of Owen having a psychodrama with the guy that he was trapped with on that day, it allowed me to do both stories.

Have a story that involved all the characters in the present day at this building collapse, but then use the iconography of that kind of marry to the 9/11 iconography and tell two stories at the same time. And even it were just an excuse to bring back Lisa, it would be worth it.

These interviews have been edited and condensed.