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'Life Unexpected': Creator Liz Tigelaar talks about the final episodes and a second season

April 5, 2010 |  1:15 pm
“Life Unexpected” creator Liz Tigelaar knows something about family shows. She was an assistant to Executive Producer Winnie Holzman (“My So-Called Life”) on the ABC family drama “Once & Again.” She also worked with Greg Berlanti as a supervising producer/writer on “Brothers & Sisters.”

“It's a good combination to have learned from,” says Tigelaar, who calls Berlanti a “master of storytelling” and credits Holzman with helping her find her own voice.

Tigelaar has translated those experiences into “Life Unexpected,” a story about a different kind of family. The series, about a foster care teenager who's reunited with her biological parents, got off to a strong start, but is still awaiting word on a second season renewal. Tigelaar is encouraging fans to vote in the Save One Show campaign, but also thinks “the best thing people can do to save the show is to watch the show.”

Tigelaar chatted with Show Tracker about what's coming up in the season's final two episodes, a special guest star and what she'd like to explore in Season Two.

How are you feeling about the show's chances for a second season?
I feel really good about it. Obviously, we haven't heard anything yet, so it's just based on my feeling. I think our ratings are very on par with the rest of the CW shows, aside from “Vampire Diaries.” I feel like we've done good episodes. People are still writing nice things about us. I think our chances are great, but because we're one of the only shows that hasn't heard, it can't help but induce some anxiety. I think we have a really great shot.

Do you ever think about adding a vampire just to boost the ratings?

Yeah, believe me. Probably wouldn't be a bad idea. Maybe a vampire and some really slutty girls.

Monday night's episode features Peter Horton of “thirtysomething” as Cate's dad. He mostly produces and directs TV now. How did this guest spot come together?
We wanted to approach him. Obviously, he didn't audition. [Laughs.] We offered it to him. He read the script. He actually had a prior relationship with Shiri [Appleby]. They worked together in the past, so I think he liked the idea of working with her. He responded well to the material and liked the character. It came together very quickly. We were thrilled. I still can't believe he did the show. If we get a second season, we'd love to have him back. I think he would like to come back. Who knows? He could act and direct. It'd be really fun.

How does he reenter Cate's life?
Cate [Appleby] is getting ready for her wedding. She's looking for stuff in the attic and she comes across a stack of old birthday cards from when she was a kid. She realizes that her mom never gave her these cards that her dad sent. Cate's whole life, she felt like her dad didn't want anything to do with her. What she assumes from these cards is that he did want something to do with her and that her mom actually kept him away. She goes to find him and correct what happened and make it clear that she really does want him in her life.

Lux2 How do Cate, Baze and Lux end up together on this road trip?

Bug [played by Rafi Gavron] is now working at the bar and some trouble happens. Bug needs Lux [played by Brittany Robertson] to keep Baze [played by Kristoffer Polaha] away. Lux has already agreed to go with Cate and she convinces Baze, saying that they've never done anything as a family. This could be their last chance because Cate's getting married to Ryan [played by Ker Smith]. She uses the family thing as a way to get them on the road trip. Baze is reluctant to go because Baze has just realized he has feelings for Cate, so he wants to stay away, but because Lux asks him, he does it for Lux.

It's a road trip to a cabin in the woods, so naturally something has to go wrong. What happens along the way?
It's our show. Of course, stuff goes wrong. [Laughs.] More than that, you really get a chance to see the three of them as a family. There's also a lot about the trip that's really fun. It's new for the show. I feel it's new for the three of them. It's new for Lux to be enjoying being a family with the two of them. This episode in particular has a different feel and a feel that we're probably moving towards.

The season finale is coming up. Should fans prepare themselves for a cliffhanger or is there some resolution?
In a weird way, it's both. I think as a season finale, it's satisfying. You're going to have answers to things. But as a series, it's by no means the end of the story. I wouldn't say it's like a classic cliffhanger. It's not going to cut off before the end.

Will we see a wedding in the season finale that may or may not happen?

Definitely a wedding will be planned with the intention to happen. There are a lot of obstacles to keep it from happening. There are four people involved with this wedding, essentially -- Cate, Baze, Ryan and Lux.  Certainly, everyone is grappling with their own feelings right up until the end of the episode.

Will we be seeing all the characters' families?

We do. We see Cate's mom [played by Cynthia Stevenson]. We meet Ryan's parents and see their slight dysfunction. We have a good chunk of the cast there. It's a really fun episode. I actually just screened it for the cast the other night and everyone was so happy with it. There's a lot that's TV about it in terms of the structure of television and the type of storytelling. I hope that we really make the story our own and earn every moment and make it the “Life Unexpected” version. It's the last one and you want to go out big. Everyone was so tired. Everyone was sick and exhausted. It's just nice how it all came together.

Lux3 Do Lux and Cate's romantic relationships/love triangles come to a head in the finale?

Cate's definitely does. Lux, not really because I feel like she's made her choice. She's chosen Bug. There is these lingering feelings about Jones [played by Austin Butler]. A teenager's romantic life goes a little more out the window when faced with Cate and Ryan getting married. Lux is much more in a triangle between Baze and Ryan than Bug and Jones, in a way. We've built some stories coming to a head in the finale, but other stories we're planning to continue to tell. Lux and Bug and Jones, that wasn't the end of the story, but we'll also be limited by whether or not Jones [returns] -- Austin Butler got cast in another CW pilot. We won't know our fate with the character until they know theirs. Certainly, if he's available, we have plans for him to come back. I think one thing to explore is Lux's proclivity towards choosing kind of dysfunctional people. Here she has this great, all-American quarterback good guy who clearly really likes her. We can see there's something in her that likes him, but she just won't let herself go there. She's drawn back to Bug for a wide variety of reasons. I think she loves him. I think he's a security blanket. I think she feels guilty moving on. It's a really complicated story. That story hasn't come to a head yet.

Would you also want to explore more flashbacks if the show is renewed? I really liked the flashbacks with little Lux and little Tasha.
Those girls were so great. You never know how it's going to work with little kids. We didn't want to give them too much and have it go badly. But I think definitely, whether it's showing them as 7-year-olds or Tasha [played by Ksenia Solo] and Bug and Lux as 14- or 15-year-olds. I would love to do flashbacks of Cate and Baze in high school. It's less a desire of wanting to and more becoming a production issue. What I liked about the flashbacks is we were able to make Lux look younger. We were able to cast really great matches for the girls who did look like them. With Cate and Baze, those actors are so young themselves. They're in a weird territory of, do you cast them younger or do they play younger? It would be a little hard to make them play too much younger, especially with Shiri having been on TV at that age too. It's more limited by production than desire. I think we all want to see more of their lives before.

“Father Unfigured,” featuring guest star Peter Horton, airs Monday night. Don't forget to come back to Show Tracker on Tuesday for my recap of the episode and to share your thoughts.

-- Vlada Gelman (Follow my TV musings on Twitter: @stayingin)

Photos: (from top) Grant (Peter Horton) with his daughter Cate (Shiri Appleby). Credit: Jack Rowand / The CW

Lux (Brittany Robertson), Baze (Kristoffer Polaha) and Cate (Shiri Appleby) go on a road trip. Credit: Jack Rowand / The CW

Bug (Rafi Gavron) and Lux (Brittany Robertson) enjoy a slow dance. Credit: Jack Rowand / The CW


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