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'Brothers & Sisters': Ken Olin looks back at Season 4 and talks flash forwards

May 17, 2010 |  8:26 am

B&S_kenolin With the fourth season of "Brothers & Sisters" a wrap, I couldn't help but look back the Walkers' highly eventful year. From Kitty's cancer and Justin's and Rebecca's quickie wedding to Kevin's and Scotty's attempts at parenthood and, of course, Rob Lowe's departure from the show, this season was decidedly more dramatic than the previous three.

After Sunday night's finale, the Walkers face an even more daunting future, one filled with loss and grief as well as a renewed sense of purpose. I got a chance to chat with the show's executive producer, director and occasional actor Ken Olin, who shared his thoughts about Season 4 and what we can expect from the Walkers next season.

This season was pretty heavy. Was it a conscious decision early on that this season was going to be a more dramatic, eventful one?

Because it was the fourth season, we wanted it to be a little more dramatic and a little weightier in terms of the stories. I think one of the things that's an important part of the calculation of a show that you're lucky enough to last is figuring out the rhythms for the seasons. One of the things we felt going into this year was that we needed to put their world in more jeopardy. We're always aware of having a sense of humor and not be ultra-serious because whatever journey they're on is never going to be painfully dark.

We dealt with cancer and the things that I think we had stayed away from the previous seasons. More than anything, I think that's part of the discussion. I don't know how much of it is based on really being able to calculate what can be effective or how much of it is a result of the world that we're in.

Kitty's illness was the biggest story this season. What was behind the decision to give one of the main characters cancer?

At first, we had such mixed feelings about it. On one hand, it's always really good drama. When we did it on "thirtysomething," it was probably one of the first times that it had been done, where we took a main character and made them sick. It's usually pretty effective. It's definitely an emotional illness, something relatable and something very dramatic and painful about it. The debate was, do we go there? It was interesting to do it with her character. She was so good. Everybody felt, OK, maybe it was time to move on. There's always a bit of a balancing act. We try to be responsible and try to tell the story well.

Rob Lowe's departure was also a huge element weighing over this season. Did it take you by surprise?

That's a complicated subject. To some extent, it took me by surprise. I enjoyed working with him a lot. He was a real important part of the show and he's been a valuable asset for us. I loved [Kitty and Robert's] relationship. He and I have a nice, solid relationship. More than anything, I'll miss that. I'm sorry to see him go. I'm not that comfortable talking about it because I don't really know all the things that happen. For all of us, once it was decided, I think we thought, OK, let's move on.

Another big event was the closing of Ojai Foods. Why shut down such a major aspect of the Walkers' identity?

We've gone pretty far in terms of the potential conflicts that you can have in the food business. At a certain point, we needed to throw things up in the air. What's going to happen to all of them if we redefined the fundamental business context? I grew up in a family business. That's such a defining aspect of a family, so when you shatter that definition, it opens up possibilities. We really wanted to break open those things. If we keep this business, then we're limited in terms of what we can do.

What can you tell us about the season finale?

Creatively, I think we knew for a long time that we wanted to have this big event with an element of a cliffhanger. We wanted to eventize the finale. Last year it was a soft ending. At the end of the first season, Justin went off to war. At the end of the third season, Tommy had moved on. This year we wanted it to be dramatic and leave everyone with the sense of possibilities and a lack of closure.

Season 5 will flash forward one year. What can we expect?

The part that's interesting about the notion of jumping a year is how do these people get to where we're picking them up when that's so different from where we left them. There's something about things like how you deal with grief that could be lugubrious. If you jump a year, then you can go back and be very selective about how do you explore those sorts of things. There's a certain structure to the show and obviously dynamics will shift because so many things would have changed in that year. The stories will probably explore Sarah's relationship with Luc -- there'll be ramifications from the end of this season. Their lives will be impacted in a huge way.

Any plans to do another flashback episode?

I don't know how much we'd glimpse past this one year that's been lost. I know people really enjoyed seeing them younger, so I would imagine if something works, usually you go back to it. I think we will. What was fun about that was casting those young actors.

Will you be back as David?

If they want me to come back. It's fun. I enjoy it. If I've done it for a little while, it gets easier -- I get a little rusty. I really don't act anymore. But it keeps me going to the gym.

-- Enid Portuguez

Photo: Ken Olin as David Caplan on "Brothers & Sisters." Credit: ABC

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