Edgier and faster-paced than its parent show, Good Trouble, the spin-off of The Fosters, premiered on Freeform in January in all of its intersectional glory. The new series, which follows the Adams Fosters sisters Callie and Mariana to Los Angeles post-graduation as they navigate their careers and their love lives, is set apart from The Fosters tonally through the use of jumbled chronology and flashback storytelling. But as the young women settle into a communal living situation in downtown L.A. and make new friends, it becomes clear that Good Trouble has much in common with the show that came before, because at its core it's about finding and holding on to family.
On the latest episode of Good Trouble, just as Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) have begun to make a home in their new digs with the denizens of the communal space the Coterie, a disruption occurs in the form of a visit from their moms, Stef and Lena. The space gets scrubbed, spiffed up, and sort-of mom-proofed, but the sisters discover that there’s never really hiding anything from mom(s) — including the mind-bending cookies left out on the counter that Lena and Stef unwittingly eat to hilarious results.
Sherri Saum, who played Lena, half of the lesbian mom couple that was the foundation of The Fosters and who appears on this week's Good Trouble, finds that her mom gene still kicks in to make her feel protective of her TV daughters — on screen and in real life.
“It was very surreal because we've had our home base for so long — The Fosters home and the whole situation. But it served me well because it felt just like I think probably a mom who sends her kids off to their grown-up lives would feel visiting them in their new lives,” Saum tells The Advocate about reprising the role of Lena in the factory-space world of the Coterie on Good Trouble.
“It's so alien to not have them under your roof anymore. I definitely used that a lot during the episode,” Saum says. “It's hard. It's like you see your babies growing up. You want to wish them the best, but you also want to hold their hand and make sure they're eating their vitamins, and all that stuff.”
Zuri Adele, Sherry Cola, Sherri Saum, and Teri Polo
Executive producer Bradley Bredeweg helmed the episode that has Lena and Stef arriving just as the Palace theater, which houses the Coterie, has been declared a “fire trap.” And revelations about everything from the sisters’ crowded living situation to their challenges at work are exposed throughout the duration of the moms’ visit, with Stef ever the watchful mama bear and Lena as the peacemaker. Eventually, their secrets are exposed and the sisters realize that their moms are still their home base.
“It's hard, you see these babies — I feel like they were babies when we first met. You see them making certain choices, and you just want to protect them, and that's definitely still there,” Saum says of shooting the episode. “I don't think that will ever go away. When Maia and Cierra are like 75, I'll be in the nursing home checking up on them.”
Despite the fact that they’re still only in their mid-20s, Mitchell, 25, and Ramirez, 23, stepped into the spin-off not only as the show’s central characters but also, with their years of experience on The Fosters, as the de facto anchors on set for the cast that includes actors for whom Good Trouble marks their first time as series regulars. And while Saum says she will always instinctually mother the young women, she recognizes their prowess as the show's leads (and as producers on the series).
“They’re absolutely beyond well prepared. These women were my peers, I saw them as my babies, but they were really my peers because they were consummate professionals,” Saum says of Mitchell and Ramirez.
“[They’re] really smart and savvy. Not only with their craft but with the business surrounding it — social media, all of that. It’s a really natural progression, and I'm really proud of them,” she adds.
Adele, Saum, and Maia Mitchell
The profound friendship that developed between Saum and Polo was well documented (often on their own social media) throughout the run of The Fosters. So reuniting with her friend for Good Trouble was also a boon for Saum.
“Oh, please. It's like breathing,” Saum says of working with Polo. “It doesn't matter if I've not seen her in a month or it doesn't matter. We just click like that, and it's like butter on the bread. It's such a gift to work with her.”
The Fosters premiered in 2013 and ran for five seasons until the series finale last summer. And it was benchmark television throughout its run. Not only did the intersectional series from Bredeweg, Joanna Johnson, and Peter Paige (all executive producers on Good Trouble) depict a loving interracial lesbian couple raising biological, adopted, and foster kids, it moved the needle for LGBTQ representation in terms of introducing trans characters played by trans actors. It also provided visibility for kids in the foster system who are terribly underserved and overlooked. The series "set a bar," Saum says.
“The good thing is I just know that it can't go backward anymore,” Saum says of The Fosters and its impact on the TV landscape. “There's no going back, which is the most beautiful thing of all. Whether we flounder a little bit going forward, whether we always get it right, as we did in The Fosters and Good Trouble, I don't know. But I think that there's no going back, and it's a really beautiful place to be.”
Watch a clip from this week's Good Trouble, which airs on Tuesdays at 8 p.m./7 p.m. Central on Freeform.