Nearly eight years after The Fosters premiered on Freeform (then ABC Family) and became a critical piece of LGBTQ+ TV history, the members of the Adams-Foster clan are still each other’s chosen family on-screen and off.
Daughters Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) left home for college and eventually landed at the melting pot of the Coterie on Good Trouble, but each season of the spin-off brings back members of the parent show, most often their beloved moms, Lena (Sherri Saum) and Stef (Teri Polo). Now a few episodes into Good Trouble’s third season, which was halted for several months due to shutdowns in Hollywood, Stef and Lena, along with two Adams-Foster brothers, Brandon (David Lambert) and Jude (Hayden Byerly), are back for an episode complete with dirndls, clogs, and the revelation of several secrets.
“This time around, Stef and Lena, obviously, they have their moments of, ‘Oh my God, what is going on?’" Saum says of the moms as Callie and Mariana reveal they’ve both gone through breakups and job changes while they are supposed to be celebrating at Brandon and his fiancée Eliza’s going-away party for their move to Amsterdam.
“But I felt in this episode, anyway, that even though we [the moms] were affected, obviously, by their choices and things that are going on around them, we loosened the umbilical cord a little bit.”
For Saum, who knew Mitchell, Ramirez, and all of the Fosters’ kids as children or teens and watched them carve their paths as adults, there’s a parallel between the characters on-screen, her relationship to the actors in real life, and her own kids.
“Every time a crisis had happened in the past [with Stef and Lena’s kids], the feeling was we need to step in, or it was highly stressful. But I felt like this time, even though we were finding out things that we didn't necessarily want to know, it was kind of like, well, so it goes,” Saum says.
“I think that's part of the good parenting is letting them have to make these choices. Like with my kids, I feel like, Man, I'm always trying to do things for them. Let me pick that up.... And I'm like, Damn, I'm robbing them of the opportunity to learn that they know how to do this. Build their confidence. This [episode] was kind of like that, but on the older scale,” she says of the Good Trouble story that has Callie and Mariana confessing their recent life changes.
She adds that she couldn't be prouder of Ramirez and Mitchell, who are producers on the spin-off and lead the series with grace and professionalism.
The Adams-Foster reunion on this week’s Good Trouble, while fraught with some drama, is mostly a happy event, even if Brandon’s future father-in-law, played by Queer as Folk star Robert Gant, appears to be a possibly Trump-loving Republican. There’s even a folk dance in which the members of the extended family work out some energy in their clogs.
“It just was mood-lifting and fun,” Saum says. “Those clogs were so satisfyingly clicking on the ground. We were alive, the hills are alive,” she jokes of the episode shot in a beautiful home in the Hollywood hills.
While it was wonderful to reunite with Polo, her dear friend and “full-on sister from another mister,” she says, it was also strange to be on set under COVID restrictions. Saum had already cut her teeth working during the pandemic on the set of Power Book II: Ghost, but it was tough to be hemmed in by those protocols with the folks she’s known and loved for years.
“It was just odd,” she says. “We literally are truly just like a family. So that part's never awkward. But just having to not hug. That was really strange. It's just inconvenient in some respects, and awkward because we love each other and it's hard not to go running and hugging.”
“But we're so grateful to be able to be back in production at all. Like, we would jump through any kind of hoop that meant it was safe enough to continue. So it was not that off-putting,” she adds. “It was just like, 'Oh, thank God we're getting to work. Thank God we get to be together in this way.’”
Good Trouble, from creators Joanna Johnson, Peter Paige, and Bradley Bredeweg, continues to be at the forefront of topical discussions, anticipating the cultural and social zeitgeist. This season alone tackles white supremacy on social media, the criminal justice system’s heinous treatment of Black people, and evolving sexual and gender identities.
When The Fosters premiered in 2013, it was a game changer in terms of depicting a lesbian-led family of biological, adopted, and foster kids. Saum works a lot. Since The Fosters ended its run in 2018, she’s starred in Locke & Key, Agents, Limetown, and Roswell, New Mexico, among others. But she counts The Fosters and the family it created before and behind the camera as a career high.
“I tell everyone all the time, it's the most precious, important work that I've ever done. I didn't really know it at the time. It just felt special, but it just felt also very fragile,” Saum says. “I didn't know how it'd be received. I didn't know the legacy it would possibly leave. If anything, I'll never, ever get over it.”
“I am so incredibly proud of the impact and the freedom that it's given people, the voice that it's given people. I've always said, ‘It's one thing as an actor, you just want to get a job, but to get a job that can move people and change conversations...’ I get chills right now. I've got goose bumps right now talking about it,” she says.
Good Trouble airs Wednesdays on Freeform.