Sarah Wayne Callies on Robin’s Grief & the ‘Council of Dads’ ‘Boundaries’
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Episode 2 of Council of Dads, “I’m Not Fine.”]
The Perry family and the Council of Dads are both still getting their footing when it comes to their day-to-day lives when the new NBC drama returns Thursday.
That results in Robin (Sarah Wayne Callies) briefly firing the Council, until Charlotte (Thalia Tran) admits how concerned she is about the kids having a back-up plan in case they lose their mother, too. Meanwhile, Luly’s (Michele Weaver) birth mother reappears in her life, and Michelle’s conversation with Anthony (Clive Standen) reveals he — and not Scott — is her biological father. The fallout of that secret isn’t the only thing viewers have to look forward to.
“Episode 5 is one of my favorite episodes of television I’ve ever been in. It’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read,” Callies told TV Insider. “In a way, it does what the pilot does, which is that it moves through time very quickly and it gives us a sense of how this giant group of people is coping. Some days they’re fine, some days they’re great, and some days, they just can’t.”
Here, Callies discusses Episode 2 and previews what’s to come.
To say Robin’s feelings about the Council are complicated would be an understatement, right? She fired them but realized she needs them but in an ideal world, she wouldn’t need them.
Sarah Wayne Callies: That’s accurate. Most of the time, the father who’s raising your children is also the man you’ve chosen to have a relationship with, and there was something that drew you to him, and ideally, you’re at least getting a little sex out of the deal. Robin didn’t pick any of these men. Ollie is her best friend, which certainly means he would be in her life one way or another, but Larry and Anthony are virtual strangers to her, and they were put into a bit of an arranged family situation by her late husband. That’s a real big ask.
What does she want to see from all three of them going forward? Larry is intense, as Luly put it, but Anthony is a bit too laid-back.
Yeah, it’s a tough balance, isn’t it? It’s a bit of a Goldilocks situation. As a parent myself and Robin would feel the same way, a lot of parenting is showing up and giving kids enough space to make their own mistakes. Larry maybe feels a little overbearing, like he’s not giving the kids the room to make their own mistakes, so maybe she’d like him to throttle down there. But Anthony’s not showing up and she needs him to commit to these children and to put them as high up as he puts himself in his list of priorities. It’s complicated.
The other thing is especially with the boys in the family, Robin may not be right in what she is hoping to expect from these dads because they are men raising young men and they may actually have a better idea sometimes of especially what these young men need. There’s gotta be room for Robin to be wrong. Parenthood is about a lot of failure.
Anthony is Luly’s biological father. What can you tease about how that will eventually come out and Luly and Robin’s reactions?
We have defined ourselves, as the Perrys, as a family of people who stand up for one another out of a sense of devotion, not because we are blood. I don’t share blood with Charlotte, I don’t share blood with Luly, and they are no less my daughters than my sons are. On the one hand, there’s an argument to be made that Anthony being Luly’s biological dad doesn’t matter. Scott’s the man who stood up and raised her. That makes him her father. That would be Robin’s perspective.
For Luly, there’s a big set of questions that opens up, which is, why didn’t you choose to love me then? Why did you choose yourself over me then? Why didn’t you have the courage to take responsibility? It’s a really complicated question. As more and more comes out from Michelle about the circumstances of those first months of Luly’s life, it may increasingly look like it was Scott who changed the playbook.
One of the things I keep going back to in this show is that forgiveness is one of the most difficult and yet one of the most powerful things in our arsenal of human feelings. For Robin, particularly, forgiving somebody who betrayed her dead husband is not something that she can see her way to very easily. If Scott were alive and they could hash it out and Scott could come to her and say, “All right, Anthony and I sat down and we beat the tar out of each other or we cried and held each other,” Robin would take his direction. But Robin is so protective of Scott and his memory and his legacy that finding out Anthony cheated on his best friend with his best friend’s girlfriend, I don’t know how you make that right.
Robin and Luly’s relationship is a highlight of the show, so how does that affect how Robin views Michelle?
First of all, thank you for saying that about Robin and Luly because it’s a relationship that I love so much. There’s actually a beautiful scene we had to cut from the pilot for time where right before Luly gets married, Robin is in the house with her helping her get ready, and she gives her the locket with the picture of Scott and her as a baby, and she says, “Your dad wanted me to give you this on your wedding day.”
When I was talking to the writers about the relationship between Robin and Michelle, I was begging them for that never to become a competitive or catty relationship. It’s so often women are pitted against one another in storytelling — although we have so many women in our writers’ room, they would just see through that nonsense right away — but it mattered a lot to me that it never become, “She’s my daughter,” “No, she’s my daughter.” Robin has tremendous respect for how difficult a decision Michelle made. My son is adopted, and I still have a relationship with his birth mom, and I look at the journey she took to make the decision for my son and my feelings are only gratitude and respect and love. That was really important to me that we keep Robin and Michelle on the same page of what’s best for Luly. What does this young woman need?
I even pitched that maybe in Season 2, we get a Council of Moms that Robin and Michelle form. There’s a couple other moms that we meet as the course of the season goes on. These women form a Council of Moms so if the Council of Dads starts putting up too much of a fuss, Robin’s got a little posse of her own to back her up.
Robin is really busy keeping the family together after Scott’s death. Will she get time to grieve her loss?
Yeah, Robin’s journey through grief is a real through line for this season. Our show has a way of playing with time that’s interesting. The pilot takes place over 15 months. Episode 2 takes place over two days. We continue in that way. There are some episodes that take place within 12 hours. There are some that take place over an entire holiday season. Because of that, we get to start to see Robin come out of her grief into the other side, and what does that look like?
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What does it look like if Robin decides, “Maybe I want to have a first day? Not get married, not have a boyfriend, but I want to talk to a man who thinks I’m cute, who’s not here for my kids.” What does that mean, and how does that affect the kids and how do the dads respond to that? Because now there’s a committee. It’s fascinating.
When I first took this part, it never occurred to me that Robin would have a sex life, and then I got to read some of these episodes, and I was like, “Oh my God, this is brilliant, this is a show written by women and by men who have a really nuanced understanding of femininity and motherhood and sexuality and haven’t pigeonholed this woman into, this is it, you’re the grieving widow, you’ll always be the grieving widow, you have no sex drive, you have no personal wants.” It would’ve been easy to do that version of the show. Instead, we’re doing something much more interesting.
What will we see from Robin and Ollie’s friendship? Is he someone we’ll see Robin leaning on?
He definitely is. One of the things about Ollie and Robin that’s so interesting is as we get deeper into the season, it becomes more of a two-way street. In the beginning, Ollie is really doing everything he can for the Perry family, but Ollie has a husband, Ollie has a daughter, and trying to find a way for that to come into balance. How does he keep his obligations to the Perry family without short-changing his own family?
Robin knows him really well. She’s invested in his marriage with Peter. Tess feels like one of her own kids. Ollie’s not there to be the knight in shining armor. Ollie’s a real, human person. Robin may be a widow, but he’s still a husband, and he’s gotta figure that out. And I’ll help.
Yes, the Council of Dads can be the backup plan, but are we going to see the kids worrying about losing Robin, too? Death is part of their lives.
Yeah, that’s the kind of thing that really leaves a mark on kids. Later in the season, there will be events that take Robin away from some of the kids in order to try and protect other of the kids. Those kids that are without her for that period really struggle with this idea of, “What happens if mom doesn’t come home?” The Council are amazing. But the Council don’t live in the same house. The Council hasn’t held them since they were babies. There is a difference between a Council and a parent. The whole story of this first season is finding that line. Where are the boundaries?
Council of Dads, Thursdays, 8/7c, NBC