EXCLUSIVE: Freeform’s celebrated family drama series The Fosters will be ending its run after five seasons but not before a final three-episode installment, which will introduce a spinoff series. The network has greenlighted a three-part The Fosters finale event to air next summer, while also giving a 13-episode series order to a Fosters offshoot starring the series’ Cierra Ramirez and Maia Mitchell. Set several years in the future, it will follow the lives of their characters, Callie (Mitchell) and Mariana (Ramirez), as they embark on the next phase of their young adult lives. I hear the two may be joined by at least one more young Fosters cast member, with conversations currently underway.
The news comes as The Fosters recently wrapped production on its fifth season, culminating with the show’s two-hour 100th episode, which will serve as a Season 5 finale, setting up the three-part limited series summer event. The ten-episode Season 5B debuts Jan. 9.
In the yet-untitled spinoff series, currently in early stages of development, Callie and Mariana move out and move to a new city, Los Angeles. While living together, they take two very different paths and explore the different sides of the city — Mariana will be involved in the tech world, possibly in Silicon Beach, while Callie will continue the kind of social work she’s done.
“Both of them will be faced with the challenges of working in a cultural divide all the while pursuing their dreams that have been laid into those characters throughout The Fosters,” said Freeform’s EVP programming and development Karey Burke.
She said the idea for a spinoff series came from The Fosters’ three writing executive producers, creators Peter Paige and Bradley Bredeweg as well as Joanna Johnson, who are shepherding the project. The trio felt it was time to grow the younger characters up and pitched the idea how to do that. The network brass mulled it over and decided to go with the plan.
“It’s really about expanding the universe and continuing the legacy of The Fosters but in a different venue,” Burke said.
By aging up the younger characters, The Fosters is taking a page out of the playbook of Freeform’s biggest series, Pretty Little Liars, which also implemented a five-year time jump. While on that show, the characters stayed in the same town, “we felt like taking a bolder step with The Fosters and let the characters choose a new path,” Burke said.
While the new series will be moving in a new direction, it will still maintain ties with the mothership show. “We plan to have all characters from the original series make guest appearances,” Burke said. That includes The Fosters parents, played by Teri Polo and Sherri Saum.
The Fosters centers on the Foster clan: lesbian couple Stef (Polo) and Lena (Saum), who have built a close-knit, loving family with Stef’s biological son from a previous marriage, Brandon (David Lambert); their adopted twins, Mariana (Ramirez) and Jesus (Noah Centineo); and adopted siblings Jude (Hayden Byerly) and his half-sister, Callie (Mitchell).
The series broke ground for Freeform and earned praise for its portrayal of LGBT characters and issues. The Fosters won two GLAAD, a Television Academy Honors Award and a Teen Choice Award.
‘The Fosters has been consistently groundbreaking and award-winning, it very much has helped define a brand that we want to continue and advance in platforming stories and characters that feel authentic and relevant to our audiences,” said Burke who admitted that watching the show as a fan with her family and admiring how it was breaking boundaries and taking on difficult topics in a thoughtful and heartfelt way was one of the reasons she wanted to go work at Freeform. “The show has never strayed from controversy, it’s never strayed from important social topics. It helped first ABC Family and now Freeform not just be a part of this national conversation but lead it. It’s really been an important bedrock for this channel, and the future path that we’re taking on today with shows like The Bold Type and Grown-ish, which premieres tonight. We’re extremely proud of it and hope to continue its relevance with the new series.”
She noted that shows, particularly family shows, have a life cycle, and, driven by the creators, the decision to end the original series and launch a spinoff “is a way to continue that story and the legacy of these characters.”
Paige, Bredeweg and Johnson executive produce alongside Greg Gugliotta, Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas and Benny Medina.
“First and foremost, we want to thank our fans – our supportive ‘Fosters Family’ – and Freeform for fostering this show,” Paige, Bredeweg and Johnson said. “It’s been the privilege of our lives to get to shepherd this beautiful family through five seasons of love, laughter, heartbreak, tribulation, and triumph – and message to the world that DNA doesn’t make a family, love does. All while allowing us to explore some of the most pressing social issues of our era. Now that the kids are growing up, it’s time to take them out into the world, to see them make their way into adulthood, continuing their search for identity and love, and the pursuit of their dreams and purpose in this ever changing world.”
The Fosters has been one of Freeform’s most watched and highest rated series for its entire run. Its current fifth season ranks second in total viewers and adults 18-49 only to the final chapter of PLL.