SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details about the season five finale of Superstore.
Due to the pandemic and the subsequent shut down of Hollywood, Cloud 9 had to close its doors earlier than expected. Yup, the NBC comedy Superstore had to cut its fifth season short — and it threw a wrench in the plans considering America Ferrera was going to bid farewell as the character of Amy.
Even so, co-showrunners Jonathan Green and Gabe Miller managed to make it work and give Ferrera’s Amy part one of a goodbye that will eventually go into season six.
In the episode titled “California Part 1”, the story centers on Amy, who was asked to come in for an interview at Zephra for a corporate job in California. Dina (Lauren Ash) manages to find out and Amy begs her not to tell Jonah (Ben Feldman). While she goes to Zephra, Dina is very overzealously Dina when it comes to keeping it a secret from Jonah.
Meanwhile, Mateo (Nico Santos) is helping Cheyenne (Nichole Bloom) plan an elevated 21st birthday party while she wants to “get turnt”. We also find out that Sandra (Kaliko Kauahi) and Jerry (Chris Grace) are looking to adopt and Glenn (Mark McKinney) is trying to convince them to adopt his 18-year-old foster — and she’s apprehensive about being a mom to a teenager.
At Zephra, Amy is waiting to be interviewed and it comes to her attention that the other candidates are also Latina. Yup, it’s a clear case of tokenism. She gets pressured into playing this corporate game and “do the dance” in order to land the position, but during the interview, she realizes she can’t do it. She tells the interviewers that she realizes they are looking for a “resident Latina” and that if they are looking for someone with a “spicy last name” that they keep on looking.
She returns to Cloud 9, defeated. Jonah finds out that Amy was up for the job at Zephra and isn’t necessarily upset, but more curious in why she would take a corporate job which represents everything she is against. She explains that, even though it is very corporate, this could be a big opportunity for her to make change not only for her but for everyone at Cloud 9. It doesn’t matter anyway because she feels like she didn’t get it — until she gets a phone call. Turns out they admired her passion and want to give her an offer. She wants to accept. At first, Jonah is against the idea but he eventually realizes its what’s best for her and agrees to join her in California thus giving us a cliffhanger for the next season.
We talked to Ferrera, Miller and Green about the shortened season due to the pandemic, how this affects the future of the sitcom — and if this is really goodbye for Amy.
DEADLINE: Before the pandemic hit and shut down production, how did you envision the season 5 finale?
MILLER: Well, we had always thought of this season as exploring Amy getting more notice from corporate with the help of Maya, the district manager who took a liking to her and kind of championed her. We had always been interested in seeing her getting noticed by corporate. We had a sort of a different way of going that’s still involved getting noticed by corporate and that leading to some conflicts with Jonah and some potential choices to be made, but it would have played out in a different way. We found out about halfway through the season there was a possibility [America] might be leaving so we started talking about a version using the same elements from early in the season. We had one version where she would leave at the end of the season and then another version where she would stay. We were able to shift completely to the one where she was leaving once we found out that she was definitely leaving.
DEADLINE: What kind of ripple effect did the pandemic and the eventual shutdown have on the finale beyond Amy’s story?
JONATHAN GREEN: Well in some ways it was crazy. It felt very crazy at the time because we were trying to prep for the finale and one storyline in the finale involved some big crowd scenes and it became very clear. We were going to have 250 extras at one point and we very quickly realized it was not a responsible move to bring all these people together. And then we got to thinking like, “Can we do it with a reduced crowd?” And then it became clear, “No, really it’s not going to be good to have a group of people there at all”. Even up until the Thursday before we were supposed to start shooting the finale on Monday, we had the writers room who are working on a whole new story that wouldn’t involve a crowd at all. It was just a completely different story and then that same day, that Thursday, it soon became obvious that we should just shut down production. I feel like that was a day where a lot of things we’re getting shut down. I was like, “Okay, we’re not going to be shooting next week”. On the other hand, we had always sort of thought of the last two episodes as a two-parter and had sort of a built-in cliffhanger at the end of Episode 21 leading into the finale. Once we looked it over, we tried to see it in that light. We realized that it works great as a finale.
DEADLINE: Why did you think now was a good time for this part of Amy’s journey to come to an end?
AMERICA FERRERA: Well, to be perfectly honest, it didn’t have much to do with Amy’s story. It had more to do with my personal life and trajectory and all the things happening for me in my life. I’ve had an incredible five years working on the show and I’ve loved every minute of it. I’m so grateful for it.
I think that it makes sense for Amy in that she was climbing this corporate ladder. She’s sort of the last person you expect to do that and the last person that you really think would succeed in that system, but realistically for someone like her who didn’t go to college, became a mother at 19 years old, has worked in one place for basically her whole adult life, for these opportunities to come her way it seemed unrealistic that she wouldn’t take those opportunities and explore those opportunities.
DEADLINE: In the finale, Amy interviews for the corporate job, but it is clearly a case of tokenism. Superstore has always handled socially driven topics with a thoughtful yet comedic hand.
FERRERA: I think that the key really has been that Justin [Spitzer] and all the writers that he brought onto the show and our current showrunners have never approached hot button issues as in “we’re going to solve this” or “we’re going to take a side”. It’s about showing truly how messy each and every issue is and why it gets so complicated to even have some of these conversations on the deepest most personal level because people are coming from their own unique life experiences. When we talk about, say, Mateo’s undocumented storyline, Glen and Dina can believe what they believe politically, but when it comes down to the human level in someone they know and love, you have to deal with the choices that that individual would make on a personal level. When the show does that, it really transcends and undercuts any of the political what’s right and what’s wrong.
I think the reason this show has been able to successfully navigate those kinds of issues is that the characters were so strongly drawn from the beginning. Each character had a very real background they were coming from and a very real point of view.
DEADLINE: America, you were set to leave and say goodbye, but then the shutdown happened. How did you manage to navigate the changes?
FERRERA: It felt like just another thing in my life that I had to let go of control. When we think we know and we’re making plans, deciding what life’s going to look like and what we’re going to do — that’s all an illusion that we have that control. Sometimes those plans pan out and sometimes they don’t.
I was gearing up for a big goodbye to my cast and crew that I’ve worked with for five years who I love so much. I had so much emotion building up and I thought, “Okay, I’m not going to cry for a month. I’m going to wait for the last week and say my goodbyes in the last week.” When people wanted to talk about it, I was like, “Nope, nope, nope, nope. Not doing this right now. We’ll do it in the last week.” I was holding it all in and then we got shut down. The Friday that we got shut down, we came into work and they were like, “This is your last day.” That was jarring and not completely unexpected because we were obviously paying attention to world events and realizing this could have an impact on what happens.
The silver lining is that I get to come back at the beginning of the season and see my Superstore family and be a part of the first episode back. I assume that that’s how it’s going to go and wrap up the storyline.
GREEN: There was no time in between the decision to shut down and the decision from America that she would have to come back for a premiere of next season. That was not even a discussion. It was just sort of a given from both sides. She really wanted to do it and we wanted to give her the farewell she deserves.
DEADLINE: Have you already started work on season six?
MILLER: We’re just starting to talk about it, really.
DEADLINE: Hopefully by the time you can shoot the next season, everything will be quasi-normal. Have you discussed how season six will start? Will it pick up from where we left off or can we expect a time jump?
MILLER: As far as the time jump, I think we’re not quite sure. We’re still sort of trying to figure that out because obviously, we have some big things to follow up on story-wise, but we always like the show to feel like it reflects reality. And depending on what the new reality is for stores like this, once things do go back to normal, we may have to address those things. I think the decision of whether to do a time jump or not might be partially influenced by that. But definitely, the main thing we’re going to be picking up with in the premiere is about Amy giving us a big goodbye.
DEADLINE: That’s a good point. With stores like Cloud 9 being essential in real life, I feel that may play a big part in what we see next season — but with Superstore’s ability to balance thoughtfulness with big issues and humor of course.
MILLER: That’s part of what we’ll have to a little bit wait to see what state stores are in when we’re closer to airing again.Things might be pretty different. But also on the show, we had already talked about or started to see automation coming into play and sort of as a threat to our workers and we can only imagine that there’s going to be increased pressure to find ways to do that.
We’re having to just kind of keep an eye on the reality of the situation and then obviously, yes, we’ll try to find the humor in it without being insensitive to how serious these issues are.
GREEN: With employees in stores like ours being essential workers right now, I mean, I think there’s no way that our characters wouldn’t have at least been affected by all of this.
DEADLINE: America, since it’s expected that your final goodbye will be at the top of season six, do you really think this is the last time we will see Amy? Or can we expect her to pop into Cloud 9 to do some shopping in the future after her departure?
FERRERA: If I had to guess, I would think that we would see Amy in the future of the series. She’s not dying. (laughs) We’re not killing her off. She’s still around and there’s reason for her to be in the world, so I don’t think it’s the very last you will see of Amy — if I had to guess.
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