They resolved the two big Season 1 cliffhangers, Johnny’s fate after he was struck by an explosion in Iraq (He survived and was cared for by Kate during his difficult physical and mental recovery), and what destroyed Kate (Chalke) and Tully’s (Heigl) unbreakable bond.
Season 2A carefully peeled off the lawyers of that mystery over several episodes until it was revealed that Tully’s car, with Marah in it, was hit, sending both to the hospital, after Tully had ignored Kate’s orders to keep Marah grounded and got behind the wheel on a couple of glasses of wine.
Tully’s numerous attempts to apologize and reconcile with Kate fell on deaf ears. Kate even tried to make a new friend in writing class but when in the end of the midseason finale she was diagnosed with cancer, Kate found herself knocking on Tully’s door, only to miss her by a minute as Tully, heartbroken over the dissolution of their friendship, took off to film a documentary in Antarctica.
Kate and Johnny are on different trajectories in the two time periods they overlap, breaking up in the 1980s when he doesn’t want kids (with Kate taking in a British boyfriend, Theo), while reconciling and getting engaged in the early 2000s.
In an interview with Deadline, Scrubs alumna Chalke unpacks the emotional final scene in the midseason finale, discusses Kate and Tully’s falling out, her love for 1980s style (which may or may not include Johnny’s hair), Kate’s decision to take the blame for Tully setting the station on fire and get fired as a result, as well as the show’s depiction of the misogyny in the TV industry.
Additionally, Chalke shares her real-life friendship inspiration and teases what is to come in the final seven episodes, which were shot earlier this year, without spoiling the ending for those who have not read the book. She also explains why the series will be ending with Season 2
DEADLINE: Let’s start with the final scene with Kate going to Tully’s apartment following her cancer diagnosis. How was it filming that?
CHALKE: I had read the book as soon as I got the part, so it was something that I knew was coming. Then when I read the script, it made me cry, it was really beautifully written. Obviously, I had some trepidation about shooting it. It was quite an emotional day. The director was Michael Spiller, who I’ve known for a few decades, he was one of our favorite Scrubs directors. He knew at that point that his wish was to have The Scientist by Coldplay play through the whole sequence at the end.
So as we were doing all the scenes, walking down the street, he was playing the song, and then he ended up getting the song [cleared], which was amazing as it fit so beautifully for that whole scene.
But yes, it was really, really tough. Nobody is not touched by cancer in their family, I lost my grandmother and my aunt, lots of crew members have shared their stories with me, so it was quite an emotional, moving experience.
DEADLINE: The final scene featured a classic movie moment with the two elevators, one going down with Tully and one up with Kate. What can you tease about what comes next?
CHALKE: First of all, I feel the way the whole breakdown of the relationship played out was… I was in love with what [series creator] Maggie [Friedman] came up with. I thought it’s so tricky to find something that would be big enough to break apart this unbreakable friendship. I was wondering before Season 2, what’s it going to be that you can empathize and see both characters’ sides and I thought it really hit that note and thread the needle.
You see Kate’s perspective: there are so many different things Tully could’ve done in that moment, Marah was grounded, you see all these things of why Kate can’t forgive. And you see Tully’s side, everything she went through and the fact that she just snapped in that moment, I have to go, I have to go, and you get it. You see in that last episode how much Kate also wants the relationship back, before the diagnosis and after. She misses Tully, she wants her friend back so badly but can’t allow herself.
I think in terms of how that mystery was unraveled through Season 2, Part One, I think that leaves you in a place where you’re really feeling for both of them. In terms of where it goes, I don’t want to give it away because it’s really beautiful.
DEADLINE: Does Episode 8 pick up right where Episode 7 left off?
CHALKE: Not exactly where we left off but you get to get all of those answers.
DEADLINE: I looked up the type of cancer that Kate has, it has 70% five-year survival rate for that stage. What can you say about her prognosis?
CHALKE: I don’t want to let anyone know where it’s going but it’s really moving, and it’s really emotional. I thought it was beautifully written, and it still has a real balance. Just like Season 1, Part 1, you’re still going into the 70s, you still have the 80s and 90s. There’s moments of levity, humor and pain. It’s one of the parts that I loved so much about playing this role, and what I’m really gonna miss is — no two days were the same. There’s one day where you’re singing, dancing and running around in your nylons. And the next day you’re doing a really challenging scene in front of an elevator. With a mix of playing the 80s and the 90s, you can never open a script and go, ‘Oh, that’s something I’ve done before’.
Whether it’s okay, you’re gonna be singing which to me is more terrifying than running around in a nylon because I loved to sing as a kid, all I wanted to do was musical theater, but I was kicked out of the choir when I was in grade five. And it was not a fancy choir, it was singing Christmas carols at a mall. So in that moment my dreams completely died.
And so I read script for the first episode of Season 2 and there was singing, and obviously we were filming that scene the very first day, it was supposed to be just belting it out in the car which happened in the first season when we were doing karaoke. Maggie had sent me the four songs to pick from, she’s like, you’ve got a few hours to pick. I’m driving in the car, and I’m belting them out and my sister’s like, not that one, uh-uh, that’s also a 100% no. So, when we went to shoot that scene, they actually needed to give us a earpiece with a track — no lyrics, just the track with like a metronome and the beats — and then it was just silence in the bar and you just are belting out these songs with 100 crew members around. And so I thought, hey, maybe if I dance, people will forget about the singing?
DEADLINE: You said that you will miss the role. Why is Firefly Lane ending with Season 2? How was the decision made to tell the story in two seasons and not do more, possibly going beyond the book?
CHALKE: Because we did Part 1 and Part 2, we had the number of episodes, this was always Maggie’s decision to arc this storyline. Basically, the arc follows the storyline of the book, and then it also goes off into brand new directions as well. That was the plan to know how many episodes it was going to be done over so that the story could be told in its entirety. There was no waiting on finding out if there’s a pickup or not, and then [the story] is left halfway told, it was the completion of their journey.
DEADLINE: You mentioned the incident that broke Kate and Tully’s friendship. Ultimately, the car crash was not Tully’s fault, and she apologized many times, so many fans thought that Kate should’ve let it go. Why do you think Kate felt this was so egregious that she could not forgive her?
CHALKE: I think that for Kate, it’s her baby. It’s the fact that it was Marah. I wonder if it had been Kate, if it would have been a different story, but the fact that it was Marah, and that she so clearly told Tully that she is grounded, she is not to leave. I get that you need to pick her up but there were all these other options that could have been looked at, call Kate, call a cab. I think it was the fact that it was Marah and that she did get hurt and I think not knowing what the outcome was going to be for her daughter. I think that trauma and that experience, she couldn’t get past the fact that Tully didn’t listen and just went and did what she wanted to do.
Even though obviously, as a viewer, you’re seeing both sides of things. Also Tully, the accident wasn’t her her fault, and she had been raped, she heard Marah’s voice and she was in a compromising position and she just goes and gets her. For Kate, it’s too much but at the end of the day, it’s her soulmate. It’s her best friend. It’s the most important person in her life. And so I think one of the things that was really hard and really painful was when they’re having a fight in the living room. Kate wants to forgive her so badly and she wants the relationship back and she misses her and she thinks about her every day. She’s picking up a phone to call her every day but she can’t.
DEADLINE: In the 1980s storyline, Kate gives up her job by taking the blame for the station fire in order to protect Tully’s. Talk about Kate’s sacrifice, you cannot get much bigger than that in terms of being a good friend.
CHALKE: I think it really shows how much Kate believed in Tully and wanted that for her and believed in Tully’s dream, that she was going to become the next Jean Enersen, that this was going to be her path, and she just saw how much Tully wanted it. And it wasn’t Kate’s dream, Kate had a different dream, and she was able to go like yeah, this is an okay sacrifice. I’m willing to do this, I’m willing to do this because I love you. You’re my best friend. There’s no other option here, you can’t go down here and can’t just get fired and lose your whole life, your whole dream and your whole career path.
DEADLINE: We cannot talk about the period without addressing misogyny. There is a thread through both seasons about the treatment women face in the workplace as they try to advance their careers. What do you think about the way it was portrayed on the show?
CHALKE: It was one of the important parts to be true to that time period, and that was what was happening, and to shine a light on it and talk about it and remember how challenging it was for women to move up and how men were given the chance first. I love the scene of Tully storming up to Stan, and saying ‘you’re a chauvinist, and you’re an assh*le’ and all these things and then when she gets the job she says ‘oh great, sorry about that’. I think it was an important part of keeping that time period accurate and to talk about it.
DEADLINE: Like with the Kate and Tully and the two elevators in the end, Johnny also is a bit late to stop Kate from going on her European trip with Theo. How is the trip? Do Kate and Theo have fun?
CHALKE: Yes, they do have a great time in Europe. I think for Kate, she obviously loves Johnny, she always felt like he was the one she was meant to be with but then all of a sudden when she realizes that he doesn’t want to have kids, that’s kind of it; obviously I’m going to be a mom. But obviously it’s not that simple for her, she’s been in love with Johnny since the moment she laid eyes on him, and there’s so much chemistry between them. So she’s putting her best foot forward and making this big effort to see how great this other person is who’s head over heels for her and wants all the same things that she does.
DEADLINE: In the finale, we see Johnny’s second proposal before we have witnessed his original one (if that will be part of the show at all). How was filming that scene with the Christmas tree decorating?
CHALKE: I thought it was such a sweet scene. I kind of love how the tables were turned a little bit. Kate always felt like she was the one who wanted it more and then now this is something that’s really important to him, and he doesn’t want to mess things up. And so I love how sweet it was, and I loved his proposal and I loved that her answer was ‘f*ck it’.
That’s what I love about the show. It gets really sweet, and then I’ll just quickly flip it on its head. She really loves him and wants to spend the rest of her life with him but she doesn’t want to ruin the dynamic, doesn’t want to them to repeat what they’ve been through, and she doesn’t want to set Marah up. But then she just realizes ‘No, I love you, let’s do this’.
DEADLINE: We probably should address the 1980s-style hair on the show, and particularly Johnny’s. How was it looking at each other, all of you, with those hairstyles and clothes?
CHALKE: Honestly, it is one of my favorite things. I was such a fan of the 80s, I had 80s parties, I had a drawer of 80s clothes and wigs and leg warmers and earrings. There is a dresser drawer in my house that is mostly 80s that the kids would wear. This is pre-Firefly Lane, I even brought some of my own pieces into the wardrobe fitting. So I loved it.
I feel like it just made it when you’re trying to figure out, how do I play this same character in these different eras and decades, and you want to have them feel like the same person but differentiate them. And it felt like you’re just putting on the age that you were, like when you’re in your 20s and just how you move differently and the energy that you have, the bounce in your step. I feel like by putting on different hairstyles and the clothes, it helps you get there, and some of those feeling — so young and carefree — and it was a really fun part about it. We had a great time in the wardrobe, it was one of my favorite parts, I loved it.
DEADLINE: So you are a fan of Johnny’s 80s hair?
CHALKE: I feel like that’s what Kate would’ve loved: long, and still sexy. It was certainly the look at that time.
DEADLINE: Did the show make you miss Blackberry? It is pretty prominent in Season two.
CHALKE: Yes, totally, oh my god. I remember when the props department handed me one I was like, how did we do this again? I was trying to figure out how to use it, what am I scrolling on the side with, a little scroll thing, how did it work.
DEADLINE: Do you have a friend like Tully in real life? Do you have a friendship that you could draw from?
CHALKE: I do, I’m so lucky that I do and doing this show does remind you how important it is. I hope so much for my kids that they get to have that. I have had best friends since I was five years old that are still my friends today.
My best friend, whom I went to film school with, who wanted to produce, I wanted to act. We packed up our truck and moved here when we were 24, right when I got Scrubs. We were roommates for some time, so yeah, I absolutely could relate to that friendship in Firefly other than we never had a huge falling out, our biggest fight was over cereal.
I think I’d take the granola out of the granola flakes. She’d look at the box and be like, where’s the granola? She bought boxes, took a Sharpie and wrote our names on them and that was the end of that fight. I think that was the only fight we’ve had in 40 years. Yeah, it’s rare, and I recognize how rare it is.
DEADLINE: You mentioned Scrubs and the most current time period on the show is inching toward the time both Scrubs, and Heigl’s Grey’s Anatomy were on the air. Will there be any meta references in the coming episodes?
CHALKE: I wish, I wish, that would have been really great because it is true, it’s exactly where they crossed over, it would’ve been really great.
DEADLINE: Any chance for a Scrubs reunion or revival?
CHALKE: I would love it. We all got together in Austin (at ATX TV) this past year and were talking about it. I think it would be so fun. I feel like the challenge would be matching up everybody’s schedules, maybe we could do something like the Psych cast did with a movie where you get to find out what all the characters are up to and what they’re doing. That was such a dream job, I would do something, any version of that, in a heartbeat.
DEADLINE: What else can you say about Firefly Lane‘s upcoming final chapter?
CHALKE: It’s gonna be really moving. Also so much humor and pain; it’s going to make you laugh, it’s going to make you cry. You are going to get answers to all of your questions that you’re left with. And I hope that you are going to love it.
For a gallery of Season 2A images, click on the image at the top of the story.
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