Bruce Helford and Dave Caplan explain why it was fitting that the Conners faced a storm on the big day.
After waiting all of season 3 to see Dan (John Goodman) and Louise (Katey Sagal) finally get engaged, The Conners wasted no time in seeing the couple get married in season 4. Executive producers Bruce Helford and Dave Caplan explain to ET why they wanted to see the two get hitched, why the big day was anything but perfect, and how they filmed that tornado scene.
[Warning: Spoilers for episode 3, “The Wedding of Dan and Louise,” which premiered Wednesday, Oct. 12 on ABC.]
While the team normally “goes by feel and let the relationship of our characters dictate when and how we do things,” Caplan says when it came to the wedding, “it just felt like time.”
Not only that, but Helford reveals that one unexpected benefit of Sagal’s series, Rebel, getting canceled was that the actress suddenly became available. “Once that became clear, we knew that we really wanted to get that going,” he explains, adding that they were all “rooting for her show” to continue.
That said, “postponing [the wedding] any further would seem artificial,” Caplan says. “It seemed like Dan and Louise were in the right place where they just wanted to be married. And who are we, the mere writers, to argue with that?”
While getting the couple hitched felt right, the producers admit they couldn’t just have a perfect day. Over the course of the episode, Louise has a meltdown after so many things go wrong, and before either one of them can say “I do,” a tornado hits Lanford.
“We knew it was going to be metaphorical for the lives of the Conners, which just don’t seem to go that smoothly. So, when we started thinking about a storm, that really felt like a great, symbolic idea for us,” Caplan explains. “Because the Conners, with the economic struggles they have on a daily basis, kind of live in the middle of a storm. And so, it felt like if the wedding were easy, it wouldn’t have felt like our show.”
However, because it is the Conners, “they were going to persevere and make it happen and find some kind of happiness,” he adds.
For Sagal, in particular, it was a chance to see her really pull back the layers on Louise, who’s always been portrayed as this tough rock-n-roller type. “I think she even surprised herself, speaking from the character’s point of view, that she wanted a white dress, the wedding cake and all those accoutrements, you know?” Caplan says, adding it was a really interesting way to test her.
When it comes to filming the tornado scene, which sees the church windows exploding as Dan and Louise cling to each other at the altar, the producers say it was an intense moment on set. “It was definitely scary to Katey,” Caplan says, explaining that she thought they were going to use stunt doubles during the scene. And then, at the last minute, she found out she and Goodman were actually going to be on set. “And she said, ‘Is that OK?’ And we said, ‘We’re assured it’s safe.’”
That said, “it was a violent stunt,” Caplan admits. “It was very loud and very powerful... but it enabled us to have some amazing reactions.”
“It was really effective,” Helford adds. “It’s very shocking, but I love the image of him holding her.”
While Dan and Louise had to navigate a far-from-perfect walk down the aisle, other members of the Conner family were tested as well, including Darlene (Sara Gilbert), who was unhappy that Ben (Jay R. Ferguson) was attending despite their breakup, and Becky, (Lecy Goranson) who has a momentary relapse when she accidentally has a sip of champagne.
Last season, the EPs said Becky’s recovery would be a long one and this episode is the first major test of her sobriety in season 4. Despite only taking a sip, the realization leaves her in tears, and Helford says that reaction is something based on what happened to his wife. “She literally believed she had violated her sobriety and was worried that that was going to trigger all these terrible things,” he says. So, what Becky went through “was pretty realistic.”
As for Darlene, by the end of the episode, she realizes that Ben isn’t going away, especially between his business with Dan and his relationship with Darlene’s son, Mark (Ames McNamara). “She has to deal with the fact that Ben has become part of the family,” Caplan says, adding that “trying to figure out the status quo” is going to result in “some interesting stories.”
But love is not completely lost on Darlene. “She is going to explore some other romantic relationships beyond Ben,” Helford teases.
The Conners airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.