America Ferrera’s prolonged goodbye to Superstore commenced on Thursday night with an episode that was originally meant to serve as the first half of a two-part finale.
As previously reported, NBC’s No. 1 comedy was unable to complete production on Season 5’s 22nd installment — aka Ferrera’s intended farewell episode — due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the season concluded with “California Part 1,” in which Amy accepted an offer to move to California and become Cloud 9’s new Director of Customer Experience. Shortly thereafter, Jonah decided to go with her.
Below, showrunners Jonathan Green and Gabe Miller weigh in on Ferrera’s delayed departure and how COVID-19 may impact additional storylines moving forward.
TVLINE | Before we dive into the events of the finale, let’s circle back to America Ferrera’s announcement that she’d be leaving the show. Neither of you have spoken about it publicly until now. When did she first talk to both of you about her desire to move on?
GREEN | We first heard that it was a possibility about halfway through the season, and we found out for sure shortly before it was announced publicly. But from about halfway through the season, because we knew it was a possibility, we were talking about one version of the end of the season where Amy stayed, and one version where she left. So we were sort of riding both horses for a while.
TVLINE | America is also an executive producer. How much did she help shape Amy’s exit storyline?
MILLER | America has always been [involved]. We’ve been really grateful for her creative contributions… She was working very closely with us on the best way to send Amy off in a satisfying way.
TVLINE | If America hadn’t decided to leave the show, what was the plan for Amy? Would the job offer have fallen through?
GREEN | That was one direction we had talked about, but we had other things that could have come out of Amy getting more and more noticed by corporate, which we had set in motion early in the season with district manager Maya coming in and noticing her, and putting in a good word for her at corporate and talking about the possibility of advancement. Even Amy getting the profile written about her in the “Zephra Cares” episode… all of that could have led to Amy getting attention from corporate in a way that didn’t necessarily involve a job offer.
TVLINE | This was originally intended as a two-part finale/farewell to America. How far into preproduction were you on Part 2 before you had to shut things down?
MILLER | We not only had the table read, but we had gone through with the writers and rewritten that 22nd episode, so we had a shooting draft.
GREEN | Yeah, it was well underway. The director was prepping it, location scouting, everything… It was that Thursday, before we were about to shoot it the following Monday, that we finally realized that, “OK, we’re going to have to shut things down. There is no way we can produce this.” One of the storylines in the planned finale involved some big crowd scenes. We were supposed to have about 250 extras, and it became clear pretty early that we were not going to be able to bring together that large a group of people, in addition to our crew.
TVLINE | I imagine all those extras were supposed to show up as part of Cheyenne’s 21st birthday bash, which quickly morphed into Fyre Festival 2.0. Is that a storyline you can even follow up on now?
GREEN | That’s one of the areas where we’re waiting and seeing what things are like. I do feel like there is a world where having taken people’s money for a party or a concert that they can’t throw is just another thing to add to Cheyenne’s financial troubles, and then there could also be the version where they try to pull off this party. We’re gonna have to see how “back to normal” things actually are. We think it’ll probably be impossible [to have 250 extras].
TVLINE | In “California Part 1,” Amy attended the Zephra interview certain that she wasn’t going to get the job. Even so, she and Jonah have been together for a couple years. Isn’t that something she would have discussed with him, regardless of whether she thought she stood a chance?
GREEN | Amy is very practically minded. It made sense to us that Amy would think that there’s no point for [them] to discuss [their] future together and what a move to California might mean until it’s actually a real thing. And, you know, maybe she sensed that conversation would be a little trickier, and she would not have anticipated that Jonah would decide to come with her at the end.
TVLINE | America is leaving the show, but Ben Feldman is not. That makes it highly unlikely that Jonah will follow Amy to California. Where do we pick up in Part 2?
MILLER | Jonah and Amy [will have those conversations] pretty much the next day…
TVLINE | Amy briefly mentions moving Emma and Parker with her to Palo Alto, a decision she seems to have made without first discussing it with their father, Adam. Is that a discussion being saved for Part 2?
GREEN | Yes. That’s a decision that, at least off camera, she will be making with Adam.
TVLINE | To confirm, America is on board for the Season 6 premiere?
GREEN | Yeah, that was a pretty immediate decision. As soon as it became clear that we weren’t going to be able to shoot [it as] the finale, she said, “I need to come back for the first episode.” Obviously we were glad to hear that… It just wouldn’t feel right to send her off without a proper farewell episode.
TVLINE | Has there been any talk of extending her stay by an additional episode, so her exit coincides with Superstore‘s 100th episode?
MILLER | We had already talked about her doing the Season 6 premiere, because that would have been the 100th episode. Since the [shutdown], we [have been] more focused on giving her a proper farewell and more focused on having her for [Episode 99]. But initially, yeah, we were saying it would be great, and she was excited, too, about being there for the 100th episode… I think it’s a possibility.
TVLINE | Does the manner in which Amy eventually departs leave the door open for America to return for the occasional guest appearance?
MILLER | Yes. That’s one nice thing about this job offer being at corporate. She is still in the world of the show and this store. And it would possible to see her again, and we’d obviously love to get as much of America as we can.
TVLINE | In addition to setting up Amy’s departure, this was also a big episode for Sandra. She clocked in as a childless newlywed, then left with Glenn’s 17-year-old former foster son. Is she actually going to adopt him?
GREEN | There’s the turn at the end of the episode where we are hoping to show that it goes from her sort of being duped or saddled with something she wasn’t planning on being saddled with, to seeing her with a little bit of a smile on her face about being someone’s mom. We’ve been really excited about next season, seeing what Sandra is like as a mom [to] this kid who she never really intended to adopt, [and] seeing how she, Jerry and Tony become a family. It seems like it could be surprisingly touching.
TVLINE | Superstore has always been grounded in reality, touching on hot-button issues such as immigration and automation in the retail industry. Do you expect the current pandemic to impact the types of stories you tell in Season 6?
MILLER | Yes. We always want the show to reflect reality, so we do anticipate the show will be different in some way, but it’s just too early to know exactly what that should look like. Obviously we want to do it in the most respectful way [possible], but also be honest and talk about what’s going on in the world.
GREEN | We are expecting a whole range of new issues that big-box store employees [will be] dealing with once all of this is over, based on what has happened… We’ve already dealt a lot with automation coming into the store, and we’re wondering how that might ramp up even more because of social distancing guidelines and companies wanting to cut their work forces.
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