The trials and tribulations of the women who are either married to Army personnel or who are actually fighting in the war themselves continue in the popular series "Army Wives," which is unspooling its fourth season every Sunday night on Lifetime. The women at the core of the show - Claudia Joy (Kim Delaney), Roxy (Sally Pressman), Denise (Catherine Bell), Pamela (Brigid Brannagh) and Joan (Wendy Davis) - are each going through their share of drama that either seems to be related to their sometimes tumultuous relationship to the military or focuses on the strains in their personal relationships with each other. In talking to Executive Producer Deborah Spera earlier this week, our Jim Halterman found out the theme for this year's respective journeys for the ladies, the decision of the writers and producers to bring a pregnancy into one character's life and how she sees (or doesn't see) the storylines wrapping up when that day comes.
Jim Halterman: How did you go about mapping out season four of the show?
Deborah Spera: I think you have to look at each year with regards to themes and try to address the things most pertinent to that year. The theme the writers are really trying to explore this year is sacrifice. Just how much sacrifice is necessary when you're married to the Army and/or married to the service. How much is expected to you and then how much do you have to sacrifice as a result of sort of marrying into this life. That can be explored in each of the characters and in different ways so that's how we're approaching this season.
JH: Talk to me about the psychology of what characters like Jeremy are going through and the research you go through to portray it accurately.
DS: [Executive Producer] Jeff Melvoin and his staff have been pretty good about doing research and [Co-Executive Producer] Marshall Persinger in South Carolina is adamant about research. When the writers were here in Charleston, she took them to the brain trauma units at the hospitals and talked a lot about brain trauma and how it works in terms of eye injury. Research is important to the staff and particularly important on the grounds during production.
JH: One of the more dramatic stories going on right now is how Joan is dealing with her physical injuries after the explosion last year. How is that going effect how she feels about the army and her part in it?
DS: I think she's had to really look at what sacrifice means because not only is she sacrificing her health and well being every day to serve her country, which is something she completely believes in, but she's also sacrificing the day-to-day of being a Mom. She's sacrificing what it means to walk away from your husband and your child and not participate in the day-to-day events and big events as your child grows and hits milestones. She's going to struggle a lot with that and also with her own frailty and her own injury, which will come back to plague her a little bit.
JH: I noticed the storylines often go over several episodes instead of having everything wrap up neatly in every episode. Is that a Lifetime mandate or a personal preference of yours?
DS: The first two seasons we tried to bring some sort of closure on the week-to-week basis but since Jeff has been here he likes to stretch things out as we go and the audience seems to like it and I know the network really likes it so that's a way they chose to go.
JH: Talk to me about the decision for Roxy to become pregnant. How did the story come about and why Roxy?
DS: It was a story everyone wanted to see her go through. It's so important to Trevor (Drew Fuller, who plays Roxy's husband) and initially not something she wanted to do because she just got her feet on the ground and she has a fairly new marriage, a business of her own and kids to raise and not knowing whether or not your husband is going to be there to help with a third child. I have three kids and let me tell you it's not an easy thing! I think her trepidation is something everyone can relate to but as soon as you spot that kind of trepidation in a character you can't help but want to put them through it and see what happens and the obstacles they're going to have to overcome.
JH: In some ways, the show could be called Army Wives and Mothers since the family stories are just as paramount to the show. How important is it to spend time on that part of their lives?
DS: The families and the sacrifices the families have to make is something that is really important. 'Army Wives' is not just about being married to the soldiers but it's about raising your families, it's about your community and how you participate and function within those things but I think all those things are equally important.
JH: Lenore (Rhoda Griffis) is one of those great TV characters that just comes in and stirs up trouble. Will we be seeing more of her and learn why she is so nasty all the time?
DS: You're going to see a little bit more of her and then there's going to be a showdown. And it's something they're going to explore but not in great depth because she's not a series regular so that makes it a little bit more difficult to go into great detail about her background. She is an intriguing character and you do want to find out why someone would behave the way she does when life is not that bad for her. She's a villain everyone can point to very easily.
JH: The online communities are so vocal about what they like and don't like in terms of TV shows. Do you listen to what people post on Facebook or on the Lifetime website in regards to 'Army Wives?'
DS: I think we definitely are mindful of our audience and we do pay attention to the message board. We don't let it alter our direction as a general rule but if enough people say 'Jump up and down and scream' you're going to have to pay attention so we're mindful and we don't disregard them, for sure.
JH: The show displays no signs of slowing down anytime soon but do you have an idea where you want the show to wrap up when it eventually does?
DS: No, I don't. Our hope is that it continues to go. I think there are so many stories to tell and if we have the opportunity to continue to do so and right now it would be nice to be able to continue to tell as many stories as possible.
"Army Wives" airs Sundays on Lifetime at 10:00/9:00c.