As we head into Private Practice‘s sixth season this evening, there are so many questions: Who will Addison (Kate Walsh) choose — Jake (Benjamin Bratt) or Sam (Taye Diggs)? What will happen after Walsh leaves in 13 episodes? Will Addison get a happy ending? Will the series live on after her departure?
EW recently nabbed a little time with the series’ star to discuss the upcoming season — how it felt making it to 100 episodes, what will happen for Addison this season, how she’d like to see the character go out, and much, much more. Walsh, for her part, is feeling good about her decision to leave. “I can’t help but look back and be in the moment and look at the future all at once, which is a little crazy making,” she says. “But it’s exactly where I think I’m supposed to be.” And, she says, the season is really all about all the characters: “Huge news happens to every character!” Interesting.
Tune into the season 6 premiere of Private Practice tonight at 10 p.m. on ABC, but first, let Kate Walsh preview what’s coming to Oceanside this season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did it feel to make it to the 100th episode of Private Practice, which airs later this season?
KATE WALSH: Yeah, it’s huge! It was funny, leading up to it, I was like, “Oh, we’ve got that 100th episode celebration thing at lunch at 12,” and then I got very unexpectedly emotional, like very touched and moved, thinking, Oh my gosh! You can’t help but think back. From the beginning on Grey’s Anatomy, who would have anticipated a spin-off? And then, how rare do spin-offs even work, and then we had the writer’s strike. Lo and behold, here we are in our sixth season.
Where do we find Addison when we get back into the season?
Well, a choice has been made — that’s all I can tell you. In the first episode, a decision has been made between Jake and Sam! That sounds so ominous. The first episode, we just kind of hit the ground running. Actually, every episode this season, I know [series creator] Shonda [Rhimes] has kind of talked about it a little bit in the press, but it’s really a great kind of structure this season where every episode is either an event episode — meaning everyone is involved in a big medical case or something outside of the practice that galvanizes the whole group — or it’s following one character in their point of view or their experience or their personal storyline. So the stakes are super-high in every episode. In that first season opener, it’s really huge — not only do I make a choice, but lots of things happen. Like, huge news happens to every single character! In a really great way. Not in a jumping the shark way. I want to be clear because I think sometimes, people are like, “Oh, you’re going to push the bounds.” We’re not going to the moon, but we’re doing things that are totally in line with what would be realistic for these characters. But it’s really intense, and they include socio-political issues that come up that just are really kind of razor-edge, ethically debatable, and really killer storylines. Honestly, it’s one of the things that I think has been so special for our show, these past 100 episodes. I really do feel like the show has gotten stronger and stronger every season, including this one. It’s kind of not possible — usually storylines flatten out, you do a little plateau-ing, and people get tired. But I feel the writing has gotten better and better and better every season, and this is definitely no exception.
Why this season for that special-ness?
Yeah, why not? I can’t speak for Shonda, but it’s keeping it interesting for everyone. One hundred episodes in, you’re like, “Okay, what can we do that maintains the integrity of the show and the characters and everything that we’ve built but also takes some risks and goes outside the traditional format or structure of things that we’ve done in the past?” But it keeps it fresh for everyone — for the writers, for the actors, for everybody. You know? It’s been great, too, that we’ve had the support of the studio and the network, to really let Shonda and the writers do different stuff.
Back to the Sam and Jake decision — can you contextualize that at all?
There’s definitely always some second-guessing, and it’s definitely not an easy decision, and I think you see that play out as well, again, in a very realistic but adult kind of way. You see her struggling. It’s sort of that theme that Shonda had talked about when she first started Private Practice as opposed to Grey’s: What happens when you get everything you want? And then this happens. Then what? I mean, you kind of see her struggling with that in the context of a relationship and intimacy and kind of big, grown-up stuff.
I’ve heard there’s no therapy for Addison this season! How do you feel about that? Does it feel like an evolution for the character?
I loved my therapist. And I loved that structure, but I did feel like, at the end of the season, she’s like, “Alright, I’m done.” There’s definitely a moving on, in ways, for all of the characters this season — not just Addison. But it does feel like it’s right, and she’s put on her big-girl pants and is dealing with her life on life’s terms. It’s really focusing on the relationship that she’s in and Henry and all of it. It’s so strong this season, and this is the first season where we’re able to see scripts ahead of time and it’s really exciting where it’s going.
Anything else you’re particularly excited about for Addison this season?
We’re on lock down! I know I have my own very super-special episode. I’m excited about that one. I’m just excited to see what the journey is going to look like, how it’s going to end up with her. I don’t know! I don’t know how it’s going to end up. I’m always excited to see what she does.
Would you like to see a happy ending?
Well, I don’t know — selfishly, I would like it to be extreme. Either a ridiculously happy ending, or go out in a blaze of glory. A little Thelma & Louise. No, I’m kidding! But I would just like it to be kind of epic, and I have faith that it will be.
Are you nervous about not playing Addison everyday?
Of course! Yeah, totally, are you kidding? I would be a robot if I didn’t feel total trepidation and fear and anxiety, and also, it’s been a great run. So it’s been kind of an amazing experience to be focusing on being as present as I can and enjoying every second, drinking every drop of it while I’m on set with all my friends, and loving every minute of it. I can’t help but look back and be in the moment and look at the future all at once, which is a little crazy making. But it’s exactly where I think I’m supposed to be. It’s always scary — I was thinking, I’ve pulled up to this lot, or a lot, every day, with my little ID with the gate, and I have a job. Now I’m not asking for a job — I have one. So that’s always a little scary to leave that certainty. But it also feels like it’s been a great run, so I’m excited for whatever comes next.
Lastly, is there talk of a Grey’s crossover this season?
It’s always a possibility — I don’t know! Shonda hasn’t mentioned anything to me about it, but you know, I never hear about these things ahead of time. There’s always a possibility.
Tanner on Twitter: @EWTanStransky