Eric McCandless/ABC
Ariana Bacle
September 21, 2015 AT 04:49 PM EDT

Just because Castle‘s swapping out showrunners — David Amann handed over the reins to Alexi Hawley and Terence Paul Winter this season — doesn’t mean it’s losing its heart. Far from it, in fact.

“We really wanted to figure out the next evolution of Castle and Beckett together,” Winter says of the show’s upcoming eighth season. “How can we tell stories, fun stories, that are still steeped in the DNA of the show and steeped in their love story?”

Their love story is going to stay complicated though. “What made the audience respond to these two people so strongly at the beginning is that spark between them, and I think we need to infuse the show with a little bit more of that,” Hawley says. “So there will be conflict, there will be tears, there will be laughs, there will be everything in order to really do justice to this as a three-dimensional relationship.”

Something that will add a new obstacle to their relationship is Beckett’s (Stana Katic) decision not to run for Senate just yet, a move she considered in last season’s finale. “Putting her in the world of politics ultimately felt like it would take us too far afield,” Hawley says. Instead she’s taking over as the precinct’s captain — a new gig that’ll shake up Castle’s (Nathan Fillion) life a bit.

“Beckett’s change in career won’t allow Castle that kind of access he’s been accustomed to in previous seasons,” Fillion says. “To get his murder-solving fix, he has to lean more heavily on his private-investigation career.” 

One thing that’s not changing? The show’s ability to successfully oscillate between dark and light story lines. “We can have episodes that are very gritty and raw,” Winter says, “and then the next week, we can tell something that’s fun and frothy and delightful.”

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Castle returns for its eighth season Sept. 21 at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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