When April Carver (Italia Ricci) first discovered she had leukemia, she refused to let her diagnosis stop her from living her life. So it was only fitting that in Tuesday's summer finale, April’s life refused to come to a standstill while she started chemotherapy treatment. Although she was confined to the hospital for her treatment, many of her other problems seemed to come to a head: Dominic found out about Leo and severed ties with April, April’s mother found out that both of her daughters know that their father has a child with another woman, and then there was that mysterious urgent voicemail April received from Leo in the episode's final moments. So where does Chasing Life go from here? I spoke with showrunner Patrick Sean Smith to find out:
What kind of unique obstacles did this episode, and specifically the portrayal of April’s chemotherapy treatment, present to you and the writers? How did you navigate those?
The biggest challenge … is that in treatment, you’re in a hospital for a month. It was something that we felt we didn’t want to have happen in Episode 2 or 3, so as we were arcing out the rest of the season, we found other opportunities that April would be dealing with along the way, so that this [set of 10 episodes] would take us into her seven days of chemo—which in and of itself felt like a really interesting concept for an episode. Our biggest challenge and fear was that she was going to be tethered to a bed for the entire course of the episode.
You’re trying to find something that doesn’t feel so static or boring because you’re in one space the whole time. I think for that, it felt different but it also felt real. So my initial fear was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this episode’s all in one location. This could be really boring. Nobody’s going to care.’ But I think Italia’s beautiful work, and Joni [Leftkowitz] and Susanna [Fogel]—who wrote the episode—really transcended any of those obstacles and made a really special hour of TV.
April experienced some very moving visions of other cancer patients and her late father. How did you decide to incorporate those, and is that something that we’ll see in future episodes?
It’s mostly stayed in this episode. It was something that I believe Joni had a friend who had gone through it and talked about the potency of some of the medication, usually the anti-nausea medication that they give you can mess with your head. There were a couple times in breaking the episode—and even I was kind of pushing for it—[where it felt like we needed] the Act 5 where she’s in trouble and something’s gone wrong and it’s a hospital, so she has to have this big scare. But when we were starting to talk about it, what she was going through psychologically and emotionally sounded a lot more satisfying and a little bit less familiar. … So I think that was something that we started to get excited about and started to imagine who we could bring back as she was dealing with her treatment and also who has really impacted her life thus far.
The episode obviously ended with a big cliffhanger. What hints can you give about the voicemail Leo left for April and about Leo’s future on the show?
We definitely wanted a final moment of ambiguity, of what exactly was happening not just to show April’s concern for Leo, but also how important he’s become in her life post-diagnosis. I think a lot of what the finale was for us was her quick reaction to what’s going on in that moment. I can say with certainty that it will be answered immediately at the top of our holiday episode, which I believe will air in December. That episode will pick up right where we left off with that voicemail.
When the show returns, how much more treatment will April have left?
I think she’s made it to five days of treatment by the end of this finale and then the holiday episode will pick up with those remaining two, and then also dealing with her losing her hair from the chemo. The episode is titled “Locks of Love.”
This was really the episode where April had to deal with her illness head-on. How will going through chemo affect April and change her going forward?
We jump ahead after our holiday episode to her being on the other side of her treatment, which is then basically a waiting game to see how effective the treatment was, if the cancer comes back, how aggressively it comes back—so a lot of what April is dealing with in the next 10 [episodes] is trying to resume some normalcy in her life, having been affected by what she’s gone through but then also having this looming fear that her cancer is going to return and what her prognosis will be after that. So we see a lot more fun with April in the next 10, but her cancer’s still very much a part of her life as it always will be.
April’s relationship with Leo ended up costing her her relationship with Dominic. What’s coming up for them now that they are no longer together?
After the holiday episode, the next 10 episodes will basically pick up the day before she returns to work. A lot of their relationship will then become how they’ve gone through what they’ve gone through emotionally, but now they have to work together and how Dominic has reacted to this betrayal not just toward her, but how his life has changed.
Another big part of the summer finale was the Natalie secret coming to light within the family. How will everyone handle it now that’s all out in the open, and what else will viewers learn about her?
The family will react in the biggest way to it in the holiday episode when Thomas’s parents, played by Ed Asner and Marion Ross, come to visit April for the first time. There’s the question of what they know, who tells who. In the next 10 episodes, there will be a huge presence of Natalie Ortiz as well as her mother, Olivia.
What did you think of Chasing Life's summer finale?