When ABC’s family-based drama “Brothers & Sisters” returns on Sunday, Sept. 26, a year will have passed in the show’s timeline since we last saw the Walker clan, members of which were involved in a terrible car crash that killed Robert (Rob Lowe) and injured Uncle Saul (Ron Rifkin), causing him to confess that he is HIV-positive.
Former “7th Heaven” star Stephen Collins — who’s also working on ABC’s “No Ordinary Family” and “Private Practice” — says that, in the show’s fourth episode, currently scheduled to air Sunday, Oct. 17, fans will get to see him in a storyline that reveals a bit of what Saul’s been doing in the past year.
“His name is Charlie,” says Collins of his character. “He’s someone whom Saul has been going out with. From the sound of what other people say, they’ve been seeing each other, and it’s been maybe just on the cusp of turning serious. Matthew Rhys‘ character says something like, ‘It’s taken two crises for us to get to meet you, Charlie.’
“So he’s been in the background, and Saul is just deciding to introduce him to the family, and then, we’ll see.”
Of course, we all now know that Saul is HIV-positive, and that can make dating a challenge.
“Right,” says Collins, “and that becomes an issue in the storyline with me. I don’t want to reveal too much about what happens, but it’ll be interesting. Certainly, if they wanted — hint, hint — to bring him back, they could.
“I know they’ve got so many mouths to feed on a show like that, but I was pleased that, by the end of the day, Ron and all of them were saying, ‘We should bring this guy back. Maybe we could.’ So, we’ll see.”
Collins says that he’s known Rifkin for a couple of decades, having met him at the Williamstown (Mass.) Theatre Festival, but the two had never worked together. The chance to work with Rifkin and the writing enticed Collins, he says, to take what is thus far a one-episode job on “Brothers & Sisters.”
“If it leads nowhere, that’s fine,” he says. “I did not do it thinking there would be anything more than this. My feeling is, when you get a chance to work with good people, you just work with good people.”
Asked how he thinks his “7th Heaven” fans, who are used to seeing him as family man Reverend Camden, might react to this new role, Collins says, “I truly don’t look at these things when I say yes to something. You just look at the material and think, ‘Is this going to be interesting and fun to do, or not?’
“The writing was lovely; it was a chance to work with Ron Rifkin. It was as simple as that, and, oh, yeah, it’s a gay character. I think people always think that we sit down with a team of people and say, ‘Strategically, I should play a gay character now, and that will confound the expectations of my fans.’ I wish I could say I was that smart.
“I would give ‘7th Heaven’ fans a lot of credit. There might be people on the fringes who would go, ‘Oh, I don’t want to see him playing a gay character,’ but they probably don’t watch ‘Brothers & Sisters’ anyway.”
Collins doesn’t think planning an acting career around fan reaction is a good idea.
“When I hear people say things like, ‘I can’t do that, I’ll upset my fans,’ I think, ‘Wow. Wow. That must be quite a burden to carry.’
“I just don’t think you can think like that.”