'Parenthood's' Peter Krause opens up about breast cancer storyline and his personal connection

parenthood-monica-potter-peter-krause.jpgIn the most recent episode of NBC's "Parenthood," we watched Adam ( Peter Krause) struggle to keep his composure as he had a frank, honest phone conversation with his daughter, Haddie ( Sarah Ramos) about her mother's breast cancer. Though the actors weren't face to face, the emotion was palpable and raw, as we've come to expect on this show, especially through the cancer storyline.

"She was actually on the phone with me," Krause told Zap2it when we recently visited the cast on set. "It actually served the scene that we had a bad connection. We couldn't always hear each other, because the cell service on the particular stage we were on is not that great. Our voices would break up a little bit on each others' lines, but we were talking to each other, so that was helpful. I actually miss working with Sarah. It was nice to get to do that scene with her."

At the end of the episode, Haddie -- who has been away at college for the early part of the season -- returned home, to her family's surprise. This week, the family will have to decide where their priorities lie as Kristina ( Monica Potter) undergoes surgery and Haddie struggles to make a decision about returning to school.

"She can't do anything except be there for her mother, and Kristina and Adam both want her to stay in school," Krause says. "This is time in a person's life, I think, when they're in college, when they should really be very selfish. I don't think they should worry about other people. When a kid gets out of high school and goes off to college, that's 'me time.'" He laughs. "And if you want to extend that 'me time,' go off to graduate school, wait a little while to have some kids, have as much 'me time' as you want. That, in my opinion, is the appropriate response for parents. Obviously she's going to worry about her mother and she's going to think that she should be home, but I think it's the parents' job to let her know that she can come visit and things like that, but that would be my wish, for my child."

It's a decision that Krause, who has done fundraising work for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, has spent a considerable amount of time grappling with in his own life. Early in his career, when he had just been cast on his first television show, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

peter-krause-monica-potter-parenthood-401.jpg"Interestingly, I was, like Haddie, on my own at that time," he shares. "I had just moved to Los Angeles to start my first TV series for NBC, which was a show called "Carol & Company" with Carol Burnett. I had just gotten out of graduate school in New York, and it was during that time that I found out my mother had breast cancer. I was on my first show and very much focused on myself. I was having 'me time.'" Krause's mother, who he describes as "a remarkably tough and strong person," told him not to worry about her and to focus on enjoying an exciting time in his life.

"I look back now and I have to say, ironically, I wish I would have gone back to Minnesota more and seen her some more and been there for her more during that time," he says. Last December, his mother was again diagnosed with another form of cancer -- and, having had his "me time," Krause was able to be more present this time around. "With her recent battle with cancer I've been there much more, and in some ways, that was a more important time for me to be there on a regular basis. Starting last December I was back home almost every two weeks."

While Kristina's cancer storyline caught fans off-guard, Krause says that he has friends who felt that a breast cancer plot was played out. "There were some people, some friends of mine in the business who asked me what's happening this season, and I said well, Kristina's going to have cancer. A few people said, 'Oh, let me guess, breast cancer,' and while I understand that response I don't think it's sensitive to the degree to which it does effect women and how important it is, actually, to show a family dealing with it," he says.

He continues, "My father, we lost to cancer just last February, and just two months prior to that we found out my mother was diagnosed again. It's out there and it's around, so I kindly turned the other way when people were sort of dismissing this storyline as something that's so overdone on TV."

In upcoming episodes, we'll see Adam continue to struggle with balancing his other relationships and his work, particularly as Kristina's condition changes. "He really wants to take care of Kristina. He's most concerned about her, so there are some other relationships and areas in his life where he doesn't take care of people as well emotionally as he should. Amber at work certainly, he's been very short with, and Crosby at time. He's horribly distracted by Kristina's breast cancer. It's hard to encounter a situation that you really can't do anything about. All he can do is show up for the person and love them. It makes you feel powerless, and I don't think that, with Adam, is something that sits with him very well."

"Parenthood" airs Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. on NBC.
Photo/Video credit: NBC
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