'Mom' Producer on Ending the Series With Allison Janney's Emotional Last Scene (Exclusive)
Executive producer Gemma Baker breaks down that poignant final moment.
Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched Thursday's series finale of Mom.
It was the most fitting way to end Mom.
CBS' multi-cam sitcom bid farewell on Thursday's series finale with one last emotional share at the Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, this time by Bonnie (beautifully performed by a teary-eyed Allison Janney) with a poignant and touching speech about how far she's come. In it, she expressed contentment and gratitude for the life she's lived, appreciation for her sobriety journey and the road she's still left to travel on. And perhaps most importantly, her sweet declaration that "I kind of love me."
The season-ending shares quickly became a signature on Mom, so when it came time to leave viewers with one final image, it was the only way to go. "It just felt right to give Bonnie a share at the end of the episode. I think that it was one of the last scenes that we shot," executive producer Gemma Baker tells ET. "And when Bonnie is talking about how much she's grown and changed and gone through since she walked through the door, that's true for all of us working on this show and how much we loved this job and how much our own lives have changed during this time."
But Mom didn't tie everything up in a tidy bow. While Bonnie found herself in a much healthier place versus when the series began, she was presented with a new curveball when her husband Adam (William Fichtner) was diagnosed with early-stage cancer. In a postmortem conversation, Baker discusses the final episode of the series, Bonnie's emotional last speech and if she discussed storyline ideas for what could've been a ninth season.
ET: One of the scenes that struck a chord with me was the final scene where we see Bonnie at the AA meeting. What were the conversations for you in crafting that final image of the series and have it be that?
Gemma Baker: It was a tradition that we sort of stumbled into that we ended every season with Christie doing a share, with the exception of season 7, which, due to COVID, ended two episodes before we knew it was going to. And so it just felt right to give Bonnie a share at the end of the episode. I think that it was one of the last scenes that we shot and I think eight seasons is a long time. And when Bonnie is talking about how much she's grown and changed and gone through since she walked through the door, that's true for all of us working on this show and how much we loved this job and how much our own lives have changed during this time. It was emotional on a lot of different levels for all of us.
It was definitely... it was a very powerful episode to shoot. This whole season we have not had our writers on the stage and I'm grateful that for the last episode they were with us. Unfortunately, the thing that was the greatest disappointment for us was that because we were ending the show during COVID, we didn't have an audience. And having an audience is so much a part of what we did; it was another character in the show. To go out without that was bittersweet.
Does it feel like there's an asterisk to it just a little bit?
Yeah, absolutely. The other thing I'll say is that you don't always see characters on a sitcom change as much as ours did over the years, but because they were in recovery, it gave us that opportunity to really have them travel great distances. It was lovely to see Bonnie not only change, but be able to recognize that she changed and to say out loud that she has come to love herself.
It was very apparent how emotional Allison was in her performance. Can you speak to the growth of the character and how much that final scene put a cap on her arc?
From the beginning, we realized that shares gave us a unique opportunity to really hear exactly what the character was thinking and feeling, and to be able to express it in a way that you don't normally get to do. It was tricky for us to tell a story where Adam has cancer and we don't know what's going to happen, and that felt a little daunting to bring that up in a finale. A big question mark. I think what her share hopefully tells the audience is that no matter what, she's going to be able to get through whatever life throws her way and that she's going to rely on her friends. Also at the same time, she is going to help give back to help other people. There's also something about the newcomers, the mother and daughter sitting in the seats, pretty much if not exactly where Christie and Bonnie sat in the pilot, that hopefully gives a sense that those characters are going to go on a whole journey as well. And that the story continues, even though we might not be watching it every week. One of the things that Bonnie addresses in that final speech, in that final share, is that she is grateful that she got sober. And I think when we first met her, that wasn't the case. That feels like a good place to end.
Was the revelation that Adam has an early stage of cancer something that you grappled with introducing?
It's funny, we got the opportunity to write this finale with Chuck Lorre, which was excellent. We haven't been in the room writing with him for a few seasons, or it was the Zoom. I don't think we really took a lot of time to second-guess ourselves. We just sort of followed the path that came up and we were just trying to tell the story of Bonnie going through something difficult, but also helping someone else at the same time. We didn't have a lot of time to grapple. So we went for it and told the story that showed up, and that was it. It does answer a lot of questions about how the characters are going to be going forward and hopefully gives the audience a lot of hope that ultimately everyone is going to be OK, and that they're going to stick together through the good stuff and the bad stuff, which can be equally difficult to fake.
Had you toyed with storylines for a season 9? What would we have seen if there were extra episodes coming down the pike?
At the moment, I can't remember exactly what they were, but we definitely used the phrase, "We'll do that next season, knock on wood," a lot. So I know that we definitely felt we're ending this show with the feeling that there were a lot more stories to tell. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. As sad as I am that it's over, it's lovely that we don't walk away saying, "Thank God it's over." It's like, we walk away saying we wish we could have continued, but also how grateful we are that we got to have this experience with each other and for so long.
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