TV & Film

'Parenthood' Christmas Episode: Max Burkholder On Kristina's Fate, Asperger's, Vending Machines And More

"Parenthood" viewers have been fearing this week's Christmas episode (Tues., Dec. 11 at 10 p.m. EST on NBC), which sees Kristina's (Monica Potter) health taking a turn for the worse after being diagnosed with cancer earlier in Season 4.

Max Burkholder -- who plays Max, the son of Kristina and Adam Braverman (Peter Krause), on "Parenthood" -- told HuffPost TV via phone that he "cried so much" when he read the script for the NBC series' Christmas installment, titled "What to My Wondering Eyes." Below, 15-year-old Burkholder talks about Max's journey with Asperger's, Kristina's fate, missing his TV sister Sarah Ramos, seeing his TV mom smoke pot and that damn vending machine.

Max has really come a long way this season. What do you love about playing him?
I like seeing Max whenever he's in a social situation, seeing how much he's grown since the first season.

Jason Katims' son, who has Asperger's, partly inspired the character of Max. Have you met him or anyone else with Asperger's?
I have met him and I have met a few people with Asperger's. It's always an enlightening experience for me because before the show, I really didn't have much of an idea about what autism or Asperger's was. And since starting the show, I really feel like it's been a learning experience for me.

Do people come up to you who can relate to Max to thank you?
They do. When someone comes up to me and they say, "My son has Asperger's or my nephew or a friend of mine," it just makes me feel like what I'm doing can make a difference.

What goes into ensuring that Max's behavior and lines are true to someone with Asperger's?
When I was first auditioning, they brought in a doctor who specializes in children with Asperger's and he told us the basic stuff. Then, since we started shooting, every couple of episodes I have a meeting with the executive producer, and the director of the episodes, and sometimes some of the writers, and a doctor specializing in Asperger's and we just talk about what Max would be doing in certain situations, like how he would react to certain things and if everyone was over here doing this, what would Max be doing?

Is it difficult playing Max or has it gotten easier now that you're in Season 4?
It's still definitely challenging, but I feel that I've worked out who Max is so much better than in the first season so it definitely has gotten easier.

We've seen a little bit of him working with his classmates as school president. Will we see more of that in Season 4?
We won't see as many of the interactions with his classmates, but we still see a little bit of that.

Do you miss working with Sarah Ramos this season?
I do! I do miss her. A couple of times, we've been shooting a scene in the kitchen with me and Monica and Peter, and I've just been like, "Something is missing. Oh! It's Sarah."

I was crying watching the promo for this week's episode. It looks like the saddest Christmas ever.
Seriously. I almost never cry at movies or when I'm watching TV and I haven't seen the episode yet, but when I read the script, I was crying so much.

How will Max deal with Kristina's health issues during Christmas?
For Max, his connection to her and her cancer specifically is that he does not register it so much on an emotional level, more so on a practical level, like, "If Mom is not around anymore, she won't be able to drive me to school or make me eggs the way I like my eggs."

So I imagine in this week's episode, Max will struggle with her being in the hospital and Adam being there with her also.
Well, everyone in the family sort of pulls together and one of the jobs that they have to come together to do is make sure Max does not break down and have a meltdown. He has traditions on Christmas that he always does and if Mom's in the hospital, he can't do those, so some of the members of the family have to help him with that. I think it's going to be a really good episode. It's a really good family-coming-together motif.

Watching the promo, you're just thinking, "They can't kill Kristina."
[Laughs.] [Monica] is just so great on the show.

Especially this season.

The scene where Kristina was smoking pot and then Julia came over in last week's episode ...
That was hilarious! It was ridiculous!

What do you hope for Max in the rest of Season 4?
I want him to get the vending machine back!

How many times do you think Max has said vending machine this season?
Probably a good 50 times.

What do you think he'd do if he got it?
He'd get everything from that vending machine!

For more on "Parenthood" Season 4, check out Maureen Ryan's review here and check back this week for more from Peter Krause and Monica Potter.

"Parenthood" airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on NBC.