By now, you've hopefully caught up on season four of Parenthood, which was arguably the most emotional season yet. If you're a fan of the show, you know that this season focused on Kristina (played by Monica Potter) and her battle with breast cancer. Kristina got good news about her cancer in the finale, but the episode took an unexpected emotional turn when Kristina went to say goodbye to her chemotherapy team and discovered that her friend Gwen (played by Rose Abdoo) was back, her cancer having returned. Since Gwen had served as Kristina's touchstone throughout the season, viewers were heartbroken
I am a big fan of the show so I was already connected to the season, but I was also excited about this storyline because my husband (voiceover actor Stephan Cox) knows Abdoo (Gwen). He interviewed her last month, and there are many things about her that I know you will find interesting. Here are the highlights, and if you love Rose like we do, you can listen to the interview over at That Voiceover Podcast. She is funny and wonderful and will inspire you, whether you have experience with cancer or not.
You know her as Gwen from Parenthood and Sam from Bunheads, but here are some things you might not know about Rose Abdoo.
1. Rose is a real-life cancer survivor. In February of 2011, she was diagnosed with cancer of the appendix. In case you don't know, it's a rare type of cancer that is so hard to diagnose, it has an almost 100% mortality rate.
2. She was cast as Gwen on Parenthood on the one-year anniversary of finishing chemo, and this interview was conducted on her one-year "Cancer Birthday." Rose likes to say that this is her cancer storyline coming full circle.
3. Even though the Gwen character relapses in the finale, Rose is fine. She has been in remission for more than a year. Ironically, she shot one of her final scenes with Monica Potter the day before her sixth PET/ CT scan. "It was the night before my PET/ CT scan, and I figured, "This would be too weird if I actually relapsed in real life. It kind of relaxed me."
4. Rose had her own "Gwen Chambers" in her cancer experience (on her first day at the oncologist's office). In fact, she had many experiences similar to Kristina's in her cancer journey, and says she couldn't have played the character without them
5. When we first see Gwen again in the finale, she's receiving chemotherapy (arguably one of the most impactful moments of this episode). Christina was originally supposed to run into Gwen in the waiting room, since this was where they first met. Rose felt strongly that Gwen should actually be in the "chemo chair," since that would indicate her cancer had returned. The director of that episode (Lawrence Trilling), also listened to her when it came to the placement of the chair (reclined, rather than sitting up).
6. Yes, the hospital/ chemo scenes kind of freaked her out. "You know those grocery store carts where you get to the end of the parking lot and you can't go past the yellow line? That was me when I saw the chemo chairs and the poles My brain just did not want me to go in there." Thankfully, the Parenthood cast and producers were super-supportive, and she reminded herself "This isn't real" on the advice of her oncologist (who is now her friend and is also a fan of the show).
7. Her coffee shop scene with Monica Potter was mostly improvised on Potter's part, but she said her suggested lines because she thought they were perfect the way they were. In case you didn't know this, the show Parenthood is shot in the same way as Friday Night Lights, and the cast often improvises dialog. The multi-camera shoot is set up so the actors barely even notice the cameras are there. "At one point, I felt like one of the cameramen was hiding under a plant."
8. She shot the movie The Guilt Trip between chemo rounds four and five. She had to will herself not to throw up in front of Barbra Streisand, even though she had to eat chicken over and over for a scene and felt intensely nauseated the whole time. "You know how they talk about an adrenaline rush and how a mother can lift a car off a baby? It was a lesson in extreme focus and concentration. You can't throw up in front of Barbra Streisand."
9. She had cancer of the appendix, which went undiagnosed for several years. "If you have a stomachache that seems strange in any way, and you feel that something just isn't right, don't take no for an answer."
10. She does an amazing Alice Kramden impression. She was on a show called Happy Happy Good Show with Robert Smigel, Conan O'Brien, and Bob Odenkirk in 1988. You can hear her doing voiceover on Hotel Transylvania now -- she's the witch and several of the other characters!
11. In case you're wondering, she didn't lose her hair during chemo (not everyone does!). Some people wrote in to the Parenthood Facebook Fan Page that the Gwen character would never have had eyebrows and eyelashes like that, but in fact, Rose was playing the character true to life. She says her hair did get thinner, but she didn't lose it, which she was grateful for as an on-camera actress. She was every bit as sick as any cancer patient, though.
12. She wants you to know that if you're sick, even if you're in the depths of despair, keep your hope, because it's got to turn around. During her illness, which included cancer, surgery, a bacterial blood infection, six rounds of chemo, and two hospitalizations, she always held on to that good thought, and she wants you to do the same. She wants you to know, especially if you're in the middle of a challenging time, that there is life on the other side. She's two years out and says she feels fantastic.
Rose said that at the height of her illness she kept her thoughts on the hope that the pendulum would swing back the other way in favor of good fortune. Sure enough, you can see her everywhere now! Did you see her in Shameless as Vi's doctor? She's also on Bunheads, The Guilt Trip, Hotel Transylvania and the Hallmark Movie Channel Movie Meddling Mom (she's Sonia Braga's best friend). She'll also be in upcoming episodes of Psych, Baby Daddy, and The Mentalist.
Rose thinks she now has enough material for the last twenty minutes of her one-woman show, so be sure to look out for that in the near future.