The 29-year-old actress, who plays straitlaced lawyer Julia Braverman-Graham on the NBC drama, has three brothers and a sister-in-law and intimately understands the complicated dynamics that come with growing up in a big family.
"To me, it just feels kind of comfortable, this group that inherently has ties that won't really break," she told AOL TV in advance of 'Parenthood''s third season premiere (Tue., Sept. 13, 10PM ET on NBC). "The underlying love is really nice because you know if you have a spat, it doesn't matter. I feel the same way about the characters and the actors [on 'Parenthood'] -- we all know we're in it for the long haul, so any differences we may have, we know that we're going to get through them somehow. You just have to."
Actually, Christensen and her costars are close both literally and figuratively -- many of them live within two miles of one another, and she's known Dax Shepard, who plays her brother Crosby, for a decade.
Below, Christensen shares with AOL TV what those crazy Braverman dinners are actually like, which guest star the 'Parenthood' cast is most excited to welcome back and what's in store for Julia and her husband, Joel, as they attempt to adopt a baby.
I'm excited for Joel and Julia.
I think it could be pretty great. Obviously it's a long process to adopt. It's wonderful, and it's a great solution for their desire to have babies.
Without getting too spoilery, what is their journey going to be like? Their journey is going to have a sudden advantage, and Julia sees it as kind of a sign, kind of fate. At first Joel sees it as Julia being insane. In the very least, Julia [becomes more in tune with] her maternal qualities. I don't even know yet if she's going to get a child. It's a sensitive situation which could easily become truly awkward and truly uncomfortable. She's been wanting this for herself so badly that it seems that how can it not be meant to be when the opportunity presents itself?
I feel like Joel is the most patient guy ever.
Yeah, he's the perfect husband, probably. Especially for Julia, [whose partner] requires a high tolerance for, I guess, erratic behavior? I don't know if that's what I want to call it. She's passionate, really. She's passionate about what she believes and sometimes she disagrees with people and that's okay. She's willing to stand up for what she believes, and sometimes it's a little out of self-interest but that fierceness that she feels has, over the past couple of seasons, been [manifesting itself in] her being a mother. At the outset of the show she was a little concerned about her mothering abilities. She wasn't feeling she was really succeeding in that area.
But she's feeling more confident now.
Yeah. And just more passionate about it, willing to really fight for it. Obviously she's a very caring person but she will do whatever she thinks is best for you regardless of what you think.
I think Joel and Julia's heartbreak over not being able to get pregnant resonated for a lot of people. Did you have that in mind when you were filming those scenes?
Yeah, absolutely, the various topics that the show covers are so real. So many people have told me about ways that their lives parallel the show, and that's something really special. There's a family who apparently is nearly identical [to the Bravermans]. We just found this out. There's a male lawyer who said, "Julia is my character, and I have a brother who has a houseboat and my father is completely that overbearing character -- that is my family!" I think it's really cool to do that justice, so hopefully we have.
Which Braverman do you relate to the most?
I'm probably somewhere between Crosby Braverman, the kind of person who occasionally doesn't wear shoes or something, and Adam Braverman, who actually does have his ducks in a row. It's funny because I think Adam and Julia are quite similar, but since I play Julia and I know that she and I are quite different, I can't really see myself in her as much as I maybe can in another character who's similar to her, like Adam.
Are the family dinner scenes as fun to film as they look?
They're a little chaotic, but they are fun, yeah! We do talk all over each other and improvise. There are three cameras roaming around catching different things. Usually by the end of one of those scenes, new inside jokes have formed -- all kinds of teasing each other -- and a whole dissertation has occurred on all the prop food and which tastes the best and what to try and "don't bother with that" and "who ate all of the bread" and whatever.
Which of your TV siblings do you get along with the best?
Well, I've known Dax the longest. I've known Dax 10 years and we've both turned out pretty good, which is cool. So I've spent the most time with him. When we started the show it was pretty easy to be brother and sister and hang out a lot. We live really close to each other in L.A. We shot the pilot in Berkeley and around the Bay Area, but in that long interim between shooting the pilot and starting the show, Dax and I hung out a ton. It's a big cast and we've had all kinds of various ebbs and flows between who we all hang out with. Mae [Whitman] and Sarah [Ramos] are fairly attached at the hip, which is awesome, and they hang out a lot with Miles Heizer, too.
I read on IMDb that you are an accomplished singer. Can you confirm or deny this?
I suppose I would not deny that. I suppose I would have to go with confirm if those are my only options! I definitely have grown up singing and occasionally find a use for it. What was the last thing I sang in? Oh yeah! My friends have this music project called Covernights where they have musicians and friends over, and they pull a song out of a hat and they cover it right then and there. We ended up doing a song that was a mash-up of the Prince song 'Controversy' and the Spoon song 'I Turn My Camera On,' and I ended up doing the vocals for it. It should be on iTunes soon. That was just completely random. Like, "Oh that sounds fun, yeah!" And then I was going "Guys, I haven't sung in a while!" and they were like "It's okay! Let's go!" At some point I hope to find someone I really like to collaborate with and then maybe I'll pursue it more.
Like a She and Him situation for Zooey Deschanel?
Exactly. M Ward is amazing. Good call, Zooey.
Adam and Crosby are opening up a recording studio, so maybe you could show off your skills.
I don't know if Julia can sing. She can't dance as well as I can, I don't think. We'll have to see about that.
'Parenthood' has had a lot of awesome guest stars. Can you tell us what's in store this season?
The most exciting thing is Jason Ritter. We're really, really happy to have him coming back. There's something really, really special between Lauren [Graham] and Jason Ritter's characters, between Sarah and Mr. Cyr. But the recording studio is quite an opportunity for some exciting guest stars ... I'll just leave it at that right now because I don't know if it's all official yet.
'Parenthood' Season 3 premieres Tue., Sept. 13, 10PM ET on NBC.
Follow Jean on Twitter @hijean.