Freeform's new series Good Trouble is all about the struggles of adulting in a brave new world. Callie (Maia Mitchell) and Mariana (Cierra Ramirez) may have new jobs, new love interests, and new problems, but they'll always need their moms. On Tuesday's episode, "Parental Guidance Suggested," Stef (Teri Polo) and Lena (Sherri Saum) visit their girls at their new DTLA home "The Coterie," only to come face to face with the harsh realities of the Adams-Foster daughters' new life in Los Angeles.
Except, as revealed in the episode, these Fosters mothers have issues of their own. Lena is running for office and, in doing so, is faced with a particularly scary situation on the campaign trail: An aggressive, belligerent racist, who spits in Lena's face as she attempts to discuss the issues.
Lena, the character Sherri Saum portrays, is a queer woman of color and this episode comes only a week after Empire's Jussie Smollett was attacked by two men who allegedly shouted racist and homophobic insults in addition to pouring bleach on him and throwing a rope around his neck. Though this episode was written long before Smollett's attack, Lena's plotline reflects the reality of today's society — an awful one at that.
"It was scary and isolating, and really ugly," says Saum of the scene in a phone interview with Refinery29. "I’ve been fortunate that I’ve never had to face anything so barbaric in my real life."
The actress, who will star next in Netflix's upcoming series Locke & Key, also credited the "beautiful crew" of Good Trouble (many of whom are alumni of The Fosters) for making her comfortable in the scene.
"It was a really sad, depressing, shocking feeling that I don’t ever want to feel again, but I’m glad that the episode was in good hands with the writers, who handled the topic with such sensitivity," Saum tells Refinery29. "[Assaults like these are] happening right now. It’s crazy how relevant the show continues to be, for better and for worse. The creators and writers are uniquely qualified in so many ways to tell these stories responsibly, and they never cease to amaze me."
Saum also tells Refinery29 that the very plot of Good Trouble, in which Callie and Mariana flee the nest to lead their new Angeleno life, hit close to home, too.
"[Good Trouble] is so relatable. It was such a big change to have our girls go off into the world — both in real life and fictionally. It was a new feeling not to have [Maia Mitchell and Cierra Ramirez] under our roof," she explains. "I was able to use that in the [episode] because you want to be supportive in their branching off, but a part of you still wants to hold onto them forever. It was really real in a lot of ways! I was feeling it."
Whether Saum will return to Good Trouble this season will all depend... but she does think Callie and Mariana will never stop needing Lena.
"They have a whole new world of things to mine, new characters that they’ve created…But everyone needs their mom. When you’re 50, you need your mom. So we’ll see how that plays out — we haven’t had any discussions about [returning to Good Trouble] just yet."
Tune in to Good Trouble on Freeform Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET.