LOS ANGELES -- Marc Cherry, the man who made "Desperate Housewives" an addictive bit of television, got nostalgic when he was putting together his three main female antagonists in the new CBS All Access series "Why Women Kill." The series debuts Thursday.
In the case of Ginnifer Goodwin's character, a loyal 1963 housewife who must deal with her husband's wandering eye, Cherry was inspired by TV programs such as "The Donna Reed Show" and "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet." The inspiration turned into a character that can cook and clean while wearing a dress and pearls but can be a devastating force when necessary.
Goodwin was unaware of the past TV influences that went into Cherry's writing mix.
"I didn't know, but I have to say Marc has given me so much to work with," Goodwin says. "I have never lacked for inspiration and ideas. We have talked about his mother, for instance, because she is so much in this character in some ways."
Cherry has taken Goodwin and costars Lucy Liu and Kirby Howell-Baptiste to a large house in Pasadena, Calif., where three stories unfold in different time periods. The series bounces between Beth Ann's (Goodwin) dilemma to an '80s socialite, Simone (Liu), who learns her husband has been hiding a huge secret. The last storyline unfolds in present day with Taylor (Howell-Baptiste), a strong-willed lawyer who has an open marriage.
Cherry promises that at the end of the 10-episode first season, there will be three deaths, all at the hands of women. He won't say if Goodwin, Liu or Howell-Baptiste would be those women.
The last step in understanding Goodwin's character came as soon as she slipped into the '60s fashions.
"I even talked to the costume designer and said 'You better be on board because you are half my character.' We are also surrounded by the cream of the crop when it comes to costume and makeup and set design that I feel a lot of the imaginative work has been done for me," Goodwin says. "I don't have to do anything to tell the story of the era I am in and the words take care of all the limitations of my era. Therefore, all I have to do is go on the emotional journey."
"Why Women Kill" is the latest in a long string of TV and movie acting jobs for Goodwin that cover almost two decades. Her credits include "Ed," "Walk the Line," "Big Love" and "Zootopia." Her most recent work had her playing Mary Margaret/Snow White in the fairy tale-inspired "Once Upon a Time." Goodwin wasn't looking for a project that would be radically different, but because that show was appropriate for young people, all Goodwin wanted was a project adults could binge watch together.
The biggest thrill for Goodwin is she has felt challenged beyond her boundaries by the role. Playing Beth Ann has given her the opportunity to go to places emotionally and psychologically she was never been pushed to in any other acting job.
There were times when the Tennessee native had to show a tough side in "Once Upon a Time," but it doesn't compare to "Why Women Kill." Goodwin's brain hurt while filming the first few episodes of the new series as she tried to get a handle on the character. That kind of intensity is the biggest compliment Goodwin can give.
"There were so many elements. There's the Marc Cherry brand. The Marc Cherry tone of comedy and drama. There is a stylization and theatricality that led me to binge reading plays because I needed my inner monologue to be as rich as what Marc was throwing at me," Goodwin says. "In general, I feel like once I got the hang of her, I found I can justify far too many of her motivations. So the darker places don't feel darker to me. I am acutely aware that stepping out of the role, I will be traumatized."
'WHY WOMEN KILL'
Premieres Thursday, CBS All Access
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