Tag Archives: Marc Cherry

Reid between the lines

Reid Scott, best known as one of the stars of HBO’s political comedy Veep, tells DQ about his latest role in darkly comic drama Why Women Kill, which comes from the creator of Desperate Housewives.

After seven seasons starring in HBO’s awards-laden comedy Veep, Reid Scott is swapping politics for polyamory.

In dark comedy-drama Why Women Kill, he plays writer Eli, who enjoys an unconventional, open marriage to lawyer Taylor (Kirby Howell-Baptiste). But when Taylor brings home her lesbian lover, Jade (Alexandra Daddario), everything changes.

Taylor and Eli’s story, set in the present day, is one of a trio of tales that weave their way through the 10-part limited series, each detailing the lives of three women living in different decades and dealing with infidelity in their marriages, examining how the roles of women have changed but how their reaction to betrayal has not.

In the other strands, Ginnifer Goodwin plays 1960s housewife Beth Ann, while Lucy Liu is 1980s socialite Simone. The supporting cast includes Sam Jaeger as Beth Ann’s husband Rob and Jack Davenport as Simone’s husband Karl.

Coming off such a successful, long-running series such as Veep, in which he played US vice-president Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)’s highly ambitious and ruthless deputy communications director Dan, Scott would be forgiven for feeling daunted about what might come next.

In Why Women Kill, Scott plays a man in an open marriage with Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s Taylor

But he says ending the show earlier this year felt like the right decision, while the opportunity to join Why Women Kill – which comes from Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry – was a risk worth taking.

‘It was so different from anything I’ve done recently but I guess that’s always kind of a point, to move outside of your comfort zone,” he tells DQ. “I read the script twice and obviously was well aware of Marc and his reputation. Then they started to build this really phenomenal cast. Ginnifer had come on board while I was reading the script, and then Lucy joined. I came on next, so I really felt great about the world they were building.”

“When I met with Marc and his team, it’s not Veep, it’s a different show. But these people are really dialled into something special.”

While Veep was often built around the exploration of ego and “how these horrible, despicable self-centred people move through their professional lives and what makes them tick,” Why Women Kill is the complete opposite, focusing on the emotional heart of each relationship. Viewers will get to learn something of the professional side of each character, but Cherry keeps the show’s lens on the nuances and intricacies of life for each couple.

In the case of Taylor and Eli, Scott says it’s a very complicated coupling, offering insight into a relationship dynamic that is becoming more socially acceptable. “I thought that was important,” he says. “I also like that, in the specific chemistry between my character and his wife, there’s a bit of a gender role reversal. He’s very much the beta to her alpha. I thought that was something that was important to portray, and it’s been fun. He’s a total departure from Dan, but that’s not to say he’s without his darkness. We get into some stuff. As the series evolves, you realise he has a very dark past and he has very specific demons that come back to haunt him. But overall, he’s a good guy, whereas Dan is not a good guy.”

The show focuses on couples in three different eras, including and Jack Davenport and Lucy Liu’s 1980s duo Karl and Simone

The conflict and the ensuing fallout between Taylor and Eli comes from the fact they take a wrecking ball to their own marriage, the actor says. “You get that this is a good guy who loves his wife very much. But they throw a wrench into their own relationship and then they have to deal with it. Where the story goes, they’re forced to take the wrong path over and over and over and over. But that happens in life, because sometimes you can’t really see the forest for the trees. And before you know it, you’re in the quagmire.”

Scott, Howell-Baptiste and Daddario quickly became friends on set. But with the Spanish-style house in Pasadena in which all three of the show’s central couples live being the sole link between the stories, they would only see other members of the cast during the table reads for each episode, or if more than one of the storylines was being filmed on the same day.

As well as containing plenty of comedic moments, Scott’s storyline also called for some intimate scenes. “It’s a bit uncomfortable but it’s all very choreographed and we really trust each other, so we didn’t have too much trouble doing that,” the actor notes. In fact, he considers the biggest challenge making the series to be the fact this is the first season, with cast and crew still working out the show’s tone and style.

“But this is a collaborative art form,” he says. “You’ve got 150-plus people working on this thing, and everyone’s trying to figure themselves out and how they fit into the overall matrix of this production. There’s a lot of stumbling and false starts, but everyone really believes in this project and really comes together and gets it done. Part of the exciting thing about starting a new project is that you try to hit the ground running and move forward from there, and I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”

With projects such as Desperate Housewives and Devious Maids, Cherry has built a reputation for domestic stories with a wickedly dark sense of humour, striking a balance between comedy and drama. Scott says this continues with Why Women Kill, which blends lighter moments with thrills and scares.

“You can’t say it’s a comedy, you can’t say it’s a drama. Just when you think you might laugh out loud – bang – something else happens and it draws you back into the dramatic side,” Scott explains of Why Women Kill, which is produced by Imagine Television Studios and CBS Television Studios for US streamer CBS All Access. “It’s an interesting way to work and it’s really fun. One of the challenges was to make sure that we kept it reined in. You never want to go too darkly dramatic, you never want to go too over-the-top comedic with it. It was trying to strike that balance, and it’s hard work but, ultimately, I think it works.”

As for the title, is it a signpost to where the series is heading? “The audience is going to be very satisfied,” Scott teases. “The title definitely delivers. But there’s a twist. The murdered as well as the murderers are not necessarily who you think at the beginning. That’s part of the fun, trying to figure that out.”

Launching on HBO in 2012, Veep won numerous accolades, including three consecutive Emmys for outstanding comedy series and six for Louis-Dreyfus’s performance as the embattled Meyers. It’s little wonder that Scott describes working on the political satire, created by Armando Iannucci, as “the greatest job ever.” He continues: “I have a whole new family out of it. We grew so close to one another over seven seasons.”

He knew Iannucci’s work from equally sweary British political comedy The Thick of It, on which Veep is based, and film spin-off In The Loop. But despite becoming one of the must-watch programmes on US television, Veep was just a small show at first, says Scott.

“There was a different style of humour that we all believed in, and we just had fun doing it. Armando’s such a genius; he invented ways of shooting and he invented ways of editing. The way Veep was shot was unique and it was just a process that was really special. It’s never going to be repeated. There’s no chance you’re going to assemble that murderers’ row of incredible comedic writers, comedic actors and comedic directors and get that to happen again. But I’m so glad to have been there when that lightning struck.”

Scott alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep

The process Scott alludes to involved plenty of creative freedom afforded to the show by HBO’s executive team, while Iannucci would fly the cast to London for intense rehearsals where the cast would go over and over the scripts, before casting them aside and improvising the scenes. The writers would then edit the scripts using some of the material created by the cast.

“Then we would do it all over again,” Scott recalls. “So it was a very collaborative process. That’s how we found the characters. That’s how we found what worked. None of us had ever worked that way before but, from an actor’s standpoint, it’s great because you really become the custodian of your character. Between each season, Armando would contact us and say, ‘Here’s some ideas I have for next season. What do you think?’ That never happens in television – no one does that. It really bolsters you and gives you this ownership of the character that makes you very excited to go back to work.”

That working method also proved to be a shock for the numerous guest actors who joined the show. “I remember when Gary Cole [senior strategist Kent Daviso]  and Kevin Dunn [White House chief of staff Ben Cafferty] showed up for the first time. They were like, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ They’d never worked that way. We were like, ‘Oh yeah, we’ve been doing this for three years now. We’re sort of used to it.’ Once you work that way, once you get used to it, it’s so hard to go back.”

On Why Women Kill, which is distributed by CBS Studios International, the script wasn’t quite ripped up and reassembled like it was on Veep, but Scott says Cherry did offer the cast the chance to offer their own thoughts.

“I was like, ‘I want to mix it up. I want to like tear the script apart and play with it.’ You should see the looks on the writers’ faces! Marc’s been very open to letting me play around with it,” he adds. “There’s certainly not as much improvisation as there was in Veep, but he’s been very encouraging and let me push Eli around a little bit – and Kirby’s a phenomenally wonderful improvisational actress too. So when they let us off leash, we really get to run. It’s pretty fun.”

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The importance of being early

ABC’s early pickups show its new entertainment president is keen to keep its hit shows on top form by giving their creative teams as much time as possible to prepare for next season. Michael Pickard reports.

She’s been in the job little more than two weeks – but the new entertainment president at US network ABC is wasting no time making her mark.

Channing Dungey
Channing Dungey

Two months before advertising executives gather in New York to hear the Upfront presentations for the 2016/17 season, Channing Dungey has given them a big insight into what they can expect to see on the Alphabet’s schedule next season with a host of renewals across the television spectrum.

Long-running reality veterans The Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars will be back for seasons 21 and 23 respectively, while there’s also good news for fans of comedies Black-ish, The Goldbergs, The Middle and Modern Family, among others.

On the drama side, ABC has picked up six series – including three from the Shonda Rhimes stable. Grey’s Anatomy will return this fall for its 13th run, How to Get Away With Murder will be back for season three and political drama Scandal gets a sixth outing.

Elsewhere, there were renewals for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (season four), fantasy Once Upon a Time (season six) and a second season order for one of the new breakout shows of the year, FBI thriller Quantico (pictured top), which stars Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra.

Fans of Castle, American Crime, Marvel’s Agent Carter and music drama Nashville, however, are still in the dark about whether their shows will be back next year, while freshman series Wicked City and Blood and Oil have already been cancelled.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is set to enter its fourth run on ABC

Some of those series left in limbo may find time is running out, with 11 drama pilots in contention for series orders next season. One of these is Conviction, which stars Hayley Atwell as the daughter of a former president who is blackmailed into joining LA’s new Conviction Integrity Unit – which examines whether the wrong person may have been convicted of a crime. Atwell, of course, is the star of Agent Carter so it seems unlikely she will appear in both shows unless Conviction receives a smaller episode order to allow her to continue in the Marvel series.

The possible cancellation of one Marvel series seems all the more likely considering another ABC pilot in contention – Marvel’s Most Wanted, a spin-off from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D that stars Adrianne Palicki.

Room also needs to be found in the schedule for Designated Survivor, which was ordered straight to series, bypassing the traditional pilot process. The show stars Kiefer Sutherland as a low-level US cabinet member who becomes president when a catastrophic attack during the State of the Union kills everyone above him in the line of succession.

Speaking about her early renewals, which numbered 15 in total, Dungey said: “We’re very proud of our strong roster of performers, and we’re excited about what they will bring us creatively next season.”

Scandal is headed for a sixth season
Scandal is headed for a sixth season

And as ABC’s drama development executive prior to her recent promotion, Dungey knows creativity is key.

While a new season order placed in May gives writers and producers just four months to get the opening episodes ready to air in time for the new season launch in September, any extra time they can get to plot story arcs, fine-tune scripts and enhance special effects can only be beneficial – particularly if they’re on board the network treadmill that will see them churn out as many as 24 episodes by the season end next May.

This is where the larger episode orders associated with the five US broadcast networks come into stark contrast with cable networks, which tend to lean towards 10 to 13 episodes per season – and give creatives as long as a year to film a show ahead of its debut.

Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry admitted as much when he spoke about starting work on his Lifetime drama Devious Maids back in 2012.

Housewives ran for eight seasons on ABC, before Cherry crafted an adaptation of Mexican telenovela Ellas Son la Alegría del Hogar, about four women who have ambitions and dreams of their own while working for the rich and famous in Beverly Hills. ABC ordered a pilot but ultimately passed on the project, which was then picked up by Lifetime and is now heading into its fourth season.

Devious Maids
Marc Cherry’s Devious Maids

Describing the benefits of working for a cable channel, he said: “Artistically, it gives you greater licence to do much more complicated storytelling and richer and deeper writing than you have time for on a network schedule.

“With the networks, from the time they pick up your show to the time you start shooting is approximately six weeks. That’s not a lot of time to plan what you’re going to be doing for 23 episodes, whereas I have four straight months of plotting before we start shooting. What the fans are going to see from me is the best writing I’ve ever done because I have time to plan things and talk about them and get to deeper places.”

With her background in drama development, Dungey knows this and it’s too her credit that she has given these six dramas as much time as possible to prepare for the 2016/17 season.

Other networks have also given some early season orders, with CBS renewing NCIS and Fox planning more Empire. And like ABC, NBC has also gone big on early renewals for The Blacklist, Shades of Blue, Chicago PD, Law & Order: SVU, Chicago Med, Chicago Fire and Blindspot.

With networks under pressure to keep ratings high in the age of catch-up and increasing competition from both cable and OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon, giving writers and producers more time to stay on top of their game and keep their series entertaining and engaging will benefit viewers and advertisers alike.

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