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Reba McEntire boards the latest season of ABC's crime thriller, Big Sky, and she isn't someone to be messed with as an eerie new mystery unravels. McEntire plays Sunny Barnes, a charismatic outfitter who is caught in the middle of disaster when a local backcountry trip goes awry. For the country music legend, joining Big Sky -- the new season of which is subtitled Deadly Trails -- was an exciting departure from what she's done in the past.
"When [creator] Elwood [Reid] was telling me his idea of me being a part of the show, I was like, 'Oh my gosh, I've never done anything like that. I've never been a villain,'" McEntire said from the Albuquerque, New Mexico, set, alongside co-stars Kylie Bunbury, Katheryn Winnick and new series regular Jensen Ackles. "So I was like, 'Yeah I'm in it, I wanna be a part of it,' and the experience has been absolutely 100 percent marvelous."
In season 3, private detective Cassie Dewell (Bunbury), undersheriff Jenny Hoyt (Winnick) and newly appointed sheriff Beau Arlen (Ackles, who was introduced in the season 2 finale) maintain order in Helena, Montana, with their unparalleled investigative skills. But the trio faces their most formidable mystery yet, with McEntire's Sunny at the center of it, in which no camper can be trusted and where danger lurks around every jagged rock and gnarled tree.
"The way it was presented to me, I am the type that will go, 'Would you like to learn how to...? Would you like to...?' and then I'll cut your carotid artery," McEntire quipped. "She's bad to the bone but and, you know, sweet."
Winnick expressed enthusiasm over having McEntire join the Big Sky family.
"We are so lucky to have her," she praised. "We really are. It just feels to me like it's a whole new season this year. It feels to me that it's a different vibe on set. Obviously the scripts are, we've changed the format this year, which we're very excited. We're doing an open-close per week for the cases but also Reba's storyline [is] an overarching [one]. There's a huge arch with another storyline as well and we just got some great guest stars that are joining and supporting Reba... and a lot of surprises."
And she isn't the only significant addition to the ensemble. Ackles, who spent 15 years fighting demons on Supernatural, teams up with Bunbury and Winnick in a more regular capacity this year as the town's sheriff.
"They just told me Reba was gonna be here," he joked when asked how it feels to be lording over the town as sheriff. "I said yes, 'What do I have to do? Who do I have to kill?' And then they said, 'Don't worry about that, Reba's got that handled.'"
While he wouldn't divulge too much, Ackles says Beau is part of "the good guys." But with a show like Big Sky, "anything can happen."
"It is a true mystery show and that's one of the appealing factors to it is you don't know who's on what side of the team and you don't know what's going to happen. You don't know where it's going to go. The storylines can cross, they can stay separate, there's a lot that can happen," Ackles teased, leaving the door open for possible romance with Beau and one of the show's leading ladies. "Elwood and his crack team of writers have really set a great stage for what's about to happen."
McEntire's real-life boyfriend, Rex Linn, also joins the show this season as Sunny's husband, Buck.
"It's been a lot of fun. We've been working together since May. We shot a movie together and now we're on Big Sky together. We're having a blast play husband and wife with Cormac [played by Luke Mitchell] as our son," she shared. "We're having a blast together. We love working together and it's been a great experience."
Ackles admitted to fanboying over Linn, which he says was his most memorable day on set.
"Honestly, everybody, it was 'Reba's here! Reba's here!' and I was like, 'Reba's here,' then I was like, 'Wait, is that Rex Linn?'" he recalled. "And I bee-lined to him and just went full fanboy on him. So that was was embarrassing and memorable all at the same time."
"They definitely bring a warm, welcoming, energized, very full of life energy and I think that's necessary when you're working together with people every single day," Bunbury said of McEntire and Linn's working relationship. "So they've really set the tone for us and it's really beautiful."
"Rex has a great attitude. He wants everybody to have fun," McEntire said. "That's what he says right before they say, 'Action.' He says, 'Have fun.'"
As for the season as a whole, Winnick said "it's a whole new level" of chaos.
"Epic. Definitely the stunts, the action, the drama, the character-driven material, the chemistry between the actors every week it's a completely new surprise in a lot of ways because of the open and close in each episode," she previewed. "But also it's really interesting, it's like peeling off an onion when you discover the B plot or the second storyline, which you dive more into the characters and figure out how twisted they really are."
Big Sky premieres Wednesday, Sept. 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.