Created by Desperate Housewives mastermind Marc Cherry, Why Women Killfollows three women living in three different decades, who all find themselves in the middle of unhealthy marriages of varying degrees. There's the picture-perfect '50s housewife who discovers her husband is cheating on her with a younger woman. There's the '80s socialite, who learns her beau may actually be gay. And then there's the modern-day woman in an open marriage, who finds herself caught in a precarious predicament when she and her husband take in a hot friend.
"I became fascinated with how women have changed over the decades and the thought occurred to me to do a show based on three women, three different decades, how they've changed, how they haven't changed and what hasn't changed in marriage and society," Cherry told ET of the inspiration behind his new CBS All Access series. "And I thought it would be an interesting new way to do a soap opera."
There's more to Why Women Kill than the thematic elements tying together the three seemingly disparate storylines, led by Lucy Liu, Ginnifer Goodwin and Kirby Howell-Baptiste. While it may not appear obvious at first, the women all live in the same Pasadena, California, mansion, dressed up and modernized for each specific decade. But, Cherry has hinted, there will be another "big connective reveal" between the three women at the end of the 10-episode season, which sets up, in its first episode, the mystery of who dies and who is responsible. "Fans are going to be surprised by who's killed and who does the killing. It's not who you think," Reid Scott, who plays Howell-Baptiste's down-and-out husband, teased to ET.
If Why Women Kill continues past its initial run, the intention is for it to serve as an anthology series, a la American Horror Story and Fargo, featuring a completely different cast, characters and storylines. But the underlying theme, Cherry promised, would keep with the title of the show. "I will come up with different ways to show women killing season after season. I've got a lot of ideas," he teased. "I can't give away too much because that would be a spoiler!"
With the first episode just hours away from dropping on CBS All Access, here is ET's handy guide to everything you need to know about summer's new revenge drama.
What decade does this place in? The 1960s, specifically, 1963
Who is in this storyline? Ginnifer Goodwin, Sam Jaeger, Alicia Coppola, Adam Ferrara and Sadie Calvano
What is the plot? Married coupleBeth Ann (Goodwin) and Rob (Jaeger) move into a pristine Southern California mansion and are very clearly a product of the times, with Beth Ann assuming the traditional housewife role and Rob expecting to be waited on hand and foot at the snap of a finger. Their new neighbors, the very progressive Sheila (Coppola) and Leo (Ferrara), aren't shy about calling out the cons of their traditional marriage and then, their seemingly perfect union begins to unravel when Rob's secret affair with a pretty diner waitress, April (Calvano), comes to light.
Goodwin, who previously starred in Once Upon a Time and CBS All Access' The Twilight Zone, called Why Women Kill "manipulative, hysterical and gutting." While Goodwin's character starts off well-mannered and happily homemaking for her husband, a rocket scientist (literally), there are so many twists and turns as Beth Ann's tale unfolds that should leave viewers waiting with bated breath. "I haven't even told people on set what is going to happen. There are cast members who don't know what's going to happen," the 41-year-old actress told ET. "It's just too delicious. My own husband [Manifest star Josh Dallas]... it's the first time he's never read the scripts. I won't tell him what I'm doing with my days. He doesn't even know which actors I'm working with! I want him to go on the same ride the audience does."
"The characters are so rich and witty and it has the drama, and it always has a level of wit to it," Goodwin's TV husband, Jaeger, told ET. "It never feels heavy, even at its darkest there's always some buoyancy to it. I think that's what fans of Marc Cherry responded to in Desperate Housewives, and there's so much of that in this show." Case in point: The dinner table scene between Beth Ann and Rob where she sweetly warns him, delivered with Goodwin's maniacal charm, that she's been thinking about the day he'll finally die -- a sign that their cookie-cutter reality may already be in the past.
What decade does this take place in? The 1980s, specifically, 1984
Who is in this storyline? Lucy Liu, Jack Davenport and Leo Howard
What is the plot? A popular socialite who craves attention and always loves a good party (she's never one to be late to her own bash!), Simone (Liu, like we've never seen her before) and her third husband, Karl (Davenport), throw a fancy, catered housewarming get-together at their newly decked-out mansion to celebrate being all moved in. (Think flashy, over-the-top '80s decor with goldeverythingand self-portraits of Simone on every wall imaginable.) When Simone comes across photos of Karl kissing someone who isn't her, she does what any wife would naturally do: seek revenge by turning to an attractive 20-something hired help (Howard) for some old fashioned lovin' in a storyline similar to Desperate Housewives' sexy gardener affair.
For the 50-year-old actress, who says goodbye to Joan Watson on CBS' Elementary after seven seasons with Thursday's series finale, jumping into a wholly new character with a close-ended narrative was attractive. "I really felt like doing something that has a beginning, middle and end is incredibly attractive to me," Liu said, adding that audiences will be pleasantly surprised by "how much they're going to delight in watching how infidelity affects different people, and how surprising it will be." "It will be different from what they expected in other movies or television shows about murder."
"[Marc Cherry] really knows how to balance the influence of what people really enjoy in terms of comedy and what people really need for drama, and I found working with him has been such a delight," she said, praising the Why Women Kill creator. "He really has a great sense of humor. We have these wonderful rehearsals together where we get a little bit of his history in the business and he brings all of that into what he writes and how he likes things delivered, which I can definitely appreciate."
Davenport also credited Cherry's unique voice as being the bellwether for the show. "There's a weird balance of the real and the slightly unreal," he explained to ET, adding that he keeps the plot twists close to the vest. "I've now gotten to the point where I don't even read past the script in our time period -- not because I don't want to know, but because it's fun to sit at the table reads and hear [the actors] do it, 'cause I'm never going to be in that part [of the story]. It all comes as much of a surprise to me as it will to you. I don't actually know how it ends in two-thirds of the cases!"
What decade does this take place in? The present day, specifically, 2019
Who is in this storyline? Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Reid Scott and Alexandra Daddario
What is the plot? If there ever was a storyline that reflected the cultural and political landscape of today, it's this one, which follows a feminist lawyer, Taylor (Howell-Baptiste), who is in an open marriage with her struggling screenwriter husband, Eli (Scott), and takes in her lesbian lover, Jade (Daddario), who exudes qualities in a significant lover Eli doesn't realize he desires. Things get uber complicated when the lines start to blur for the new polyamorous throuple, when Eli becomes attracted to his new live-in guest.
The threesome is inspired by real people Cherry knew who were in polyamorous relationships, and he admitted he has been endlessly fascinated by the arrangement and thought it appropriate to examine it on the show. "I started thinking about how marriage has changed and to me, the biggest thing that's happening right now for us as a society is people who are in throuples are coming out of the closet, and people are talking about it," he said earlier this month. "I thought, 'Let's talk about that and show how that whole situation isn't completely thought out. What are the complications that come of that? How does jealously rear its head in those relationships?' As we did our research, we started to have very honest talks in the writers' room about this new thing that's happening in society and people are being very open about it and writing about it. It became an exciting thing to contrast the previous decades with, because we're living in a bit of a sexual revolution as far as that goes."
Both Howell-Baptiste and Scott weighed in on portraying a modern marriage on the small screen. "It's very interesting to play this character," Howell-Baptiste said of portraying Taylor. "What is wonderful about Taylor and Eli's relationship is that sometimes when you're in a traditional marriage, there's always the allure of the grass is always greener and 'What's outside?' And I think, in the other eras, they have much more -- at least seemingly much more -- traditional relationships. What is wonderful about this relationship is exploring if you do open your relationship up to another person, what kind of issues does that create? Does that help a marriage? Fundamentally, marriage is hard and however you go about it, this is us saying there's more than one way to do something -- but each way you do it takes a lot of work."
"There was such delicious stuff to play with, not only with the throuple, but how far [Marc] wanted us to dig down on each of the characters through their backstory -- what's going to be coming, reaching back into their past that rears its ugly head because of this inciting incident that we see in the pilot," Scott added. "Those roles don't come along very often, where you get to really explore something so new and interesting that you haven't seen on television a lot before."
The first episode of Why Women Kill will be available to stream Thursday at 12 a.m. PT/3 a.m. ET on CBS All Access, with subsequent episodes dropping weekly.
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