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Ginnifer Goodwin draws on real-life mother in Why Women Kill

Each has a husband – Beth Ann’s Rob (Sam Jaeger), Simone’s Karl (Jack Davenport) and Taylor’s Eli (Reid Scott) – whose behaviour will become the catalyst for homicidal thought, though by no means will the husbands be the inevitable target. The show has other characters in the cross-hairs.

In some ways [in this series] I am playing Martha Cherry and I’m dying to meet her. His stories about his mother are so intuitive

Ginnifer Goodwin on Marc Cherry

“We are each navigating infidelity in our marriages in different ways, and we’re all defined by our eras, our boundaries and obstacles are all very era specific,” Goodwin says. “And we’re having so much fun, it should be criminal. I’m going to be devastated when we wrap things up.”

The biggest revelation, Goodwin says, is that the inner turmoil of the three women is not specific to the eras in which they live, even if the social mores which guide their behaviour are.

“Our emotional lives are consistent and our needs are not era-specific, it’s just our opportunities are limited by the times in which we’ve lived,” Goodwin says of the three characters. “And whether that is like a universal truth or not, I believe that.

“And I can imagine that the stakes were very different for someone like Beth Ann in the 1960s who was traumatised by something you learn about over the course of the series in the 1950s, so her growth is stunted,” she adds.

“You could even say she’s like the perfect 1950s housewife living in 1963 and she was raised to believe that her only role, her only opportunity, was to take care of a wealthy man and to hope that he always provided for her no matter what he may do to her. That is her survival mechanism.”

Murder Means Never Having to Say You're Sorry: Sam Jaeger as Rob; and Ginnifer Goodwin as Beth-Ann.

Murder Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry: Sam Jaeger as Rob; and Ginnifer Goodwin as Beth-Ann.

What is revealing, Goodwin says, is the fact that Beth Ann’s modern counterparts choose to stay in their relationships, “given the fact that they have more opportunities and more outlets and more options for leaving these relationships,” she says. “And that’s something we really explore as the season goes on.”

Because of the show’s time-specific story strands, the three lead actresses do not cross paths on screen. “We’re ships passing in the night,” Goodwin says. “We’ll shoot the 1960s one day and they’ll shoot the 1980s the next day and so on. So it’s the dreamiest schedule, especially for a mother.” [Goodwin has two children with her husband, actor Josh Dallas.]

Occasionally, Goodwin adds, all three actresses will be filming exteriors at the house on the same day. “And that’s trippy because I have been exclusively living in this like heightened theatrical stylised world of the 1960s now for months, so it’s wild to see them switch out all the cars and here comes the ’80s, here comes 2019.”

Lucy Liu as vampy 80s socialite Simone in Why Women Kill.

Lucy Liu as vampy 80s socialite Simone in Why Women Kill.Credit:Ali Goldstein/CBS

Though there is one peculiar off-screen footnote: the crew report that the show’s cast spend their downtime in ways which, broadly, reflect the era in which their storylines are set. “Which I find so hilariously definitive,” Goodwin says, laughing.

That is, the 1960s cast “spend our downtime knitting, crocheting, doing crossword puzzles, reading plays. The 1980s cast are sitting on their cell phones and apparently the 2019 casts are always sitting on laptops.”

[BEGIN OPTIONAL PRINT TRIM]

Goodwin says it was important not to portray Beth Ann as a victim.

“Beth Ann has no self worth, so I think that she probably uses being the victim a bit for comfort,” Goodwin says. “But there’s a place where we try not to let her drop anchor and be self-indulgent as far as that goes.

“Marc has done a very good job of keeping these characters, while everything around them is stylised and heightened theatrical, grayer and grayer and grayer and messier and messier and therefore more realistic and more relatable and timeless,” she adds.

“We aren’t so definable, we aren’t so black and white,” she says. “The irony being that we’ve all moved into these houses in the beginning in a way to redefine themselves because they’re leaving something behind, that you learn about later in the series.

“Moving into the new house is an opportunity for new self definition [but] it just doesn’t work.”

[END OPTIONAL PRINT TRIM]

The twist in the tale is that at some point in the first season of 10 episodes, there will be a murder in the house, in each of the time periods.

On the murders themselves, Goodwin is tight-lipped, except to say: “We are going to mislead you about who gets killed, and why, and who does it.

“But once you get to the end, nothing is going to be tricky for the sake of being tricky. You will see at the end the breadcrumb trail that we left you from the pilot and everything will fall into place.

“I do think that by the end it will be sympathetic in many ways,” she adds. “And it’s not actually all about infidelity.”

Goodwin admits it’s hard keeping the story a secret. “I knew from the get-go everything that was going to happen, I’ve known all the secrets. And sometimes, to be honest, I’ve told other actors what their secrets are,” she says.

So far, she adds, Cherry has not found her out. But what if he does? “He hasn’t yet,” Goodwin replies, her smile fading, and all of the gentle sparkle draining from her expression. Her eyes narrow. “And I will know where he found out if he finds out.”

Why Women Kill is on 10 All Access from Friday.

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