Mireille Enos is smiling.
It’s a sly, sexy smile, but it’s a definite, tooth-baring grin – one viewers rarely got to see through her four seasons as the grim homicide detective Sarah Linden on The Killing. On the sleek set of ABC’s new cat-and-mouse thriller The Catch, Enos shed that dour demeanor, along with those wool sweaters and down parkas, in favour of the far more provocative persona of private investigator Alice Vaughan.
“I never get asked to play the beautiful heroine,” says Enos with a laugh.
Clad in figure-flattering clothes and tapered heels, Enos’ character in The Catch is in pursuit of an elusive con man, Ben (Peter Krause) – who just happens to be her ex-fiance.
But it’s been a bit of a uphill climb to get to this stylish caper to the small screen. After the pilot was picked up in January 2015, the show went through a change of showrunners, a recasting of the lead actor (he was initially played by Damon Dayoub), and ultimately a reshoot of the entire pilot.
But given that this drama hails from Shondaland, the odds may be stacked in its favour. “I don’t think there’s ever been a pilot that we haven’t reshot,” says producer Shonda Rhimes.
The Catch began as an idea from British novelist Kate Atkinson (Behind The Scenes At The Museum, Case Histories) and her producing partner, Helen Gregory, about a fraud investigator who gets conned. Producer Julie Anne Robinson brought it to Shondaland, which gave it to Jennifer Schuur (Hannibal) to develop into a pilot.
Enos, long a favourite of Rhimes and Betsy Beers (Rhimes’ producing partner), was quickly cast. “She immediately got the essence of a character who’s hiding in plain sight, what happens when someone close to you betrays you,” says Beers. As a bonus, the producers later discovered the actress knows martial arts and has impressive skills as a stuntwoman.
“She can run in heels like nobody’s business,” Beers adds.
But once the pilot was filmed, things started to unravel. Dayoub’s role was recast in May, along with that of another actress, Bethany Joy Lenz. Krause landed the male lead in July. By August, Schuur would be gone, too, with reports citing “creative differences”. But Rhimes doesn’t see it that way. “Making a pilot and making a series are two very different things,” she says.
The show was stuck; the network wouldn’t approve an episode-two script, and production was shut down. It was the casting of Krause – whom Rhimes says she’s “a little bit obsessed with” – that set the reboot in motion.
“It did require reshaping not just the pilot but the series itself,” says Rhimes. “Because once you have Peter Krause, you’ve got to write for him. It allowed for Mireille to have a more formidable foil. And it allowed for richer storytelling.”
Rhimes turned to a veteran of Team Shondaland: Allan Heinberg, who’d been working on Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. It helped, too, that he’d had his own experience with fraud – he’d been in a 10-year relationship with someone who’d betrayed him, a story he’d shared in the writers’ room. “This was a perfect opportunity to get him to stand up,” Rhimes says.
Rhimes presented Heinberg with the opportunity to reinvent the show, but there were limitations. Says the writer: “She was essentially saying, ‘Can you come up with an entirely new show with the same premise, the same actors, the same set and the same costumes, but everything else is entirely new?’.”
So he said no. Politely.
But he was about to take a long flight back to Los Angeles from London, so his friend Pete Nowalk, creator/showrunner of How To Get Away With Murder, advised him to spend those hours thinking about it.
By the time he’d landed, he’d come up with a plan.
His idea was such a revolution, though, that he didn’t believe she’d buy it. “I thought, this is going to be too expensive and too drastic,” he says. “They’re never going to let me do this in a million years.” Think again.
Heinberg shifted the tone of the series, from a dark, Hitchcockian thriller to a far more playful romp – The Thomas Crown Affair meets Ocean’s Eleven – and reinvented roles for the entire cast.
He turned Alice into a high-end private investigator, and Ben from a petty criminal into a James Bond-like con man with ties to criminal syndicates all over the world. “It’s not a dark, brooding thriller about corrupt people,” he says. “It’s this oddly fun confection with a really different energy. I think (ABC) responded to that.”
Enos admits the reboot gave her pause. “It took me a couple of reads of the new version to understand the gift I had been handed,” she says. “Even when I went to take the meeting with Allan when he was pitching me the new pilot, we were almost halfway through reading it when I said: ‘Wait. How much of the pilot are we reshooting?’.”
Krause says he understood that the show needed to be revamped. “Coming into it, I felt like, this can’t be an exploration of a psychopath and a woman who falls for him,” he says. “I think he built a more compelling storytelling machine.”
Heinberg knows he has a high standard to live up to. “Shonda gets bored very easily, which is both a blessing and a curse,” he says. “She treats her viewers with a lot of respect. I feel like we have very intelligent viewers, but they also watch a lot of TV – a lot of Shondaland TV – and those shows move very quickly. They don’t spoon-feed you.” – Reuters/ DEBRA BIRNBAUM