“It was a huge, huge, huge terrifying challenge and I am so happy I went for it because I feel like I learned a lot about myself,” declares Jessica Biel in our exclusive webcam interview (watch the video above) about her starring role in USA Network’s “The Sinner,” on which she also served as producer.
In “The Sinner” Biel plays Cora Tannetti, a young mother who suddenly snaps and brutally murders a man without provocation. As a police detective (Bill Pullman) searches for a motive, he uncovers hidden secrets in her past, as audiences are kept guessing until the very end as to why she was driven to commit such a shocking crime.
Critics have fallen head over heels for the series, as it sits on an impressive 71 score at MetaCritic and a jaw-dropping 94% at Rotten Tomatoes. Much of the show’s success is largely due to the performances of its cast, particularly Biel, who has already racked up Gold Globe and Critics’ Choice nominations for her work on the show.
That “The Sinner” managed to keep audiences genuinely guessing until the very end was also a remarkable achievement in the era of social media and online spoilers. “Honestly, one of the greatest successes of this whole experience for us, the creative team behind this whole thing, is that even online, nobody really guessed what was going to happen in the end, and who was really one of the major sinners of this whole thing,” she says. “We were just thrilled that nobody got the answer!”
“I did the same thing when I read the book. I thought OK, I know where this is going. It’s good, but I know where this is going. And then it takes that hard left and you are surprised by the direction and what is actually happening, and then you’re confused,” the actress explains. “There’s all of these red herrings being dangled in front of you, and that was the most fun … in finding that balance of how much we can tell you, how much do we need to hold, when do we drop the information to keep the palate whet and titillated for the next episode.”
Ultimately for Biel, her greatest challenge was the emotional toll that the role took on her personally. Playing a character who had hit rock bottom as she suffered from paralyzing trauma and the prospect of life behind bars away from her husband and child was not easy. “I feel as if I have aged about twenty years,” she jokes when talking about what her character endures. “My poor skin, I feel as if I may be dehydrated forever from crying so much. It was just so emotionally exhausting on all levels,” she says. “There’s something about that misery that as an actor you cannot get enough of! It sounds so masochistic and terrible and crazy, but it’s those roles that you live for that you die to play and literally almost die playing.”
The network has recently announced that it will be extending “The Sinner” with a second limited season to air summer 2018. Biel is understandably reluctant to give away any details of what we can expect. “What I can tell you about season two is that we will be sticking true to our thematic ‘why-dunnit’ [format] as opposed to a ‘whodunnit,’ and I will always be a part of it behind the scenes, for which I am so lucky and so thankful for. We’re still working out how and if I will be involved on-screen. And that’s about all I can say!”
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