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Katie Finneran Tells Us Why Women Kill

The two-time Tony winner stars in the new CBS All Access series from the creator of Desperate Housewives.

"It's nice to have a little break from Game of Thrones and not feel like you have to kill yourself before you go to bed," two-time Tony winner Katie Finneran says about her latest TV project. It's a series called Why Women Kill (the title tells you everything you need to know), and it hails from one of the television industry's masters of black humor, Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry.

On the new CBS All Access dark comedy, Finneran plays Naomi, wealthy BFF to Lucy Liu's even wealthier Simone, circa the 1980s. The role allows for Finneran to don fabulous, colorful outfits, and even, potentially, commit murder.

It's a prosperous time in Finneran's onscreen career, and while her last stage appearance was in Edward Albee's At Home at the Zoo in 2018, she promises she hasn't forgotten about us.

Katie Finneran stars in Why Women Kill on CBS All Access.
(© Tricia Baron)

I'm really enjoying Why Women Kill because the quirky tone of it reminds me of Desperate Housewives. What interested you in the show and your role?
I knew it would be in that world. I totally speak Marc Cherry. I hear his voice very easily. It's truthful, but it's elevated and funny, but then it's mysterious. It's tricky, but I get that sensibility. I tested for a show he did years ago. I wound up not getting the part, but he always remembered me and followed me, because he loves theater and loves talking about it. So Why Women Kill came up, and I knew it was just different enough to be fresh and exciting. I also knew I would have a good time doing it, which is how I pick things.

Tell me about the arc of your character, Naomi.
Lucy Liu — who is divine and one of the greatest ladies ever to work with — and I play very rich ladies. I'm her best friend and I have a beautiful son, and we hang out at country clubs and we have fabulous lives. She starts to have an affair with my son, who just turned 18. It's not creepy. It's really sexy, because he's such a hunk and a man-child and he and Lucy have great chemistry. I find out about that and get angry and I may or may not kill someone. There you have it. It's just really fun.

You've played raucous comedic roles onstage, like Miss Hannigan in Annie and Marge in Promises, Promises, and then you go and do a dark Netflix show like Bloodline. Is it nice to do a show like Why Women Kill, which is relatively light?
It's so relaxing to be on a show that's beautiful and funny and touching. Norbert Leo Butz and I had so much fun on Bloodline. We'd be so silly on set, and then we'd have to go whisper-act all these sad things. Watching Why Women Kill — you know that you can go to sleep really satisfied.

Katie Finneran and Lucy Liu in Why Women Kill.
(© li Goldstein/CBS)

You're doing more film and TV work now than theater. Was that a conscious choice?
I kind of let my career just lead me to where it's going. I really do like television because from a professional standpoint, more visibility helps the theater nowadays. I would love to just do theater, I would be so happy, but even Colleen Dewhurst went off and did movies and TV. I think it's better to have a really eclectic career, which is what I've always wanted. So I just do what feels right at the time.

Since so much of your career is rooted in theater, is there a learning curve necessary when you do screen work?
I really understand how to tell a story to 2,000 people, especially a comedy. But I still, after 28 years…I did this show with Jeff Daniels called The Looming Tower, and my first scene with him was a sex scene. So I'm like, "Hey Jeff, nice to meet you. We have a lot of friends in common." There's no continuity in film and it's so disconcerting. It's really hard on me to be able to relax enough and then have the spatial situation change when they change the cameras around. I know the story, I know my lines, but when they change the perspective, I get a brain glitch. So whenever I come across as not self-conscious, I think I've won. It's a tough gig. But I love that I keep having the opportunity to practice more and get more comfortable.

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