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Marc Cherry, A Master At Creating Female Characters, Explains ‘Why Women Kill’ In New Series

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA – AUGUST 07: Marc Cherry, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Ginnifer Goodwin and Lucy Liu attend the LA Premiere Of CBS All Access’ “Why Women Kill” at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on August 07, 2019 in Beverly


Marc Cherry certainly loves the ladies.

To be clear, what he really loves is writing compelling, complicated female characters, and he does it exceedingly well.

How he came by this unique skill is part work history, part family upbringing. It’s all quite unintentional, but the when the puzzle pieces come together then make a splashy, colorful picture that’s intriguing to explore.

However it was formed, Cherry’s distinct talent for crafting the female voice for the screen is on display once again with a new series.

Cherry worked as a writer on The Golden Girls prior to creating Desperate Housewives and Devious Maids. Desperate Housewives ran for eight seasons, winning two Golden Globe awards for Best Television Series, Comedy or Musical.

His latest creation, Why Women Kill, is a darkly comedic drama detailing the lives of three women living in three different decades: a housewife in the 60s, a socialite in the 80s, and a lawyer in 2018, each dealing with infidelity in their marriages.

Cherry says it all started with a call from an executive at CBS, Francie Calfo. “She took me out for a fortuitous lunch, and we started talking. I had an idea that I’d been carrying around for years about a housewife in the 1960s who finds out her husband’s cheating, and instead of telling him that she knows, she befriends his mistress, and that starts her on a journey of self discovery.”

At that time Cherry quickly admitted that he didn’t know exactly how to the turn idea into a series.  Then, he says, “It suddenly occurred to me that so much of how we behave, so much of our expectations for happiness, are based on the era in which we live. We are told by popular culture and the rules of the day what should make us happy, and I suddenly became kind of entranced with comparing three decades of three women, three marriages, all dealing with the exact same problem, and their reactions to it would be based on the decade in which they lived.”

His work on previous shows has groomed him for this one, says Cherry. “Golden Girls was the first big show I ever worked on. My love affair with writing female characters started on that. It was great to write older women. I’m always very frustrated that people don’t write older women, because they bring so much rich history their characters have lived through. They’ve survived things. They’ve got hidden pain, hidden secrets. It’s always natural for me to go there.”

Originally he saw Desperate Housewives as a half-hour show rather than the hour long that it became. “It was funny because I thought it was going to be like a companion to Sex and the City. My first incarnation was, “Well, what happens after the women on Sex and the City stop having sex and they just meet someone and settle down? They would get married and move to the suburbs, and then they’d go crazy.”

Thirty pages into writing the pilot for Desperate Housewives, Cherry realized that to properly tell the women‘s stories that the series needed to be the hour long show that it eventually became.

Writing for a streaming service rather than a broadcast network loosened the writing reigns a little, says Cherry. “I’ve been having so much fun using the word ‘fuck.’ It was like, ‘Oh, my God. I’m free of that network broadcast thing.’ I’m like a five year old really.” 

He’s also appreciative of the freedom of more time, more money and the order of fewer episodes that come along with budding a show for streaming. “It leads to a different kind of storytelling, a richer kind of storytelling, and there’s such provocative material, I would not be surprised if the television landscape changed tremendously five years from now.”

Cherry quickly added, “That being said, some of the conservatism that a broadcast network has in terms of concern for family programming, I think that’s absolutely valuable. But I think that there’s some storylines that we weren’t allowed to do in 2004 in Desperate Housewives, and now I see other shows on broadcast networks doing it, so I think that inching towards more provocative stuff is happening, and I don’t think we can stop it.”

Why Women Kill is currently slated as a ten episode closed ended series, but Cherry says he already has ideas about a second season should one be ordered, but that it would be a, ‘totally new way to do it.’

Cherry’s gift of writing clearly and accurately about women comes from his unique personal life, he says, giving praise to the most important woman in his life. “I love my mom. I mean, in all seriousness. My dad was off traveling for business a lot, so it would just be us kids with our mom for, like, nine months out of the year. And I remember she would have friends over, and when I was real little, I’d get a big thing of Legos, and I’d be behind the sofa, just playing. I would listen to her conversations and the things they would talk about, and I was just always so fascinated. And my mom has a really funny point of view, a dark point of view. She has a dark, funny sense of humor. And I just love her, and I was fascinated by her. All of my characters come out of her, and I can get really emotional talking about it because I was really blessed.”

To emphasis the point, Cherry, choking up a bit as he speaks, tells a story about his mother. “My career ended, for all practical purposes, in 1996 because my writing partner broke up with me. I could not make a living, and during that time, for years, my mother kept loaning me money, and I felt really crappy about it because I was at an age where I should have been able to take care of myself. I had this idea about suburban housewives, which she sort of had given me. I finally sold Desperate Housewives, and what’s funny is she had loaned me exactly, over the period of three and a half years, $100,000. I sold Desperate Housewives for $100,000. I went to my mom’s home, and I walked in, and I gave her the check, and I said, ‘Well, aren’t you lucky that you have a son who could figure his way out of trouble?’ My mother took the check, she put it in her purse, and she said, ‘I’m not lucky. I knew what horse I was betting on.’

‘Why Women Kill’ is available for streaming on CBS All Access. New episodes debut every Thursday.