The latest entry from Shondaland bows this week: “The Catch,” starring Mireille Enos and Peter Krause. While it inherits “How to Get Away with Murder’s” timeslot, right after “Scandal,” its tone couldn’t be more different — it’s far more playful and romantic.
That variety is part of their creative strategy at Shondaland, says Betsy Beers, who serves as executive producer on all the “TGIT” series. “We just make the stuff we like and we would want to watch,” she says.
Here, Shonda Rhimes, along with Beers, tells Variety about “The Catch’s” famously troubled path to the screen, why Enos and Krause were just perfect for their roles, and how showrunner Allan Heinberg was able to reinvent the series.
How did the idea for “The Catch” first come to you?
Betsy Beers: It originally first came to us through Julie Anne Robinson, who has worked with us a fair amount and directed a lot of amazing episodes of TV for us. And she came to us with a notion that had first been cooked up by novelist Kate Atkinson and producing partner Helen Gregory. It was a cool idea that we thought was incredibly interesting and super intriguing about somebody who got conned and then had to turn around and figure out what exactly happened in her life. It was essentially an intriguing way into a TV show. And we had many lively conversations based on that.
Why was Mireille Enos the right person for the role?
Shonda Rhimes: We’d all been fans of “The Killing,” I remember thinking what a good actress she is. I remember saying to you, “Guys, she’s so dark.” And we met her and she’s luminous. She’s an amazing actor, that’s why she so dark on “The Killing.” And she just had such a great spirit and energy about her. An exuberance which I found very interesting.
Beers: She’s delightful to be around. She immediately got the essence of a character who’s making her way in the world, the whole concept of hiding in plain sight. She loved the idea of what happens, who can you trust? What happens when someone close to you betrays you? She dug right into it.
Rhimes: She’s also really smart. The investigative part of the idea was interesting to her. She’s a smart, curious person.
Beers: We later found out that she knows martial arts. And amazingly, she almost trained to be a stuntwoman. She’s crazily multitalented. Not only is she an amazing actress and very intelligent, but she can also run in heels like nobody’s business.
Did she do her own stunts?
Beers: She took the guy down! That whole sequence (in the pilot) where she’s running, she’s running and she’s running fast. We had to keep up with her.
You decided to reshoot the first pilot. What didn’t work about it?
Rhimes: I wouldn’t say it didn’t work. For us, recasting was exciting. Getting to work with Peter Krause was exciting. There’s always elements of a pilot that get reshot. I don’t think there’s ever been a pilot that we haven’t reshot. We’ve always reshot some parts of a pilot we’ve ever done, even “Scandal.” We had the opportunity to recast and make that character a different character, make him larger than life, make him older. We were excited about it. And when we were able to get Peter Krause, I lost my mind with excitement. I’m a little bit obsessed with Peter Krause.
Beers: We all are.
Rhimes: I’m a Krause fan. That was a thrilling moment. It did require reshaping, not with the pilot itself but with the series itself. Because once you have Peter Krause, you’ve got to write for him.
Beers: It took the series in a different direction after that.
Rhimes: It allowed for her to have a more formidable foil. It allowed for richer storytelling on that side.
After original creator and showrunner Jennifer Schuur left the show, you brought on Allan Heinberg to replace her. Why was he the right choice?
Rhimes: What was lovely for us and simple for us was there wasn’t a lot of question in that. Because I’d been working with Allan for years. He’d been on “Grey’s,” he’d been in the “Scandal” writers’ room. I know that Allan had actually had a similar personal thing happen to him where he had been dating someone and then had them scam him in a way that was surprising to him. He’d talked about it. He’d experienced this on some level. He’d talked about it extensively, which was fascinating. And … Allan was someone I know was capable of anything. He’s an incredibly good writer. He’s incredibly good at running a room. He can do whatever he wants. And I had always said to him, what are you doing being a writer in my room? You should be running one of my rooms. This was a perfect opportunity to get him to stand up. And he did so beautifully.
Was the studio on board?
Rhimes: We’re very fortunate the relationship we have with the studio is that we got to say, if you’re going to ask someone to take over a show and make it theirs, you can’t just say here’s a show, fit yourself into it. We were very lucky that we could say here’s a show, here are the actors, here are the sets, here are the costumes, here’s the germ of the idea that we love, now what would you do? So he could really make the show his.
He ended up reinventing the show from top to bottom.
Rhimes: Yes, I think that’s really the only way, for me and Betsy, the only way I could ever ask someone to take over something like that. How else could you embed and invest yourself? I know people do it. My brain doesn’t work that way. So it was very nice to be able to do that for Allan, to cleanse the palate for Allan and say go.
Beers: And to have a studio and network who were so open, with open arms and excited about a new interpretation.
Rhimes: And who were willing to let us do it the way it felt right for us, versus a lot of people who would have said, “you have a pilot, now go from there.” They said, if that’s the way you want to do it, go ahead.
What was your reaction to his revised show?
Beers: Oh my god, it was so exciting.
Rhimes: I was excited because Allan was excited. That’s what matters for us. What matters for us is that we’re producing shows for writers that they are excited about. We’re not just making shows for making shows’ sake. There was a moment when we looked at each other and thought “we don’t actually have to do this.” We didn’t have to reinvent. We have to reinvent because we’re passionate about something. And we couldn’t do this if Allan wasn’t passionate about it, too. It was really about that, too.
How do you think this show fits into the “TGIT” lineup?
Rhimes: I don’t think we think like that. We look at our shows as their own individual thing. The thing they have in common is our umbrella. And possibly that they all have really strong female characters.
Beers: They’re fun shows to watch. This is a fun show to watch. That’s something that I love about it. The energy of it is great. It’s another great workplace family. I think there are lot of twists and turns, when I look at the other shows that fall under our umbrella, you just don’t know what’s going to happen next. It’s super fun and super stylish and hopefully it will be as much fun for other people to watch as it is for me to watch.
“The Catch” premiere airs Thursday, March 24 at 10 p.m. on ABC.