SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not watched the first three episodes of “Long Slow Exhale,” streaming now on Spectrum.
“Long Slow Exhale” is not a laid-back watch. The Spectrum Originals series, which dropped its first three episodes this week, tells a heavy, at times dark, story about a college women’s basketball team in the middle of a sexual assault scandal — and a shocking murder.
Over the course of the first episodes, head coach J.C. Abernathy (Rose Rollins) is blindsided when she learns that her assistant coach, Eddie Hagan (Ian Harding), is accused of sexual assault by her star player. To complicate things further, the university doesn’t want it coming out — plus, J.C. and Eddie have a history of their own. The series flashes between different timelines, including one down the road during which J.C. and her husband are placing the dead body of Athletic Director Hillman Ford (Josh Lucas) into the river.
While it sounds complicated, that’s because it is — and that’s why Rollins jumped at the opportunity.
“I was just instantly drawn to JC. I knew it would be a very, very, very challenging role,” she tells Variety. “I’m always attracted to strong women. I consider myself a strong woman. She has such strength, but at the same time, she’s flawed and complicated and she makes a lot of mistakes, but will stop at nothing to correct those mistakes and ultimately do the right thing. She is a good person, but she’s got a lot on her shoulders.”
Rollins was also attracted to the subject matter and its many layers, including a university trying to protect its reputation, instead of the students. “We touch on issues that have been swept under the rug for decades at these universities. I think there’s a great message in it,” she explains. “We’re finally in a much more powerful space where we’re kind of dropping the hammer and saying, ‘All of this is inexcusable. We have normalized it for so long, and enough is enough.'”
At the end of the third episode, J.C. is asked to essentially announce Eddie’s promotion after the accusations made against him — something she refuses to do, despite the fact that she could lose her job.
“She had to follow her gut and at the end of the day, her main focus was protecting her female players and protecting all women out there. In these institutions, this is the first time that these issues are really coming to light. She has to stop this,” says Rollins. “For him to be promoted for the kind of mistake that that he made? Also if a woman had made a mistake, like there’s there’s no way. It’s in her hands to do the right thing and ultimately she does, and there will definitely be a lot of consequences.”
The series is full of twists and turns, so much so that as a viewer, it’s easy to question which character you’re supposed to view as the hero vs. the villain — something Rollins also experiences now while watching along.
“With Eddie, there are times where I felt like I was rooting for him and then I felt bad. I mean, did he really do this? Then there’s the question of the age, because she was the age of consent. You definitely get conflicted a lot, and I think that happens in real life, too,” she says. “The lines can be blurred as to what’s right and wrong.”
Each episode of the show includes flash-forwards to the murder mystery. The word “murder” is used, but it’s not yet revealed who actually committed the crime and why, something that will continue to unfold each week.
“We were given the first 11 scripts, which was a luxury in this business. You’re usually given one at a time. So we definitely knew what was coming and even leading up to that moment, as I was reading script to script, I genuinely had no idea who killed Hillman and for exactly why,” Rollins says. “I mean, clearly, Hillman, as the story unfolds, has so many secrets and so many issues that that he’s dealing with, but I mean, would there ever be a reason to murder him? I didn’t see that coming at all. So it was quite shocking. Episode 11, my mouth was on the floor the whole episode.”