Desperate Housewives returns this month for the fourth season.When we left them, maneater Edie Britt had her head in a noose, but according to actress Nicollette Sheridan it’s just more manipulation from the most outrageous housewife on the street. Time Out visited Wisteria Lane to speak to her about the role. WordsMatt Pomroy
Were you surprised at the finale of season three when you read the script?
We got the season finale, and that scene wasn’t actually in it. The big cliffhanger was Bree pulling out the stuffing of her fake pregnancy, which, of course, wasn’t much a cliffhanger because we all knew she wasn’t pregnant anyway. So [series creator and writer] Marc Cherry felt he needed something, a real punch, and he called me to talk about it, and obviously not to worry me about it. And we discussed why she would be pushed to this place and how we could broach it come season four, and I thought it was brilliant. I loved it.
Did you get much feedback from the public during the summer break?
Everywhere I went in the world, everybody was worried about Edie not coming back. And so at times, I would have to say (whispering) ‘don’t worry’. (Laughs) But it was actually really heartwarming. A lot of people said that if Edie doesn’t come back to the show, I’m not watching anymore. I thought, ooh, that’s nice Were you surprised that the character is so well-loved even though she acts the way she does in the show?
What are you trying to say? She’s the most fabulous audacious character on television! And manipulative and mean…
Mean? See, she really is misunderstood, isn’t she? She’s honest. She’s funny. A little manipulative, yes, but, you know, she comes right out with it. You know where you stand. You know if she wants your husband, she’ll take him right in front of you. (Laughs). It’s interesting how much women really love Edie. And I have heard from them that they wish that they could be a little more like her, which is a little concerning. (Laughs) But I understand it at the same time, because she says the things we think. She does the things that we might think and she’s a force to be reckoned with.
Initially you seem to love the fact that the character was the comic relief in the show. Do you think she can go back to being the comic relief after what she’s been through recently?
I think that’s the beauty of this show, the line that we all walk between reality and farce. And these characters can really go all over the board and still be accepted. We’re on season four and there’s a lot that has happened. I think it’s always more interesting when you delve into somebody and see more than just what meets the eye. And, yes, Edie can be that breath of fresh air, the comic relief. And I do love that element that she brings to the show because I think that’s hers in her way that’s untouchable. But Marc Cherry and his team can take any of these storylines anywhere and that’s what keeps us all on our toes.
What do you most enjoy about playing a character like Edie?
The shock value. But I also like that she is a person, and she is multilayered, and she is breakable. And it’s always a challenge, when you play the bad girl, to make her likable.
How do you make her likable?I think by making her real. And it’s how you play a scene. When you have something that’s written very on the nose and harsh, there’s always a way to bring another element to it that’s not so obvious and more interesting and that people can connect to.
And her wardrobe seems to have a ‘less is more’ theme going on…
Sometimes it’s horrifying if you haven’t been running or exercising for a week. (Laughs). You think, ‘No, I’ll be marching into the wardrobe trailer and finding some long pants’ as opposed to those shorts that go up your bum. Edie dresses for the occasion. I like the look for her but you won’t find too many of those outfits in my closet. I wouldn’t get caught dead in it.
Edie doesn’t have the best parenting skill though des she?
No. Very sad. Very sad. I think I spoke to Marc Cherry a lot about this because the relationship that she has with her son was very disturbing to me, and I would always try and figure out how she arrived at that place so that it was anchored in something real and painful and just unknowing. Edie gave up her child, and she thought that that was the best thing for this little boy, that she really couldn’t be a mother to him. And through her relationship with Carlos, she realised that she could be a parent, and her ex-husband wasn’t going to stand for it, and there were many complications surrounding that situation. Ultimately she had to look at this child being of a certain age and being in school and being situated and feeling safe and that she wasn’t going to rock his world and snatch him out of it. It’s a very tricky predicament isn’t it?
What do you think she sees in Carlos, though, given that she’s even found out he’s cheating on her with his ex.
Hmm. Love. It’s in the eyes of the beholder. She fell head over heels for him and allowed herself to really feel for him. And him not being interested really, really threw her. And it was actually very sad. In season three, towards the end, you really did get a glimpse as to what her demons are and that wicked mother of hers that sits on her shoulder and her low self-esteem. And I love that scene when she stripped, both emotionally and physically, for Carlos. I thought that was very well-written and interestingly done. And, you know, it was a double-edged sword of really being at her wits’ end and feeling the need to manipulate.
Certainly the toughest time your character is having…
Edie is up against losing a battle which she’s not so accustomed to. By hook or by crook, she likes to win, so this attempted suicide is the ultimate manipulation. But she will land on her feet. She always does. We have a love triangle with Edie and Gabby and Carlos. And I think we all know they really do love one another. But there are all sorts of obstacles in the way.
Is Edie someone you’d have as a close friend?
Yes, but I would probably slip into my role of psychologist and try to help her. That’s my nature.
Would you be afraid that she would steal your man?
Hell, no. (Laughs) I don’t live in fear.
The ratings in American for season four are back up, after the dip during season three. What’s changed?
I think the writing is back on top again. I think season four definitely has the magical shades that season one had that keeps you on edge and off-kilter.
How do you think people will look back on Desperate Housewives in say, 20 years? Will it stand the test of time?
I think that show marked a new beginning in television history of off-kilter – gosh, how would you describe it? – just a new genre of show. And it seems like people are jumping on the bandwagon and creating shows based on the quirkiness of Desperate Housewives. It was very timely that this show happened when it did. I don’t think 10 years ago the public would have been ready for it but people will look back fondly at the series and old Edie Britt.
What’s the best thing about being a desperate housewife?
How far along are you in filming and how’s Edie coping so far?
We’re going to have to wait and see now, aren’t we? We are on episode nine. In fact, we are starting episode 10 right now.
So, can you give us a clue about one of the big events that we can look forward to from the fourth season?
Well, in episode nine, there is a huge natural disaster that occurs. It’s spectacular. And there is a death… perhaps two… perhaps more.•