With audiences turning out in droves for such cable series as "The Closer" and "Saving Grace," the USA Network effectively added another strong but imperfect female character to the television landscape when it launched "In Plain Sight" last year. In honor of the second season premiere this Sunday night, stars Mary McCormack and Frederick Weller talked to our Jim Halterman about what to expect as their characters continue to protect people in the witness protection program as well as deal with their equally tumultuous personal lives.
Asked about the obvious comparisons between her character of U.S. Marshall Mary Shannon and the female protagonists in the aforementioned series, McCormack defended creator David Maple's creation by saying "I'll set the record straight because I know he would do it because he's a score keeper. He wrote the show [and] this show got caught up in production for a long time and who was going to make it and there was some debate, lawyers and blah, blah. But I guess he wrote it long before either of those shows were written." Regardless of who wrote what first, however, McCormack says there's an upside to being in the same company as Kyra Sedgwick and Holly Hunter. "I think absolutely those shows are excellent and both very successful. And, you know, audiences have responded to those female characters being strong and complex and not always girly and not always what is seen as traditionally feminine. And so, yeah, for us we've benefited from that certainly and I'm grateful to both those ladies for that."
The new season starts off with McCormack's character, U.S. Marshall Mary Shannon, recovering from a kidnapping ordeal she endured at the end of the first season. Being a tough-as-nails kind of character, how's Mary doing as season two launches? "She's doing great," McCormack offered wryly. "She thinks initially that she's doing really, really well and then it turns out she's more human than she hoped." Speaking to the realism of the way that particular emotional arc will be played out this season, McCormack is glad to be part of a show where her character won't go through an ordeal in one episode and then forget about it in the next. "I mean I love that David Maples didn't do that. I mean, TV shows still do that season to season like the last season never happened. But I love that and I saw evidence of that even in the first season when Marshall (Weller's character) got shot. The next episode I was so relieved to see him show up in the sling because even though it was a small thing and I think he only wore it for one or two episodes I just thought oh good we're going to do an adult show; that's so great, so refreshing."
Looking back on the first season of the show, both McCormack and Weller reflected on what the series accomplished in its first season on the air. "I thought it really exhibited what a huge loss it is for people when they go in the witness protection program. Like what an enormous thing it is to walk away from every single person they know and love." Weller added, "It was amazing that we went from a whodunit one week to a family drama the next week which is one of the great things about this show is the versatility genre."
While the actors admitted that first season was more about everyone in the cast and crew getting to know one another, they also said that everyone is now gelling much more and their characters feel even sharper in the second year. "I think the writers are even writing to that more in the second season which is nice," McCormack shared. "I think as they get to know us better and Lesley Ann (Warren) and Paul (Ben-Victor) and Christian (de la Fuente) and all the actors - I think shows do get richer and deeper as they start to play to strengths or natural instincts."
After earlier parts in such series as "The West Wing," McCormack said that upon reflection she had an easy time stepping into her role of Mary last year but she also felt compelled to clear up one misconception by saying that the character of Mary "wasn't written for me at all. [David Maples] just wrote it as a Mary. She's from New Jersey and I'm from New Jersey and... I'm a tomboy, pretty much, I'm more comfortable in jeans and boots so it's just a very comfortable fit."
Besides the time the series spends on Mary's work as a U.S. Marshall, her family life is also a major component of the show with her mother Jinx (Warren) and sister Brandi (Nichole Hiltz) giving Mary additional headaches in her life. Jinx, for example, is going to get herself into a bit of trouble with the law, which will, of course, envelope Mary and her own life. "My mother hits a pretty new low early on in the season," McCormack revealed, "and ends up getting in a physical fight with a cop and she's loaded obviously when it happens. And she decides that that's just as low as she can go and she goes to rehab. For this family dynamic that creates something new all together. [Jinx is] all 12-steppy and using slogans." Initially, things look rosier for Mary's sister Brandi who, McCormack explains "decides to try to turn over a new leaf and she goes back to school and gets in sort of what seems like a healthier relationship with someone else. And so I don't know where that'll end up. David never tells us so that's part of the fun of TV, we don't really know."
Mary's on-again, off-again relationship with Raphael (de la Fuente) also comes into play as a result of Mary's kidnapping trauma. "Through my recovery after this incident, my post traumatic stress and stuff I sort of lean on him more, need him more and we get closer and closer as the season progresses." To complicate this world a little more, Mary and Raphael are not the only potential mates in the series as there has always been speculation about Mary and Marshall becoming more than co-workers. McCormack and Weller, unfortunately, were only able to shed a little light on the subject but did offer their thoughts. Weller believes that the relationship between the two characters is "like a cold war love triangle... Marshall obviously - his feelings are the clearest; I think he's completely in love with Mary. I don't think Raph has any notion of that. I think Mary certainly knows that Marshall has feelings for her. And I'd like to think based on a couple of episodes in which she seemed to get jealous that she does requite those feelings to some extent."
McCormack added that even they don't have a clear answer as to what is in store for their characters possibly crossing a line in the bedroom. "We always try to get the answer out of David Maples and he won't tell us so we're sort of flying blind on that. But, yeah, I think she probably has some feelings. I mean, how much of it is that she's into him and how much of it is that she's into him being into her. And when he's into someone else how hurtful is that, I don't know."
"In Plain Sight" kicks off season two this Sunday at 10:00/9:00c on USA.