Lifetime gave its drama "Army Wives" a big vote of confidence this past February when it renewed the drama through 2010. Based on the Tanya Biank book "Under the Sabers: The Unwritten Code of Army Wives," the series continues to follow the struggles of the 'tribe' of women living at the fictitious Fort Marshall in Charleston, South Carolina. With the first of 18 new episodes in season three premiering this weekend, executive producer Deb Spera talked to our Jim Halterman about upcoming stories for the ladies, what the producers hear from those opposing the war and how she keeps the show from becoming too dark.
Jim Halterman: As the third season is set to premiere, you've already been picked up for a fourth seasons. How does the job security feel?
Deb Spera: In this economy, any job security feels great particularly when you work on something you love so that's always good.
JH: Are you feeling more or less pressure now?
DS: I think it gives us more excitement since there are so many more stories that we want to tell with the show so I don't feel pressure as much as I feel excitement. Obviously, we've always hoped that the audience is happy with the work that we're doing so that gives us opportunity to grow the show.
JH: I want to ask about some of the ladies on the show and what they're up to this new season. Denise (Catherine Bell) has an affair late last season and now the other wives are practically treating her like an outcast.
DS: I think that this season is going to explore a lot of reconciliation. People feeling betrayed. [Denise's husband] Frank (Terry Serpico) feeling betrayed and then Denise, yeah, I think there are going to be repercussions for her actions and how she's going to live with that but also continue to grow as an individual because we don't want to stop her growth as an individual either and, as most people know, that's the universal theme. Growth is not always painless and we're going to explore that.
JH: Bringing conflict between the women is something that always stirs the pot on the show, right?
DS: I think that's the growth thing and if something is going to grow, it doesn't grow without growing pains so it's going to be an interesting journey for the entire tribe, actually.
JH: Roxie can't seem to cut a break with that bar of hers, huh?
DS: [Laughs.] I think the really cool thing about Roxy (Sally Pressman) is that this is the first time in her life that she's starting to find her own voice in the bar and it's such a reflection of that voice that she's going to fight for it. In her journey, in terms of fighting for that bar, it's going to be really fun and interesting as well.
JH: Without giving too much away until they see the show, Claudia Joy (Kim Delaney) is going to have a lot of big family drama coming up. Is she going to be able to please everyone?
DS: I think that's always Claudia Joy's conflict and I think this season she's going to have growth with the growing pains and see what it's like to need other people's help. We're going to take her through that journey because she can't continue to try and make everybody happy without suffering the consequences.
JH: Any other scoop you can spill without giving too much away?
DS: Every single character on the show has a journey. Pamela and Chase (Brigid Brannagh and Jeremy Davidson) are going to go through some interesting changes based on the fact that he's gone all the time and what she's going to do with herself while he's gone all the time. Roland (Sterling K. Brown) is going to struggle with this Mr. Mom. It was something he thought he wanted but now here he is with the baby 24/7 and he feels a little lost so he's got a journey. Joan (Wendy Davis) is going to have to deploy and how does she feel about that. Is this a life that she wants or does she feel this is something that she feels is still her duty and obligation? Michael and Emmalin (Brian McNamara and Katelyn Pippy) are going to struggle and will that father/daughter relationship, which has always been so wonderful in the past, can it be saved? Trevor (Drew Fuller) has a strong desire for another baby and Roxie is on a road to acceptance. Frank and Denise �can they save that marriage? I don't know. That's a very tricky thing when someone has cheated. Everyone will go through a journey but the tribe will go through a metamorphosis as well.
JH: With the show built around the idea of war, have you gotten any negative feedback from viewers who are not supportive of war or anything war-related?
DS: I have to say that we haven't gotten any backlash from people who aren't supportive of war. It seems to be, at least from my perspective, where I sense that the country is incredibly supportive of the people who go away to fight for our country. The political aspect of the war and whether or not you believe we should have entered the war it's really sort of a non-starter for most of our audience. They just want to know about these individuals and they want to support the troops and we want to be as authentic as we can about their journey and their lives.
JH: Can we expect any changes in the story because we have a new President?
DS: No, we're not a political show. Politics is something that we don't really go into. Mostly, we're exploring these characters. When you're an Army wife, not only are you married to your husband or wife but you're also married to a way of life. It's exploring the culture of Army life and also what it's like to be married to a soldier. Individual stories. We're not going to change direction.
JH: You worked on "Criminal Minds," before "Army Wives," do you ever get the itch to make the show a little darker?
DS: I think we did go down that road in the final episode of the first season; that was pretty dark. I feel like we have explored that to a degree but I don't want to hurt our audience's participation so much that they think this is just so dark that they can't come back to it. I think they've come to expect a certain quality of the product but if I'm going to do something else with darkness, I'd probably choose a whole different topic. I think in this show we're just trying to be authentic and authentic means remembering that when you're married to a way of life and married to a culture then you have to take the good with the bad and sometimes with tragedy comes humor. We try to keep the humor in the show and try to be realistic as we can in regards to the tragedy.
JH: Do you think "Army Wives" would be a different show if it weren't on Lifetime or cable?
DS: I think this show in particular could survive on either broadcast or cable but I think the beauty of doing this with Lifetime is that Lifetime has been incredibly supportive of exploring the show creatively as much as we can and giving us the freedom to explore and tell the stories that maybe other networks may not allow us to tell. They've been our creative partners through and through so while I think this show could probably have a life on another network I think it's perfectly positioned on Lifetime because their audience in particular has built this show and Lifetime built this show. Without Lifetime, I don't think this show would exist.
"Army Wives" premieres its third season this Sunday on Lifetime at 10:00/9:00c.