The guest stars keep lining up for this summer’s third season of Lifetime’s Drop Dead Diva: EW has learned exclusively that Wanda Sykes will appear in episode five as Judge Yvonne Wright, who presides over a case inspired by Mississippi high school senior Constance McMillen, who was denied access to her prom because she wanted to attend with her girlfriend. Creator Josh Berman tells EW he got the idea to dramatize McMillen’s story a year ago, when he watched McMillen present Sykes with an honor at the 2010 GLAAD Media Awards. “When I wrote the episode, of course, my dream was to cast Wanda, never thinking that she would do it,” Berman says. “We sent her the pages, and she read the script, and she said yes. It came full circle.” Sykes’ judge is “acerbic, very funny and clever, and doesn’t take any crap from anyone, as we would expect Wanda to be,” he laughs. “It also adds another dynamic, because as an African-American woman, she has a different perspective than Jane [series star Brooke Elliott], and so they kind of go head-to-head a little bit.” McMillen will cameo in the episode as the judge’s bailiff.
“At the heart of Drop Dead Diva, the show is about identity and being comfortable with who we are, and nowhere is that more poignant than in Constance’s story of just wanting to be able to go to prom, which is something that most of just take for granted when we’re in high school,” Berman says. “The notion of just having to fight just to go to your school dance was something that really resonated with me. As a writer, I couldn’t could have come up with some of the plot points in this episode out of thin air. Reading about Constance’s case, and also several other truth life stories about gay men and lesbian women who were denied access to prom that inform this episode, it’s just a head scratcher to me.” He expects to announce additional guest stars in the episode. “Given the subject matter, there are other people who want to be part of it,” he says.
Drop Dead Diva centers on a brilliant attorney, Jane, whose body now holds the spirit of a late aspiring model, Deb. A quick recap of the show thus far: Deb was engaged to Grayson (Jackson Hurst) when she died in the series premiere. Grayson now works with Jane, who, in the season 2 finale, was about to tell him she’s actually Deb, until he asked her to be the best man at his wedding. Jane left the restaurant upset, Grayson chased after her — and he got hit by a car. Jane begged her guardian angel Fred (Ben Feldman) — who had warned Jane that telling Grayson the truth may not end well — to do something. Grayson looked up at Jane kneeling beside him and said… “Deb?” Not surprisingly, he lives. What do we have to look forward to when the show returns in June? Here are six more fresh spoilers:
There’s more singing. With Grayson in the hospital, Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way” seems an appropriate choice for the premiere. “I think it’s by far our biggest and best musical number,” Berman says. “When the rough cut was playing in editorial, the entire staff came in to watch it.” (There’s another song performed in episode 7. For details, check out today’s Spoiler Room.)
Jane will, at some point, strike up a relationship with… Grayson’s neurologist, played by recurring guest star Ben Shenkman. Berman says the Emmy and Golden Globe nominee (for HBO’s Angels in America) — most recently seen on Lights Out, Damages, and Burn Notice — is introduced in the season opener, but won’t become a love interest right away.
Fred (Ben Feldman) and Stacy (April Bowlby) finally have sex! In episode 2. “Fred’s a virgin, so it’s a pretty interesting episode, watching him learn what he needs to do,” Berman laughs. “Jane basically has to be his coach. It’s really fun.”
Jane does agree to be Grayson’s best man, and episode four is his scheduled wedding to Vanessa. “I can tell you that it doesn’t end in a way that anybody will expect, or see coming,” Berman says, “and that there’s a camel in the episode.” (That would be for the case of a “rogue camel milker,” played by guest star Howard Hesseman. Camel milk is supposedly much healthier for you than cow milk, Berman says, but it’s illegal to sell it in the U.S. because the FDA hasn’t approved it. And yet you can buy imported items made from camel milk.)
Tension between Kim (Kate Levering) and Parker (Josh Stamberg). “That’s a very real, grounded relationship,” Berman says. “Kim has such strong feelings for Parker, but she definitely was betrayed when she saw him kissing Claire [guest star Natasha Henstridge]. We take a couple of episodes and really play that out. Kim leaves the firm, for real, and Parker needs to figure out what he’s gonna do. They go though some very big ups-and-downs in the first six episodes. One thing that I always find problematic in certain shows is when people are just the villain. There’s always more complexity to them. I knew when I designed the character of Kim, if I was lucky enough to have a show that lasted, I wanted to show other colors in her.” We’ll get to know Kim more in season 3. “We’re gonna meet her sister and learn more about her family,” Berman teases. “We’re about to close the deal on her sister, and it’s one of our biggest announcements to date. But we haven’t closed it yet, so I can’t say anything.”
We’ll meet another one of Jane’s exes, a corrupt DA played by guest star Tony Goldwyn. “In episode six, Jane is deputized as a DA, which is a real program that has started in LA where the DA’s office reaches out to the private sector,” Berman says. “We learn that in fact, Jane, before Deb became Jane, dated Tony Goldwyn, who is her former boss. So it’s another juicy episode.”