If there’s one thing that’s sure to get advertisers excited, it’s ABC announcing it has a new drama in the works from Shonda Rhimes, the producer behind hits like Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy. But with her latest series, The Catch, there turned out to be an inadvertent catch. The pilot — originally a stylized thriller about a forensic accountant (The Killing‘s Mireille Enos, 40) who’s conned by her fiancé (newcomer Damon Dayoub) — will end up looking a lot different when the show premieres on Thursday. “It’s hard making a pilot, much less a show,” admits Rhimes of the series’ redirection. “During the first season of Grey’s, I hit episode 2 and was in real trouble in a lot of ways.”
Rhimes didn’t create The Catch; it was pitched by best-selling author Kate Atkinson (Life After Life), producer Helen Gregory, and former Hannibal writer Jennifer Schuur, who was hired to run the series. But after disagreements over its vision, Schuur was replaced by Allan Heinberg, a Grey’s Anatomy alum who thought The Catch should be less of a potboiler and more of a cat-and-mouse type of series. “I needed to make it more of a sexy caper,” explains Heinberg. “I didn’t know how to tell stories about a forensic accountant.”
Heinberg turned heroine Alice Vaughan (Enos) into a private investigator, while Rhimes replaced Dayoub with the popular (and more formidable) Peter Krause, 50, as her con-man fiancé, Benjamin Jones. She also brought in Sonya Walger (Lost) to take over for Bethany Joy Lenz (One Tree Hill) as Ben’s partner-in-major-crimes. After rewrites, The Catch is now much more like Scandal in its pacing and structure: There will be open-and-shut stories about Alice’s private-investigation cases, while Ben will be pulling ongoing cons. But the through-line is Alice’s breathless quest to track down the man she loved who took her for everything she had. And just like Kerry Washington, Enos will do it all while looking stunning. (Running in stilettos? Easy.)
“It’s so much more modern and hip,” Enos says of the series’ new iteration. “It’s certainly faster than I’m used to on The Killing, but this style of show lends itself to that.”
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As for Krause, who played a devoted dad on Parenthood for six seasons, he’ll also have to get his sexy on. “After I made the deal, I asked my agent to find out how important it was to have my shirt off,” recalls Krause. “He called back 10 minutes later and said, ‘It’s very important.’ I’ve had to stop having cookies with my coffee.”
The stakes are always high for a Shondaland show: Even though it doesn’t need to make a quick decision, ABC would love to tell advertisers in May that it’s ordered another season of The Catch. Regardless of whether it gets a renewal, the experience won’t stop Rhimes and producing partner Betsy Beers from continuing to “curate” new shows from their talented pool of writers. (How to Get Away With Murder was created and is run by former Scandal writer Pete Nowalk.) As with the short-lived Off the Map (from Grey’s writer Jenna Bans), Rhimes can only shrug at the idea that The Catch might not catch on.
“I’ve said to Betsy, ‘We’ve proven ourselves to be good at our jobs,’ ” says Rhimes. “We’ve earned the right to leap out and do something crazy.”
“Die Hard in the ladies’ room! Speed on the toilet!” quips Beers.
“Not that we’ve done anything crazy,” continues Rhimes. “Part of the job is asking, ‘Is this going to work? This might be terrible!’ But I can’t imagine what it would be like if [everything worked]. It would be so boring. I hope to God we fail once in a while.” But we say, please don’t.
This story originally appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1406, available here.