Plus, watch an exclusive clip from the winter premiere!

By Maureen Lee Lenker
January 25, 2021 at 05:24 PM EST
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Big changes are coming to Big Sky.

When the David E. Kelley series returns on Jan. 26, Jerrie (Jesse James Keitel) and her fellow kidnapping victims will finally get a fresh glimpse of that titular expanse.

"It's going to be a different show," Keitel teases to EW. "There are going to be new villains; some high-octane, heart-pounding, action-packed moments; and some nuanced, emotional unpacking."

Up until now Big Sky has been a thriller focused on private detective Cassie (Kylie Bunbury) and ex-cop Jenny (Katheryn Winnick) as they attempt to locate three missing women who've been abducted as part of a string of disappearances plaguing their Montana highways. They've also been searching for answers after Cody (Ryan Phillippe) — Cassie's partner and lover and Jenny's husband — also went missing while searching for answers.

But now, after Cassie located the women in the fall finale and gunned down the villainous Officer Rick Legarski (John Carroll Lynch), they're about to get a slew of answers — some good, others not.

That also means that Jerrie and the other girls are going to have a lot of healing to do, both emotionally and physically. But might they also be out for a little revenge? In the exclusive clip above, Jerrie is struggling with the trauma of her experience, while also vowing to help Jenny with whatever she needs.

In advance of the ABC series return, we called up Keitel to talk about what might lay ahead for their character and where the show might go now that one of its core mysteries has been semi-solved.

Credit: Darko Sikman/ABC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In the fall finale, Jerrie and the other girls were on the verge of being rescued. Was that a relief just in terms of not having to spend hours filming in that storage unit anymore?

JESSE JAMES KEITEL: Let me tell you, that trailer was so painful at the end. I would get home and my knees would be swollen. I would have real bruises, not just the make-up bruises. It was rough. It was such a major relief.

That finale was only episode 5 out of what will now be 16 total. So, what does that mean for Jerrie and her journey the rest of this season?

You really get to see Jerrie's struggle. You get to see the trauma of being kidnapped and almost sold into sex trafficking. They do a great job of seeing how Ronald has traumatized her on a profound level.

And Legarski has been "caught," but—

Ronald is still at large. He is out there. And he is more unpredictable than he was in the first five episodes. He's a loose cannon. And he's scary.

So, what does that mean for Jerrie and the other girls? Should we assume that you all are still in some degree of danger?

There is definite danger for Jerrie and the other girls. Even in episode 6, you see, Ronald is still following me. He knows I'm out there, and he's making that clear to me. Ronald's much closer than is comfortable.

Now that Legarski has been taken down, how likely is it that Cassie and Jenny and the others will learn the truth about Cody?

It's a very unfortunate reality; they learn the truth of what happened to Cody very soon. It's pretty heartbreaking. But you know, loss is something we've all had to deal with this year with the pandemic and everything. Through these hard times, you really come together with the people who you know and love. And honestly, people you didn't expect you would. We really get to see that with Cassie and Jenny coming together in a way I don't think anyone really expects.

Where might Jerrie go from here? We know she wants to be a singer, might this fuel her even harder to try to pursue that dream?

We all deal with trauma in different ways. How Jerrie deals with her trauma is she won't find resolution from this until Ronald is caught. Yes, she has big hopes and dreams as a singer and a musician. She also wants to see justice. So, she will definitely be working closely with Jenny and Cassie to get Ronald once and for all.

She's also formed these relationships with Grace and Danielle, through this experience, and whether you choose it or not something like that probably bonds you for life. Will we see a lot of continued interaction between the three of them?

You'll see some really nice moments of joy in [episode] 6 that I think will be really cathartic for the audience, especially after all of the heavy trauma that you've seen our characters go through. These girls are, they're going to be bonded for life. And their storylines do part ways, but they've made some lifelong trauma bonding friendships.

There are sobering statistics about how much higher risk trans and non-binary individuals are for violence and trafficking. That's obviously a part of Jerrie's storyline here. Was bringing greater awareness to that issue something that appealed to you about the storyline?

Oh, absolutely. It's touched upon a little bit in the show how Jerrie wasn't what they were looking for. But there's a huge market for trans sex workers. It's a reality that people like myself and Jerrie face. Hearing about Jerrie's backstory — how she was kicked out at 14 and has been living in a trailer park and turned to sex work as a means for survival — that's real. That's a reality. I'm really kind of shocked that it's on primetime television on ABC. And I'm really grateful for it. There's not a moment that goes by that I'm not moved with gratitude at playing a character like Jerrie on primetime television, purely because of the exposure. There's so many people across the country, across the world, who may never meet a trans person or don't know they  have already met multiple trans people. This will be a really empathetic way in to Jerrie's life.

Will that continue to be addressed as the season goes on?

At the end of the day, Jerrie is still a trans sex worker from Montana. Her existing and being on screen says something. Having any clear representation on TV is a win. If and when we get to see her move past Ronald, Jerrie's got a lot of decisions she needs to make on her involvement with sex work. We'll definitely get to see how she moves on from this traumatic experience. She has a lot of big decisions to make.

Well, now that you're out of that shipping container, what has that experience been like? The show has these amazing vistas and scenery, despite all of the darkness going on in the plot.

Any chance to get outside of that trailer was a blessing. My favorite part about what we're seeing now is you get to see Jerrie's home. We get to see Jerrie's trailer. There's a lot of beautiful things that aren't her shackled in a dungeon underground. Vancouver, while it's pretty gloomy and doom-y right about now, is breathtaking. British Columbia is the most gorgeous place I've ever been. Vancouver is a great stand-in for Montana.

What are you most excited for going forward?

What I'm most excited for about the show is you get to see a trans character on screen, whose identity isn't her whole story. As we see moving forward, we really get to dive into the emotional turmoil she's experiencing. That plays into roles I hope to do in the future. I'm really eager to play queer characters whose storylines don't revolve around their queerness. David E. Kelley does a really good job of making you care a lot about Jerrie as a person before you care anything about her trans status.

Big Sky airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.

Video courtesy of ABC.

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