Kristen Bell wants you to be 'very uncomfortable' during new thriller satire The Woman in the House
"The balls on these writers."
That's what Kristen Bell says went through her mind when creators and showrunners Rachel Ramras, Hugh Davidson, and Larry Dorf pitched her to star in Netflix's — deep breath — The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window.
Consisting of eight half-hour episodes, the limited series (launching Jan. 28) is an easily bingable, darkly comedic, wine-filled thriller satire starring Bell as Anna, a heartbroken woman who likes to watch her neighbors and drinks too much. Things take a turn when a hot widower, Neil (Tom Riley), and his daughter (Samsara Yett) move in across the street and Anna witnesses a murder in their home…or does she? Mindhunter's Cameron Britton, Michael Ealy, Mary Holland, Shelley Hennig, Christina Anthony, and Benjamin Levy Aguilar also costar opposite Bell.
"It was like nothing I'd ever heard before, and it made me laugh," Bell (also an executive producer) says of the Woman in the House pitch, which outlined a shocking moment involving her character's daughter that is sure to have jaws dropping. "It was so outside the box and absurd that I knew I had to be involved."
All this might sound like a spoof of another Netflix property, the Amy Adams psychothriller The Woman in the Window, but the creators insist the series is more of a loving play on the genre. "I don't think we are making fun of any of these books, or the movie version of these books," says Ramras. "We are having fun with the genre, as opposed to making fun of the genre."
Striking that balance was imperative to the team, all true fans of Woman in the… stories. "We were constantly tinkering with it," says Dorf. "And we think we found a good tone that is not very common."
As the series' star, Bell especially had to walk that tonal tight rope. "This one was particularly challenging because it was, 'Do I make a joke about this? Or do I play it completely straight, and risk missing the joke?' Rachel kept me on track. And she basically said, 'Try to do everything as sincere as possible, but make sure you're laughing on the inside.'" The end result captures "the best bad acting I've ever wanted to accomplish in my career," says Bell. "It was quite fun."
Laughs aside, "I hope people are very uncomfortable when they watch," the star says of the series, which is still very much a thriller, with appropriately bonkers twists. "If you're not invested in the mystery and dying to figure out who did it, it really doesn't matter how funny it is," adds Ramras. "You'd probably tune out after a few episodes. So the most important thing is that we get people to the end, and it builds in absurdity as the episodes go on."
"Once we were really outlining, the most important thing was that the end be a genuine surprise. And if we didn't get there, if you got there, and you were like, 'Oh, I knew this all along,' it wouldn't work," Davidson explains. "So we spent a lot of time trying to figure out a way to make it feel genuinely surprising at the end. That was really important to us."
Sounds like we'd better pour ourselves a bottle of wine and get cozy.
For more from our 2022 preview, order the January issue of Entertainment Weekly or find it on newsstands beginning Friday. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
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