Allan Heinberg takes ABC’s The Catch in a new direction for its second season.
The development of The Catch has gone through as many twists and turns as the mysteries the main characters try to solve.
Produced by Shondaland/ABC Studios, the show was originally pitched and picked up as part of ABC’s #TGIT lineup, taking over the time slot of the hit How to Get Away With Murder. After the pilot was shot, however, the original creator and showrunner left due to creative differences, and Allan Heinberg stepped in to take The Catch in a new direction.
In season one of the show, audiences followed the tumultuous relationship between Alice Vaughan, a Los Angeles based private investigator, and her fiancé Benjamin Jones, a dapper con man. Alice, played by Mireille Enos (The Killing, Big Love) spent most of the first season hunting for Ben, played by Peter Krause (Parenthood, Six Feet Under) after he conned her out of millions and disappeared.
Along the way, Alice and her investigative team solved random “cases of the week” as Alice and Ben tried to reconcile their love for each other despite their positions on opposite ends of the legal spectrum.
After being picked up for a second season, Heinberg decided to once again tweak the direction of the show, moving it away from the “cat and mouse” game between the two main characters and more towards true romantic comedy.
How did you become involved with The Catch?
I was working as a co-executive producer on Scandal, and before that I had been a writer on Grey’s Anatomy for several seasons. The Catch wasn’t going to move forward in its original form, and Shonda asked me to reimagine it, essentially, and to see if I had any interest in reconfiguring that world.
I took a look at it and they had an amazing cast assembled, and a really compelling premise, which, coincidentally, mirrored my own experiences. The show was about a con man who was taking advantage of a woman he was about to marry. My own marriage dissolved in… a not-too- dissimilar way. So I had a lot to say about the subject, as it turned out!
I reimagined the world of the show, and reconfigured the cast roles. Mireille’s character [Alice] went from being a forensic accountant to being LA’s top private investigator. Peter’s character [Ben] went from being a honey pot womanizing con man, to essentially a gentleman bandit, a James Bond sort of thing.
We pitched it to the network, and they were very enthusiastic about it. They gave us an enormous amount of freedom to reimagine the show as a sexy, romantic comic caper.
As executive producer, developer, showrunner, and writer, you’re very involved in The Catch! Will you describe all of the hats you wear when it comes to the show?
I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be as involved as I am. After reimagining the show, I walked into a writers’ room that already existed. I had to get to know a team of writers who had already been together for several months, and tell them “Okay, this is the new show you are working on, and these are the new characters we’re telling stories about, and we’re going to create this new world together.”
I have a terrific staff, and they learned the world of the show very quickly.
I also try to go down to the stage for every single rehearsal so that I can work closely with the directors and the actors. I want to make sure we are telling the same story and we are collaborating on the series together, so that everybody feels invested, and everybody feels they are part of the storytelling.
We have an unbelievable group of people, and everybody is working at the top of their game. For everybody to switch gears and do a total different kind of show, and to be able to execute it so flawlessly, and with such passion and commitment, I am the luckiest man working as far as I’m concerned.
Are there any particular influences that you drew upon for the new feel of the show?
Well, early in the show we were looking at both versions of The Thomas Crown Affair and doing homages to them. We also looked at Steven Soderbergh’s work in Ocean’s Eleven and Out of Sight. We looked at movies about con artists that were also romances, because I knew I wanted this love story to be at the center of all of the chicanery and con artistry.
For me, though, a lot of it had to do with my marriage, as well, and the idea of, “Do you ever really know your partner?” When most of us don’t really know who we are, ourselves., how do we then choose to love somebody, and what does that commitment look like?
So, I started looking at old movies that influenced me in that way, too. I’m really a fan of the screwball comedy genre from the 30s and the 40s. So, the longer I worked on the show, the more I let that influence come out. It quickly became a sort of screwball romantic comedy, and the way the characters talk to each other has this highly stylized, very verbal quality that I hope is evocative of the movies that I fell in love with.
In season two, you’re moving away from the procedural, “case of the week” format. Was there any particular reason you decided to make that change?
Yes! We learned a lot of things as we went last season, and there were a couple of things that stuck out to me just as a viewer of the show. I was so interested in the characters and their lives, and I wanted to know more about them… who these people were, where they came from, and how they knew each other before the pilot episode.
I would always be a little frustrated when we would have to go into the procedural cases because we were essentially dealing with the lives of strangers-- guest actors who would come in, and do great jobs playing roles-- but they weren’t characters that we had a long-term investment in.
I wanted to find a way to spend more time with our own characters, and to let those relationships develop and shine a light into their pasts.
Our detectives are still doing their thing, but the cases are of a much more personal nature. I decided I didn’t want to pursue any story that wasn’t going to allow us to get to know the characters better and explore their relationships more fully.
So let’s talk about those individual characters. In season two, the audience is going to get a glimpse into the darker corners of Alice’s life.
I was really curious to know who Alice was before she met Ben. Season one was all about Alice shining a bright light on Ben’s darkness and learning who he really was. I really wanted to flip that a little bit. And now that Ben and Alice are together as a couple, I started to wonder, “What if Ben has to now see Alice, and discover things he didn’t expect?”
Whenever you meet somebody and fall in love, there’s a period of pretending to be your best self at all times. I’m much more interested in the imperfect, and how Alice is imperfect. We’ll get to see the man she was with before Ben - her previous, serious relationship comes back in a big way. We’ll see how she met Val [Alice’s partner, played by Rose Rollins] and under what circumstances.
I’m working with an actress who is fearless, and so eager to explore those darker corners that it became a real pleasure to start digging in. Mireille is an unbelievable collaborator and she came up with a lot of Alice’s backstory on her own.
With Alice’s past coming into play, is there still a “Will they, won’t they?” quality to Alice and Ben’s relationship, or are they definitely a couple this season?
They are definitely a couple, but with that come all of the challenges. What does it mean when the ex-boyfriend suddenly shows up in Alice’s life? How do you deal with the past coming back and being part of the present?
With Ben, the circumstances surrounding his life this season are every bit as complicated as last season. There are all kinds of secrets, and illegal activities, and his life is challenging. But, like any couple that loves each other and is committed to each other, they are going to try to figure it out and do the best they can. But… you never know how people will handle things!
Are there any other characters we will see more of this season, compared to last season?
Absolutely. Jay Hayden plays a character named Danny Yoon, and Danny really comes into his own this season. I feel like his character grows up quite a bit, going from Alice’s lieutenant to really becoming a prominent figure in his own right, independent of Alice, in surprising ways.
I also think Sonya Walger’s Margot comes into her own, and really becomes Alice’s shadow in a way. They have a really interesting and surprising relationship this year. Alice isn’t always the hero… sometimes Margot is the hero of the story, and I think both characters are surprised to find that out.
Last season also focused on Ben’s employers, the “Kensington Firm,” a British crime family led by Lesley Nicol, who is perhaps best known as Mrs. Patmore on Downton Abbey. Seeing Mrs. Patmore as a ruthless gangster was hilarious! What’s happening with the Brits this season?
Lesley’s definitely back this season. She’s a dream… an absolute dream! The British crime family comes into center stage even more now that Margot has inherited the firm. It’s an unholy mess at the top of season two! She’s encountering a lot of resistance; her mother’s in jail, and her brother has disappeared. Nobody wants to work for her, so she’s a bit of an underdog, which completely reverses the power dynamic from last season.
John Simm is also back as series regular Rhys Griffiths, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I can’t believe I’m fortunate enough to create a character for him every week. Rhys is every bit as playful, as devilish, and as seductive as last season.
Gina Torres is with us this season as a guest star, playing Ben and Rhys’s FBI handler, and she and John have unbelievable chemistry. She and John and Peter have formed the unlikeliest comic trio, but it works beautifully. It’s really fun, sexy, and playful.
Along with Gina Torres, T. R. Knight will also be guest starring this season. What character is he playing?
He’s playing Alice’s brother. He shows up basically needing his sister’s help, and with him he brings Alice’s past and a side of Alice we’ve never seen before.
T.R. and I worked together for four seasons on Grey’s Anatomy and he’s a very good friend and one of my favorite actors, so it was such a blessing to have him on this show playing a different character from George O’Malley. He and Mireille have incredible chemistry and play off of each other beautifully.
Once we started seeing the footage of them together, their relationship just sort of created its own space in the show that we all loved.
Would you say there’s anything that new viewers need to know about the first season before tuning into the second?
No! We specifically designed this season to be a perfect jumping on point for people. We basically give everyone the information that they need on the run. Of course, I’ll always encourage people to go to watch the first10 episodes just because we really enjoyed making them!
Having worked on shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, is there a lot of pressure living up to the Shondaland name with The Catch?
Not so much the name, but the quality. Shondaland produces amazing shows, with amazing casts, and they’re written brilliantly. You really just don’t want to let the team down, and you want to maintain that standard of excellence.
You want to keep the audience delighted and surprised at all times, and you want to tell as smart and emotionally engaging stories as Shonda’s been doing for the last 13 years.
The way this show came into being was so odd, and so unexpected. But I have never worked with such an amazing, talented, generous, and creative group of people. It truly has been the creative experience of a lifetime.
Season two of The Catch premieres March 9th at 10pm ET on ABC.