Jessica Biel on The Sinner and her ‘date nights’ with Justin Timberlake
Jessica Biel is taking a stab at her most dramatic role yet. After 11 seasons on The WB’s “7th Heaven” and an ample film career, Biel is returning to TV as executive producer and star of USA’s new thriller “The Sinner” (Wednesday, 10 p.m. It will air in Canada on Showcase in the fall.), an eight-episode adaptation of Petra Hammesfahr’s bestseller.
The mystery centres on troubled young mother Cora Tannetti (Biel), who violently kills a man, seemingly at random, while at the beach with her family one afternoon. Facing life in prison, well-meaning detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) attempts to unravel her murderous motivations, only to discover unsettling details about her past that raise more questions than answers.
Biel, 35, caught up with USA TODAY to chat about The Sinner and son Silas, 2, with husband Justin Timberlake.
In what ways could you relate to Cora, or at the very least, sympathize with her?
The thing about Cora that I hope a lot of people relate to is that everybody struggles with things in their past or things about them that they’d like to change. At times, we all put on a mask to present a way you are to the world that maybe isn’t 100 per cent true.
For most of the show, Cora wears a prison jumpsuit with messy hair and no makeup. Was that a refreshing change?
It’s very freeing, because you don’t have to spend a long time in the morning focusing on (your appearance). It’s very much a part of the experience she’s having and who she is as a character to not rely on those tools. To look in the mirror and see myself looking a particular way helps me even more to step into her shoes. It’s wonderful, actually. I’m loving it.
You’ve produced films such as The Tall Man and The Book of Love. How does your experience working behind the scenes on The Sinner compare?
One of my favourite things to do is work with writers on character and dialogue. It’s been really challenging because there’s a much different delivery schedule for television, and we have a lot of dates that we have to hit, and we are kind of driving the train down the track on the fastest gear possible, which is very intense. There’s a lot to do and a lot to keep up with, but I really have enjoyed my experience.
Given how busy both you and Justin are, how do the two of you juggle family with your respective careers?
That is an ongoing balancing act that maybe you never 100 per cent master. We’re always working, day in and day out, to find that good balance. And Justin, I love the way he always puts it. He’s like, “Yeah, you get married, but you still have to date each other. That’s really important.” I think we do a really good job of, even though we’re really busy, taking one day a week and having a date night or taking a vacation just the two of us, and then making sure we have a family thing set up. You just have to make it a priority, really, because it’s easy for all of that stuff to get put on the wayside.
Jessica Biel as Cora in "The Sinner."