Jessica Biel Goes to the Dark Side For USA’s Miniseries ‘The Sinner’

The Sinner - Jessica Biel as Cora
Brownie Harris/USA Network
Jessica Biel as Cora in The Sinner

We all go a little crazy sometimes—but most of us don’t go as nuts as young mom Cora Tannetti (Jessica Biel) does at the start of USA’s new eight-episode miniseries The Sinner. The seemingly average Upstate New Yorker is enjoying a day at the lake with her son and husband when, without provocation, she suddenly sprints forward and stabs a stranger to death with the knife she’d been using to peel fruit. According to Cora, she has no idea why.

“The series opens with the familiar and the everyday,” executive producer Derek Simonds says. “Then it shows how this everyday can be ripped apart really suddenly and easily. And that, in truth, we’re all living a different interior life. We say we don’t. We say we’re fine. But everyone is struggling. The Sinner is about that struggle bursting out.”

Though Cora’s guilt is obvious, local detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) starts going through her past—her oppressive Catholic upbringing, her sort-of-happy-but-not-really marriage and more—looking for a motive that even she might not be consciously aware of. And what he finds is gruesome. Not that his life is all beer and skittles: He’s an alcoholic who frequents a prostitute and has odd sexual fetishes. In short, the show’s eponymous Sinner may not only mean Cora. “The series essentially asks, ‘What is sin?’” Simonds explains. “It excavates the more complicated corners of the human psyche and looks at the behaviors we demonize as sinful. We explore them and demystify them.”

The Sinner, Premieres Wednesday, August 2, 10/9c, USA