'It's a Tough Go for Them': Retta on Ruby & Stan's Status in 'Good Girls' Season 2

Jeff Pfeiffer
Preview Justin Lubin/NBC

The second season of NBC’s quirky, ironically titled dramedy, Good Girls, finds Beth (Christina Hendricks), Ruby (Retta), and Annie (Mae Whitman) dealing with the consequences of their criminal behavior.

The series left off with, among other cliffhangers, Beth confronted by gang member Rio (Manny Montana), who told her to shoot husband Dean (Matthew Lillard) if she truly wants to be the boss. But perhaps the most emotionally gripping cliffhanger was when police officer Stan (Reno Wilson) confronted wife Ruby about the robbery, the money from which she used to pay for their daughter’s kidney surgery.

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That rift between Ruby and Stan is explored further in the first few episodes of Season 2, and Retta and Wilson bring incredibly compelling heft to the couple’s difficulties. Can Stan, as an officer of the law, reconcile his wife’s wrongdoing, even knowing that deep down she is a good person and her actions were for a noble cause?

Viewers will root for the couple, and that is in large thanks to the performances from Retta and Wilson. It may be somewhat ironic that such intense drama is brought by two actors with an extensive background in comedic acting and standup. We broached that subject with Retta when we spoke with her recently at an NBC press panel called “Women of Drama.” Does she find that her background in comedy helps her when it comes to a performance in a dark-humored drama like Good Girls?

“I don’t necessarily feel like there’s a lot of comedy [in the show],” Retta clarified. “I do feel like Annie has all the funny stuff. I get to sit and enjoy the comedy from her.

“I do get to play lighter moments, and I do try to infuse some comedy, but I’m not working hard on that. I’m trying to make [Ruby] feel as real and as grounded as I possibly can, with a sense of humor.”

And Retta — who admits that “I tend to be the crier of the group” — does just that right off the bat in Season 2, keeping it totally real as a mother who did what she thought was best for her child’s desperate situation but now finds herself in conflict with her husband.

“It’s a tough go for them,” Retta says of Ruby and Stan. “People talk about how Ruby is the moral center of the girls, of the group, and Stan is the moral center of our family. It really hurts his feelings to know that he’s been lied to for so long.

“[That] hurts [Ruby]. I mean, even last season she really struggled with having to lie, because I think she really didn’t believe that he would survive it. There's a scene at the end of Episode 9 last season where it looks like she's about to tell him, and she's super-conflicted, and it's really hurting her to know or to wonder what his reaction is gonna be when she tells him.

"And then, something happens, and she doesn't tell him. She knows that it's not gonna be great and is trying to avoid it at all costs. The fact that she didn’t get to say anything, and he found out before she could say something, really messed her up. It makes it really, really tough. So, the first few episodes are a struggle for Ruby and Stan.”

And likely for the couple's children, too, as Retta adds that, "There's a scene with the whole family where the kids are like, 'What is happening?' And, we can't hide it anymore."

(Justin Lubin/NBC)

Before acting, Retta graduated Duke University with a degree in sociology. Does she think the fact that she so deeply studied human behavior may have helped her acting when it comes to understanding the motivations of characters like Ruby?

“Yeah. I think when I was in school, you tend to look at social trends, and I remember doing a big paper on triggers, on why people do certain things. I think I do have an understanding of that, but honestly, I think just being a person, I kind of get it.

“I don’t have kids, but I have nephews, and I know what I’m willing to do for them, and how important they are to me. … I don’t know what it’s like to be a parent, but I do know, as an aunt, I’ll kill somebody that hurts my nephews. So, I get it in that respect.”

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Audiences seem to get it, too. So much so, that Retta sounds at least somewhat confident there will be a third season of Good Girls.

“We think that it’s doing well enough,” she said, “particularly on Netflix [Season 1 episodes air on the streaming service], that we might get a spike in viewership for the new season, which should — knock on wood — ensure another season.”

Good Girls, Season 2 Premiere, Sunday, March 3, 10/9c, NBC