Kim Cattrall on Serving Up Drama of Biblical Proportions in Fox's 'Filthy Rich'
They say money talks and true wealth whispers, but the Monreauxs of New Orleans must have missed that memo. The family members at the center of Filthy Rich aren't above a showstopping spectacle to feed their healthy egos.
To mark the 25th anniversary of their Sunshine Network, a Christian television station valued at $2.2 billion, matriarch Margaret (Sex and the City's Kim Cattrall), host of the daytime show Wings of a Dove, is slowly lowered from the rafters on a pyrotechnic, winged platform to address her adoring in-studio and TV audience. "It had 'heavenly' written all over it," Cattrall, says, adding that her character's flashier moments always support a purpose: "She's descending to celebrate all the accomplishments of her billionaire family business they built from the ground up."
It's the kind of dramatic entrance you can imagine one of the Ewings or Carringtons making. And that's no coincidence, since creator Tate Taylor (The Help) and executive producer Abe Sylvia were influenced by the flashy classic primetime soaps that once captivated the entire country. (The 1980 Dallas episode that revealed the shooter of Larry Hagman's egotistical J.R. Ewing drew upwards of 90 million viewers!)
"I think the access point of the show is this familiarity with the world of Dallas, Falcon Crest and Dynasty," says Sylvia, who chatted with TV Guide Magazine during a visit to the Louisiana set last December. Regarding the term soap opera, Sylvia adds with a laugh, "I'm owning it!"
Indeed, shortly after Margaret's winged descent in the pilot, the plot gets sudsy. Margaret's husband, Eugene (Gerald McRaney, This Is Us), is involved in a tragic plane crash (a private jet, naturally), and the Monreauxs learn their stoic patriarch and company CEO wasn't such a saint. His will reveals that, in addition to the two grown children he raised with Margaret — devoted Sunshine executive Eric (Corey Cott) and aspiring fashion designer Rose (Aubrey Dollar) — he made provisions for three other children he secretly fathered with three different women: adult website entrepreneur Ginger Sweet (Melia Kreiling), single father and MMA fighter Antonio Rivera (Benjamin Levy Aguilar) and cannabis grower Jason Conley (Mark L. Young). When they learn they're his heirs, they form different ideas regarding how much of the Monreaux pie they each deserve.
Suddenly, Margaret is forced to keep her fortune and her family's sterling reputation intact while facing the truth about her role in the scandal. "How much did Margaret know and when did she know it?" teases Sylvia. In a scene filmed during the set visit, the pressure begins to wear on Margaret, who becomes embroiled in yet another family crisis (too spoiler-y to reveal here!), and her cool composure starts to crack.
For Cattrall, also a producer, receiving a script from Taylor that featured a strong woman like Margaret was a godsend.
"She's a survivor. She's smart. She's funny. To read a character like that at this point in my life, you think, 'Well, I want to play this so bad!'" Cattrall says during a break from filming in a local TV station that's doubling as the interior and exterior set for Wings of a Dove. (The building's facade is adorned with 10-by-20-foot posters of Cattrall as Margaret.)
To research the role, the actress looked at footage of fallen Christian evangelist Tammy Faye Bakker as well as "someone from my personal life who is very much a mentor of mine. A strong woman who is very complicated," she says cryptically.
While nailing Margaret's demeanor was Cattrall's chief challenge, the producers had to make sure they struck the right tone for the show. After all, setting a racy primetime drama in the world of a Christian TV network could ruffle a few feathers.
"It was important to not make fun of religion," says Taylor, who grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, surrounded by churchgoing people.
He was inspired to use religion as a backdrop to tell a story about a diverse group of people "who otherwise would never speak to each other," he continues. (Another ripped-from-his-life plot point: When Taylor was in his twenties, he learned he had a secret adult sibling!) Having characters of deep faith adds another layer to the storytelling. "If you're devout in anything, you're going to be challenged [in your beliefs]," he says. "What will you do based on your faith?"
As alliances shift and shocking moments unfold, expect more than a few Commandments to be broken. To that we say, "Amen!"
Filthy Rich, Series Premiere, Monday, Sept. 21, 9/8c, Fox