Hell hath no fury like a mother scorned.
On Ten Days in the Valley Season 1 Episode 1, we were introduced to Jane Sadler, a hardworking, single mother with a dark past who will do anything to find her missing daughter.
Show creator, Tassie Cameron, was gracious enough to take a short break from working on Mary Kills People, to speak with TV Fanatic about this new, thrilling mystery.
Check out some of what Tassie had to say about that intriguing premiere, womanhood, and writing an authentic, multi-layered female protagonist.
All right, Ten Days In The Valley, so that's a crazy premise! What inspired it?
Tassie: Well, I was coming off of seasons of Rookie Blue, and I was feeling a little burnt out not sure what kind of stuff I wanted to write. And you know, sort of questioning my identity and was I even a writer; sort of having an existential crisis.
I kept having this recurring nightmare that I would be working in my writing shed, which is about ten feet away from my house. It would be too late at night, I'd be on deadline, and that I would come back to the house, and it would be locked and my kid would be gone.
I had this nightmare about four-five times, and I remember mentioning it to my agent saying, "I'm sorry I'm tired at our meeting, but I can't get this… I can't shake this thing." And then I decided to write it out and see if it [would] help get rid of the nightmare and if it meant anything, you know?
So I sat down and I loosely plotted out a ten-episode arc. I gave every character something they were trying to hide, and I just kind of went from there. I wrote it in about a month in the same shed. [laughs]
Wow! That's that's crazy. [laughs] That had to be cathartic, though.
It was. It really was. It was one of those things. I didn't let myself think about who would read it, whether it would sell, whether it would get made, it was purely the joy of writing for me again. Writing something without worrying about the outcome was so cathartic and so intense, in a good way and it was… no one was more surprised than me to have this made.
How important was it to make Jane this messy, complex, real woman because you nailed that, and obviously so does Kyra who pulled it off wonderfully, but how important was it to make her this way?
It was really important. It was very very challenging for me, I'm not gonna lie. I did find it difficult at first. I found that I kept answering myself and thinking "oh she can't-do that, that’s too...nobody's gonna like her."
So then, when I decided to kind of cross the word 'likable' off the list, and when I decided that I couldn't be worried that people would think I was her...because we're not, I'm not her. [laughs]. And so once I decided that I just couldn't be worried about those two things, then she completely came to life. It was amazing. It was very important to me that she be real.
Do you think she falls into the category of, like, an anti-heroine?
It's funny, I don't know, like, people have been asking me about antiheroines, and I mean I'm kind of willing to have her fall into that territory if it feels right, but I find Jane is more real, and a real combination of good and bad (if you want to use those reductive terms), you know?
She's an amazing mother as you'll see over these ten episodes what she'll do to find her child. She’s an unbelievably passionate mother and she's also a flawed parent; and a workaholic. She’s an amazing truth-teller, and she's also a liar. She's just trying to find her kid.
Yeah I mean she is clearly just very flawed, but she is also unapologetic. I find her very sympathetic in spite of all of that, but I think there's a double standard there when it comes to women versus men and how people view them.
It comes up a bit with Pete attacking her parenting when he finds out their daughter is missing. I mean, did you really take into consideration the double standard there?
Oh yeah, I mean the whole show is kind of written about the double standard. I mean that's the pulse. Underneath this season of television is very much about being a woman, and a mother, and a working mother. How do you balance those things? How do you deal with the double standards that are imposed on you?
That age-old question of, "can you have it all?"
Yeah. I mean and nobody has it all; nobody can juggle everything without dropping a bunch of balls ... You're never good enough at [it all]. You're not a devoted showrunner if you leave to go home to see your kid, or you're not a great mother if you aren't there one night, or being on set gets very challenging.
I was raised by a single mother who was always working, so I kind of connected to it in a way. I saw that my entire life, so I think that's probably what makes Jane so relatable too.
That's great, that’s really interesting. I mean yes, I think people who have been raised by single mothers will particularly relate to this. Later on, in the season, Jane says something to another character, she says how being a mother changes everything in some ways, but it doesn't change who you are at your core. She is obsessed with her work and kind of broken from her past, and you can be a great mother and still be damaged, you know?
The relationship so far between Jane and her sister is interesting probably because as the oldest, Jane saw and experienced more, maybe more than her sister, and it affects them in the present.
And yeah how does their relationship play out throughout the rest of the season?
I love the dynamic between the two sisters in the series. I mean, I say modestly, but you know I really think it's different. I don't see sister relationships that often on television, and I haven't seen one like this where Jane protected her little sister from terrible things as a kid, and then finally walked out as a teenager, and now the roles are kind of reversed.
Ali is her protector, her enabler, Watching that kind of dynamic shift over the season as they are in this pressure cooker of family secrets and stress, I think it's really interesting what happens with these two sisters.
I am definitely looking forward to that.
Jane lied to the detective right off the bat, but it did seem like Bird was a bit wary of her. Does a lot of that just sort of connect to her taking down the police force prior to all of this?
I think it's that Bird, who we get to know more and more over the season, Bird is an excellent judge of character… One of the things we said about that character early on is he’s nonjudgmental, which is why I like him. He's a good judge of character, but he's nonjudgmental if you know what I mean.
And so I think he senses that there's something else going on with this one. I think he senses that there's more going on with this woman and what she’s saying.
She isn't the only character with secrets. There's the Peter and Casey affair, I think it ended with that, and also, there was the housekeeper, Bea. She has something a little sketchy going on too.
So, my mind is all over the place trying to figure out who could possibly have a role in everything. Can we expect a lot of twists and turns for the season?
Yes. I think it is the twistiest thing I've ever written, and I had an amazing group of writers helping me. You know, one of our rules for ourselves was that if we feel like it's expected, go in a different direction. As long as it's honest and it feels authentic, you know? So I think people are going to find it really twisty and surprising, and I hope it will keep everybody gasping but stay organic and honest.
Definitely looking forward to that. I love all of the twists and turns and being on the edge of my seat, and I felt like that watching the pilot. It has me really excited.
Plus, you guys have an amazing cast of people!
Oh my God! Can you believe how lucky we got? I pinch myself.
It’s a really talented, diverse cast.
It's really exciting and to see Malcolm Jamal Warner, and he's playing, you know, a gay TV writer, that's new territory for him. We have Adewale, and Erika, and Kick, and Felix. I couldn't be more delighted with the cast we put together.
Kyra was a big part of that. She was really invested and involved in the casting, and she had some great instincts and sort of out of the box ideas for people. It was great.
Awesome. What else can you tell us about the season?
We consciously go to Lake at the end of the episode, and we keep her storyline alive throughout the season. Flashbacks are a big part of the season. One of our future episodes is half flashbacks including someone else’s point of view. We have a few things that will be very rich as we get to know these characters more and more.
Oh, good. That will be interesting. Flashbacks can be really good or really bad, but I found here they worked and helped give greater insight into the characters. I loved them.
That’s great. Honestly, I never used them before. I’ve always been suspicious of flashbacks, and I never let myself use them, but I think when I was writing the very first scene where she was trying to meditate… that was based on me, like, I can’t meditate…
Once I wrote that scene where her mind is going to her grocery list, and stuff from the past, and stuff she’s worried about in the present. Once I did that the flashbacks felt organic to me and I kept using them.
It fit. That was one of my favorite scenes, especially the way the music from the piano in the past intercut with the current music in the present. It was chaotic, but it really suited Jane's character in that moment.
Oh, that was great. That was an important scene to get right and getting that Anderson Paak hip-hop song kind of combining with the piano in the past…We had a great time crafting that.
You can catch Ten Days in the Valley Sundays on ABC at 10/9c.Tune into the suspenseful mystery thriller, then come back here for our full reviews, and share your thoughts and theories in the comments!
You can watch Ten Days In The Valley online right here via TV Fanatic!
Jasmine Blu is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.