Mistresses Season 3: EPs Tease Fresh Abs, 'Polarizing' Newcomer and 'Most Dangerous' Arc Ever

The women of Mistresses might spend more time in church pews than they do between the sheets during the ABC sudser’s two-hour Season 3 premiere (tonight, 9/8c on ABC), but fret not: Nobody’s shopping for purity rings anytime soon.

The chaste kickoff episode was a bit of a risk, says showrunner Rina Mimoun, “but I trusted our audience would know that our ladies can only swear off men for so long. We’ve got a lot of abs, and we’ve got to show them. Eventually clothes will have to come off.”

Not that fornication and supplication are mutually exclusive, of course. “Church became a really interesting part of the discussion in the writer’s room this year, but we had to find a balance because we didn’t want to suddenly pretend we were a totally different show,” says fellow showrunner K.J. Steinberg. “Still, it felt like everything Karen went through, the fact that she’s looking to something greater and searching for a deeper meaning, naturally led us to religion. It became a really nice place to juxtapose what’s going on in her private life.”

“Two Jewish gals running a show called Mistresses and we’re at church all day long,” Steinberg adds with a hearty laugh. “I don’t know how that happened!”

TVLine caught up with Mimoun and Steinberg — who are currently writing the Season 3 finale — to discuss how they’re handling Alyssa Milano’s exit, the introduction of Blue Bloods‘ Jennifer Esposito and the fallout of the Joss-Harry Verboten Beach Makeout Session of 2014. “This is the time of year where K.J. and I are like, ‘Boy I hope you like it because it’s in the can,'” teases Mimoun. “We can’t change it now!”

TVLINE | Alyssa Milano opted to not return for Season 3 once ABC announced production was moving to Vancouver — which meant you had to grapple with writing out Savi, one of your four core characters. Did you debate whether or not to have a time jump?
Rina Mimoun: We always wanted to jump in right where we left off. In this particular instance, all of the good drama was happening right at that moment [where Season 2 ended]. But, of course, we didn’t find out until after the [decision to move to Vancouver] that Alyssa wasn’t going to be joining us. It was a bit of a holy s–t moment, but we didn’t want to chicken out. We said, “Well, we’ll just have to make it that much better.”

JES MACALLANTVLINE | Savi’s exit obviously affects her younger sister Joss (Jes Macallan)— who hooked up with Savi’s ex-husband — but also her pals Karen (Yunjin Kim) and April (Rochelle Aytes). Was it fun exploring the dynamic in a group of women where one of them just disappears without warning?
Mimoun: In looking back at a lot of the choices that Savi made from the very first season — many of which came from directly from the BBC version [of Mistresses] — Savi has always been a very tough character, a very self-involved character and has done selfish things since the series began. And so when this situation fell in our laps, we thought, “As long as we stay true to the character, it won’t feel like it was just a casting situation.” It felt like a natural progression of the story, and in that way, it was fun to explore. It prompted a lot of honest conversation among the writers about our own friendships, about those friends who’ve come and gone, and that took us to the topic of fast friendships – which led to this new character of Calista (Jennifer Esposito).
K. J. Steinberg: It also opened us up to a new dynamic for Joss. Obviously, it would have been really fun and interesting and deep and painful to explore Joss and Savi trying to have a relationship after the betrayal. But in a way, Savi leaving left room for a different kind of soul-searching for Joss. Instead of being able to go to Savi for forgiveness or for permission, she has to find it on her own. Season 3 is, for Joss, suddenly about learning how to stand on her two feet and find all of that for herself.

TVLINE You clearly tackle Savi’s absence head-on in the premiere. Is her presence going to linger all through Season 3, or is it a case of dealing with it in the opening two hours, then letting these women’s stories spin forward?
Steinberg: It bubbles up at the right moments, where it’s really glaring that Savi should be here right now, or Savi would have had the right thing to say, or “This is something that I would have gone to Savi with.” But otherwise, the three of them… in order to move on and have lives — very full lives, with new romances and problems and twists and turns — they couldn’t dwell on that absence. They’re in the mindset, “OK, she’s doing what she needs to do. It’s not what we would have done, but now we have to give her time and live our lives, and maybe one day she’ll return.”

YUNJIN KIMTVLINE | Karen ended Season 2 with a cryptic phone call from her doctor. Did you always know what the call was about — or was it classic cliffhanger, and you figured you had the summer to fill in the blanks?
Mimoun:
That was classic cliffhanger. [Laughs]
Steinberg:
We had the two things that everybody thinks of it. And then we got thinking that maybe we should flip the expectations there.

TVLINE | We see Karen in the premiere: “Am I HIV positive? Is it cancer? Am I pregnant?” It was a little meta, reflecting viewers’ own worries.
Mimoun: It got a little meta. We spent a lot of time going down the two roads [of cancer and pregnancy], and to be honest, because in between Seasons 2 and 3, I went on to do Red Band Society, when I came back to Mistresses I was like, “It’s not going to be f—ing cancer. I can’t do that. I’m super depressed, I need a break, and so we decided to see if we could investigate other roads.

TVLINE | With Karen, she’s no longer in this mode of hanging out at bars, making up secret identities and having sex with strangers like she did in Season 2, nor is she sleeping with a dying, married man, then later his college-aged son. Is Karen going to get her life in order this year, or are you retaining some of the hot-mess characteristics that fans of the show love?
Steinberg: Michael, I will promise you… she will top it this season. [Laughs]
Mimoun: The mess does not subside, not for quite a while. In fact, I would argue we have escalated the mess.
Steinberg: Yeah. We’ve taken risks this season…
Mimoun: Only making it to Season 3 can give you this kind of permission to go for broke.

ROCHELLE AYTESTVLINE That’s very good news. The other big change this season is that April has split from Ricky Whittle’s Daniel — and his unbelievable physique. And yet, now you’ve cast Scandal‘s Brian White, who’ll be calling her down to the Principal’s office. You may have actually found the one actor on the planet with better abs!
Mimoun: Maybe we did. We’re getting very lucky with our ab work! [Laughs]
Steinberg: I believe, Michael, he’s shirtless as early as Episode 4.

TVLINE | OK, let’s talk about the newest Mistress on the block: Jennifer Esposito’s Calista. She comes on like a hurricane from her first scene — and not always in the most likable way. Were you aiming to create someone who might not fit so warmly into the core group of ladies?
Steinberg: Absolutely. She’s not warm and fuzzy. She’s eccentric, larger-than-life, unpredictable. The key with her is you never truly know what you’re getting. You’re seduced by her one moment and feeling like she’s your best, best friend, and then the next moment you’re wondering if she’s got an agenda. Like the actress herself in her scene work, she keeps you on your toes, and that is what we had intended for the character.
Mimoun: There’s a great thing about the show being set in L.A., even though it’s shooting in Vancouver. Living here in L.A., you are occasionally rubbing shoulders with “royalty,” those people that have somehow managed to become movie stars or have their own reality shows as fashion designers because that’s just how amazingly charismatic they are. They draw you into their worlds, and that’s very much what Calista does. Even when Karen and April meet her, it’s like meeting a movie star.

TVLINE | By the end of the premiere, I was a little uncertain about her reliability, about whether I can trust anything coming out of her mouth.
Steinberg: Then we have done our job.
Mimoun: You will feel one way about her one episode, and you’ll feel another way about her in another. She might be a little bit polarizing — in a great way.

JENNIFER ESPOSITO, PRIYA RAJARATNAMTVLINE Can she fit in to the Joss-April-Karen dynamic?
Steinberg: You’re really going to enjoy the connection between her and Joss. It’s really strong. I mean, perhaps Joss doesn’t ask enough questions at the beginning of the relationship. She’s going to dive into it headlong, but Calista dives into it, too. There’s a mutual satisfaction happening from their relationship, and the enjoyment in watching these two actresses play off of one another is worth its weight in gold.
Mimoun: And we very much didn’t want to feel like we were going the direction of so many headlines: “Jennifer Esposito replaces Alyssa Milano.” There is no replacing your sister. The character of Savi was by all accounts the glue that brought these women together, and we didn’t want to cheat and say you could just throw another woman into that dynamic. Anyone who knows anything about female friendships, that’s just not how it works. So those three women, Joss, April and Karen — who’ve been left and abandoned — their connection grows stronger. Calista is slowly introduced into our show — but she’s brought in through Joss, which then has a domino effect. But we definitely didn’t want to feel like women are interchangeable in these four-tops, because they’re not. One person can suddenly have a fast friendship, but if you’ve ever been part of a group, the pack mentality is always like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Slow down!” We stay pretty true to that.

TVLINE | We last saw Joss making out on the beach — in her wedding dress — with her ex-brother-in-law Harry, and leaving Scott waiting at the altar. Now, I don’t think too big of a tease to say there’s going to be a bumpy road ahead. Was there debate in the writer’s room about where they could go after this From Here to Eternity moment?
Mimoun: K.J. and I fought a lot. We were pulling out each other’s hair, because we felt very much like you want to give the audience some of the satisfaction of seeing these two people together — people we’ve essentially been waiting two seasons for. But at the same time, the heat of our show has been very much about the sort of love that is unable to be. I don’t know how long it took Meredith and McDreamy to finally get together for realsies, but we’re not there yet — and we wanted to keep the push-pull, to try to find real road blocks to the relationships instead of manufacturing bulls–t. We wanted to see how would this fall apart and then how would it get back together? And we definitely go far, I would say it’s farthest we’ve gone in terms of story.

TVLINE | Interesting. Is Calista going to be one of the complicating factors in their happiness?
Mimoun: Absolutely.
Steinberg: In a number of ways — mainly her influence on the way Joss lives her life and the way Joss spends her time. This relationship leads Joss to one of the most dangerous places we’ve seen the show go.

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25 Comments
  1. SK says:

    I am really unhappy with Joss getting together with Harry. I definitely thought Joss was better than that. In Scott, she found the perfect guy but the writers just had to go there with her and Harry. I did not like that at all. And now with Alyssa Milano gone, I’m not sure if I can continue with the show. I will see how they handle the situation tonight if it will keep me watching.

    • Ian says:

      Agreed on all counts. This show was a goddess showcase in it’s first season and for moments of the 2nd, but with the Joss/Harry thing and Alyssa gone, I’m utterly repulsed and just couldn’t care less anymore. I’ll just see what goes on with the ratings, but I don’t think it even should have gotten renewed.

    • peanut says:

      I also agree. I was definitely not waiting to see them get together.

  2. Dmac says:

    They are making a pretty big assumption that the majority of their viewers want Harry and Joss together and I don’t think that is the case. Yes, they do have some die hard fans, but I strongly suspect that most viewers are not jumping on board with Joss sleeping with her sisters husband and leaving her fiancé at the alter. Yes, Joss has always been selfish and Savi had an affair, but regardless they’re are lines you don’t cross when you are sisters. It isn’t enjoyable to watch, how can actually want Joss to get her happily ever after at the expense of her sister?

    • Cas says:

      I believe Savi and Harry were divorced. Plus she had moved on and dated the guy she left him for. Harry is good looking and Joss and him spent a ton of time together so it makes sense they got together. Maybe Savi should have picked him over the other guy.

      • Dmac says:

        Agreed Savi was an idiot and doesn’t deserve Harry, but of all the women on this show it had to be Joss? He practically raised her and they were more like brother and sister and than all of sudden we get sexual tension ugh? Bottom line is Joss and Savi are sisters and they’re things you just don’t do to your sister, it is just wrong.

      • AddieM says:

        @Cas I could not have said it better…Savi and Harry were divorced. Savi crossed a lot of lines regarding her marriage and she really hurt Harry. I’m all for Harry being happy with Joss.

    • CV says:

      My exact sentiments!! I’m seriously not feeling this show anymore.

  3. Tess says:

    Kind of hard to take the friendships seriously now when a bond between two sisters can’t even be respected. I like Harry and Joss individually (I did, anyway) but no amount of chemistry could make this pairing rootable for me. Apparently there are a number of fans that are A-Okay with it despite the ugliness it took to make it happen so good for them I guess. Still gross.

  4. Lerbert says:

    Really enjoyed this interview! In terms of nighttime soaps, I’m of the mindset that there has to be at least one totally inappropriate hook-up or relationship per season so the Harry/Joss roll- around didn’t bother me. However, not sure I see their chemistry going beyond the beach. Looking forward to the premiere and of course, the recap!

  5. So sorry to see Alyssa go. If I want to watch a bunch of selfish petty women, I will turn on Fox news. Jos and Harry – NO! I have 5 sisters and divorced or just broken up, you do not screw your Sister’s boo! Not going to waste my time. I was so looking forward to the return of Mistresses. I am so very disappointed. Feel free not to post, but I wanted to let you know how I feel.

  6. breebree says:

    I’m watching just to find out where Savi ends up. Not going to stick with it after tonight. Not the same show without Alyssa and I’m not invested in any of the other characters.

  7. Nina says:

    I can’t stand what they did with joss and harry….that alone will make me take that off my record list and done with show….should have gave milano what she wanted…no show without her! Always have to ruin a good show

  8. Rroxy says:

    I’m sure this happens way more often than people think, a younger sister being secretly crazy about her sister’s guy for years and finally getting a shot at him. I’m not going to be very popular, but I’ve always hated this ‘dibs forever code’ among women. And yes, I’m a woman. Savi acted like a selfish, selfish woman all through seasons 1 and 2. Harry had it right when he said: “She found a way to make it all about her”. She cheated on him, got pregnant by Dominic, chose Dom, if I remember correctly, messed up with Dom, had this weird thing with Zack (who I think is disturbed, btw), got dumped by Dom who became tired of her crap, and all of a sudden, she loves Harry? Well, Harry’s not interested, and both he and Joss have a perfect right to explore this attraction between them. If Savi had had an ounce of class and maturity, she would’ve shut up about what she saw and subtly let her sister know Harry was free and single. But nooo! More drama, of course. And Alyssa Milano’s leaving changes nothing. She just gets to emote from afar instead of up close and shrill, as would have happened if she hadn’t quit the show, thank God! I like Jennifer Esposito, it’s got to be a positive change.

    • noah says:

      so if you have a sister and she sleeps with your ex that you were with for along time that you still loved..remember everything that you just said.

  9. Fran says:

    I think the show will be just fine without Savi, but probably because she was my least favorite of the four women. I also love the new cast additions, Calista and Mark. I’m surprised so little was said about April in this interview. Even though Joss’ story was my favorite last season, I’m most looking forward to seeing how April’s story unfolds.

  10. CV says:

    The writers decision to pair Joss with Harry was a direct turn off for me. I guess having morals on TV doesn’t dictate good ratings? I’m definitely considering tuning OUT!

  11. Tamara says:

    Savvy just cant make an appearance to get her out of going to jail maybe come back with a new husband or something patch things up between harry and he sister…..savvy was the whole show but the other stories are coming to lite

  12. Robin says:

    Either re-cast Savi or bring back AM for 1 or 2 episodes. They are Sisters and Sisters do NOT get involved with an ex spouse……….. poor writing decision that I think cost the series a lot of viewers. I like all the other story lines but Harry and Joss can be no more than friends if this show is to make it to season 4! JMO

  13. amanda says:

    I don’t like Harry an Joss together! In fact I’m really sick and tired of their story line! I really want Alyssa to come back badly! In my opinion I just feel like Alyssa was the best, Yes she did bad things and she is selfish But they were right she is the glue I love it when they are all together and i would have liked to see how these sisters would have worked on it! Choosing a man over family! quite the debacle.

  14. Chris says:

    I downloaded this movie up to season two and after seeing Joss and Harry ewwwwwwwwww no way i just hope they breakup I loved them as friends but i love joss and Scott as a couple he’s so sweet
    Besides I was praying savi nd harry get back together now she’s goin i dnt feel le downloading season 3 anymore i don’t like her both I like she and Harry together😊😊😊😊