Tonight’s installment of Trophy Wife (9:30/8:30c) finds Malin Akerman’s titular character Kate chaperoning a field trip alongside her husband’s fearsome ex-wife Diane (Marcia Gay Harden) — and the ensuing hijinks result in what’s arguably the funniest episode in the ABC comedy’s freshman run.
“We’ve got a little love in an orchid garden with Dennis Haysbert — c’mon ladies, it’s the President from 24!” chuckles Akerman, when asked for a one-sentence pitch to draw new viewers to her show, which last month scored a full-season pickup. “We’ve got a lot of setups and triangles and really just messing s*** up.”
The trouble begins when Kate, pinch-hitting for under-the-weather hubby Pete (Bradley Whitford), decides that Diane might be nicer to her if she were, ahem, “getting some.” She and stepson Warren ultimately hone in on another chaperone — a dashing single dad (Haysbert) with Type A tendencies that line up with Diane’s.
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“The Kate-Diane dynamic makes Kate a mess,” admits Akerman. “Diane is the one person Kate so desperately wants to accept her — and that acceptance is so hard to get. That’s a fun dynamic to watch, when you’ve got one person struggling for someone else’s approval and attention — and Marcia is so brilliant at it.”
It doesn’t help, of course, that Diane continues to hold firm to her erroneous belief that Kate used to work as a barista (one of Trophy Wife‘s best running gags). “I don’t ever want Diane to know that [Kate didn’t sling coffee for a living],” says Akerman, with a laugh. “I want Diane to continue to think that’s true — or at least to continue to use it as a way of digging in that knife every time.”
Naturally, though, Kate’s adventures in matchmaking don’t go exactly as planned, nor does Diane’s micromanaging of the students’ museum visit go uninterrupted. “Diane is a very accomplished woman, and Kate feels like such an idiot around her. She doesn’t have the book smarts Diane has, but she does have a different kind of smarts,” says Akerman. “Ultimately, if they could listen to each other, they might be friends, might help balance each other out.”
“We’re gettin’ serious, man! I’m as excited and as shocked as anyone that we were able to get this incredible cast together. These actors are beyond talented. It’s a big salute to the writers, that their work is attracting this caliber of actors,” she reasons.
And for Trophy Wife neophytes put off by the show’s title, Akerman brings out the old adage, “Never judge a book by its cover. Initially, I was turned off by the title — I didn’t even want to read the script at first,” she reveals. “Then, when I read it, I thought it was actually brilliant. It’s tongue-in-cheek, and that made me like it even more.”