Kyra Sedgwick's 'Ten Days in the Valley' Doesn't Shy Away From Flawed Female Characters

Paul Sarkis/ABC
Kyra Sedgwick in 'Ten Days in the Valley'

The new ABC limited series tells the story of a "complicated" mother whose daughter goes missing, marking 'The Closer' star's return to TV.

The lack of women behind the scenes in both television and film is not a well-kept secret. ABC’s upcoming drama Ten Days in the Valley, however, is an exception, and the show’s team is not shying away from talking about it.

While speaking on a panel moderated by The Hollywood Reporter’s Jackie Strause at the inaugural Tribeca TV Festival in New York on Sunday, star and executive producer Kyra Sedgwick admitted that a predominantly female team is what attracted her to the project. “One of the biggest draws for me was the idea of working with women,” she said of the starring primetime role, her first since ending an award-winning seven-year run on TNT's The Closer in 2012. “The statistics are staggering and sort of depressing. We need to really make choices based on that knowledge.”

Ten Days in the Valley was inspired by a recurring nightmare showrunner Tassie Cameron had, in which her daughter disappears while Cameron is working in the family’s shed. That moment serves as the opener to the 10-episode limited series, which premieres Sunday on ABC. The series follows Sedgwick as Jane Sadler, an overworked crime television producer whose life becomes a nightmare when her daughter goes missing. Jane is successful when it comes to her job, but she’s also morally flawed. With a drug problem and the tendency to steal storylines from real-life experiences for her scripted TV show, Jane often blurs the lines between right and wrong.

During the initial process of developing Jane, the goal was to create a character that would represent real women. “When we talk about a flawed or a complex female character, I had to go through a lot of soul-searching to be able to write a character this complicated,” Cameron admitted. The showrunner, who is also working on a second season of Lifetime's Mary Kills People, was initially scared that Jane would be a negative reflection of herself, and admitted, “It took a long time before I felt brave enough to share it with anybody.” For Sedgwick, it was those flaws, and an unpredictable script, that drew her to playing Jane. “I’m in the business of playing authentic people and real people,” the actress said.

When asked if making Jane "likeable" was a difficult task, executive producer and president of Skydance TV Marcy Ross pointed out the double standard between creating flawed men and women on TV. “That’s always the first question and it’s never the first question when you have a complicated, flawed male character,” she said. “On television, often times, the male character is not judged by his parenting and often times on television the women is.” Executive producer Jill Littman added, “I think it’s also great to see a woman this successful, juggling all of these amazing aspects of her life, and that’s not something you get to see all the time.”

When asked how she anticipates answering the inevitable question of whether or not Jane is a good mother, Sedgwick was quick to ask, “Did we ever ask if [Breaking Bad's] Walter White was a good father?” In a world where women are constantly shaming each other, the team’s hope is that Jane will represent a realistic woman and mother. “I want to play a real character that people can relate to. I don’t want to play some version of somebody that they don’t see in their regular lives,” Sedgwick said. Cameron added that it is up to the audience to determine Jane’s ability as a mother. “I think that question you need to answer yourself,” she said.

When fielding a question about the female-heavy collaborative environment, Ross shared a dream that was echoed by the rest of her panel: "I can't wait until having four women on a panel isn't the conversation. I can't wait until the day when gender and who's doing what is not even something you have to make a big deal about." 

Sedgwick revealed that the series will deal with many issues that constantly face women. “We explore slut-shaming. We explore how difficult it is for people to deal with a powerful woman who doesn’t apologize for her sexuality,” she said. Another major theme in the series will focus on female relationships within the family, such as the relationship between mother and daughter.

The limited series aspect of the show will ensure that the story is told to the best of its ability and what happened to Jane's daughter will be revealed by the finale. But the ending also lends the story to continue on, should the series get a second season from ABC. “It’s really hard to do 22 good episodes,” Sedgwick said of the traditional broadcast TV episode order. The 10-episode season is planned to keep the storyline confined enough so that each episode productively moves the story along. “I think that if you watch the 10 episodes you’ll see, especially in the later part of the season, that there are so many different ways it can go,” added Cameron. Between the secrets, corruption, mystery, drug use and politics laid out in the first season, the potential second season “would stem very organically.”

Ten Days in the Valley, produced by Skydance Television, premieres Sunday, Oct. 1, at 10 p.m. on ABC. Watch the full panel with Sedgwick, Cameron, Ross and Littman talking about the series, and its potential future, below.

Tune in live as Kyra Sedgwick and the creators Ten Days in The...

Tune in live as Kyra Sedgwick and the creators Ten Days in The Valley take #TribecaTVFestival behind-the-scenes of their white-knuckle new thriller.

Posted by Tribeca on Sunday, September 24, 2017