There’s a new “mistress” in town.
When ABC’s Mistresses returns Thursday with its third-season premiere, viewers will say goodbye to Alyssa Milano and hello to Jennifer Esposito as a new series regular. Milano announced her intention to depart the series in October, citing her inability to move to Vancouver after the studio announced it was relocating there from Los Angeles.
But that doesn’t mean fans won’t feel Savi’s (Milano) presence throughout the season. Ahead of the third-season premiere, showrunners Rina Mimoun and KJ Steinberg talked to THR about Esposito’s character, last season’s cliffhanger and what’s ahead for the quartet.
Last season ended with Savi on the verge of stumbling upon her sister, bride-to-be Josslyn (Jes Macallan), making out with Savi’s ex-husband, Harry (Brett Tucker), on the beach — and on Joss’ wedding day. Where does season three pick up?
Mimoun: We pick up exactly after we left off [in season two]. The moments of the finale is where we pick up this season.
Will we see Alyssa Milano at all?
Mimoun: We like to answer this question somewhat cryptically in that Savi is very much a strong presence, especially in the two-hour premiere. And since she is the sister of one of the main characters, she’ll always be part of the fabric of the show — whether or not Alyssa is part of the fabric of the show.
What affect has her departure had on the story lines?
Steinberg: The effect of her being gone is like the loss of any friend in real life: Life continues and goes on, but you feel the loss of that presence really strongly. For some characters, like Joss and Harry, the loss of Savi is especially [hard]. Joss feels a sense of guilt and grief. The loss of Savi plays a large role in how her relationship with Harry plays out.
Mimoun: What happened was that, in losing this great actress, it gave us a really exciting challenge in the writers’ room. In a lot of ways, it amped up our storytelling, and we were able to tell better stories with her absence than if she had continued. It forces us to rise to the challenge.
Steinberg: And the absence of Savi made room in Joss’ life for a strong presence in Jennifer Esposito’s character. We could not be more thrilled with the character and her portrayal of the character, who is eccentric, wild and fun.
Mimoun: In the most basic sense, she is a high-end, fabulous fashion designer who is the wealthiest of all characters by a mile. She takes Joss on Mr. Toad’s wild ride this season. [They form a] fast friendship, and that’s what’s great about them what’s potentially disastrous about them.
What’s the aftermath of the Joss-Harry hookup? Presumably we don’t see them ride off into the sunset and this must rock the women’s friendships.
Mimoun: [Laughs] Yes, it definitely does.
Steinberg: The series, to us, is the most successful when it’s focusing on the friendships, and now — call it a mistake, a fated moment between Joss and Harry — of course the other women are going to have feelings about it. But glass houses and thrown stones. They all have made pretty big mistakes in their lives. They have gone beyond what they thought was were their moral boundaries in search of love. They have been mistresses, cheated, been cheated on and found love in the wrong places. At the end of the day, the bond of friendship is stronger than any judgment they can make. Also, we know Joss is a really feeling person, and no one feels worse than she does.
Steinberg: The sunset is a different color — a little blue and purple, it’s got some bruising in there. It’s not a fairy-tale romance novel.
With Savi gone, does that mean Dom (Jason George) also is off the show?
Mimoun: No, we love Jason so much. He will be in the premiere. The law firm goes away, but that doesn’t mean their legal problems go away.
And what about Joss’ fiance, Scott (Justin Hartley)?
Mimoun: How could we lose Justin Hartley? Scott is actually in and out of the show quite a bit this year and continues to wreak havoc on Joss’ heart in a really wonderful way.
Last we saw Karen (Yunjin Kim), she learned that she was HIV-negative but that there was something else that showed up in her blood work. Is she pregnant?
Mimoun: We can say for sure this is something that sets that character off on an entirely new journey this year. The mystery will be answered in the premiere, and it sets her off on a whole new crazy path.
In last season’s finale, April’s (Rochelle Aytes) daughter (Corinne Massiah) found out that her dad had, in fact, been alive this whole time. How does that change their relationship?
Mimoun: The story line we’re really excited about this year does stem from Lucy’s discovery, and it gave us an opportunity to really delve deeper in the character of April. She spent two seasons living in a mostly melodramatic story line — she had a dead husband, then he wasn’t dead, then he’s dead again. It was a whirlwind. Now we’re grounding her and keeping her in her day-to-day life. She’s dealing with her daughter feeling completely betrayed, and that impacts her in a very real way. We’re finally able to peel back all her layers and examine her more fully this year.
Steinberg: And in the aftermath of the explosive news that Lucy sees on the TV, her world is cracked open in the worst possible way. April is desperate to give Lucy a piece of her father back and does that by inviting Miranda (Kate Beahan) into their lives and meeting her little [half] brother, Scotty. And with that, in walks through the door a new character lovingly named Uncle Marc, played by Rob Mayes. He’s a charming, laid-back guy who is sort of the polar opposite to April, who becomes part of April’s world and her house. It creates a Modern Family type of situation. There’s a lot of laughter and heart. It’s not going to be a season of Lucy being mad at April. The house is a really fun place to be while April deals with the fallout of what Lucy perceives to be the ultimate betrayal.
Does this mean April’s relationship with Daniel (Ricky Whittle) is over?
Steinberg: It does go on the backburner, but it is not wholly over.
This show is sort of the equivalent of a juicy, summer beach read. What are the advantages of being part of the summer schedule?
Steinberg: I think being a summer show is great for us. People know what to expect. And on an aesthetic level, we have four gorgeous women and two gorgeous men at the center of everything; there wear fabulous fashions and they live in an optimistic, colorful, sunny world. We have permission to go pretty nutty in the story lines.
Mimoun: We can have a little more fun. One thing I love about the show is the humor. It’s not taking itself too seriously. Even with the crazy story lines, you’re able to laugh about it. That’s because it airs in the summer. If it aired in the fall, I don’t know what would happen.
Mistresses returns with a two-hour premiere at 9 p.m. Thursday on ABC.