Deception premieres tonight on NBC

Most talk about NBC’s new nighttime soap Deception, which premieres tonight at 10, has centered on two things: the fact that its lead character is a black female  (Det. Joanna Locasto, played by Caliornication‘s Meagan Good) and the show’s seeming amalgamation of rival-network dramas like Scandal and Revenge.

But Deception‘s creator Liz Heldens says she wasn’t so much focused on any of that when she began to assemble the series — she was thinking about the movies. “Two of my favorite movies are [mob infiltration flicks] Donnie Brasco and The Departed,” Heldens told reporters at this week’s TCA Winter Press Tour. “And then I was sort of thinking about how could you do an undercover show with a female protagonist … and could Donnie Brasco and the movie Sabrina have a baby?  And so they did.”

The result is a complex, but not entirely unfamiliar, sudser at the heart of which is Joanna, a detective who grew up in the opulent household of the super-wealthy Bowers family for whom her mother served as housekeeper. Joanna became the best pal of troubled Bowers daughter Vivian until the two had a falling out over Viv’s wild ways and Joanna’s fling with her playboy brother Julian (Wes Brown). The next Joanna hears of her former pal is years later when her former lover, FBI agent Will Moreno (Southland‘s Laz Alonso), shows up on her doorstep asking for help in investigating Vivian’s death.

Arriving at the funeral in the guise of mourning her childhood friend, Joanna works her way back into the good graces — and the home — of Bowers patriarch (Victor Garber) and quickly discovers that there is a devious underbelly to the  family’s pharmaceutical conglomerate. And that the family ties aren’t quite as tight as she recalled.

“My father was LAPD for 26 years, and his wife was FBI,” Good said of playing Joanna.  “So I got a lot of good insight that I can’t go into depth about without getting them in trouble. …  I got a lot of good information, and one of the main things was just the mentality that goes into living that lifestyle and potentially what you can lose and what you can’t engage and hold as value. … It’s like you almost have to emotionally disconnect to a certain degree and really — like Joanna — be willing to die for the cause.”

Other notables in the cast include Tate Donovan (Argo) as elder Bowers brother Edward whose rising star was stopped short by suspected crimes of his own, and Katherine LaNasa (The Campaign) who could give Revenge matriarch Victoria Grayson  a run for her money as Vivian’s icy stepmother Sofia.

“I call it three degrees: low hell, half drunk and having a hot flash,” LaNasa joked of finding the proper mindset to play Sofia, who serves as her husband’s unofficial fixer.  “When I feel like I’m in that zone, then I’m Sofia. It was about finding that stormy sea that is this person.”

Asked if the plan is to draw out Joanna’s investigation into Vivian’s death across multiple seasons, or if it is only one element of Deception‘s story line, Heldens said, “As far as the mystery, I think the plan that we’ve always had in our heads is to reveal to the audience who the killer is — and Joanna will probably have a pretty good idea, and second season is about proving it.”

Deception premieres at 10pm on NBC.

About Lori Acken

Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.
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