The Desperate Housewives Creator Revealed the Secret to His Female Characters and It'll Bring a Tear to Your Eye

Marc Cherry's new series, Why Women Kill, premieres Thursday, Aug. 15 on CBS All Access

By Chris Harnick Aug 15, 2019 1:30 PMTags
Why Women KillCBS

Marc Cherry has made a career out of writing women—and writing them well.

The creator of CBS All Access' Why Women Kill made waves with his primetime soap Desperate Housewives and followed that up with Devious Maids, but he cut his teeth on the classic sitcom The Golden Girls, writing for the likes of Bea Arthur, Betty White, Estelle Getty and Rue McClanahan. Lessons learned from those shows have been enforced on Why Women Kill.

"There's a whole bunch of rules, and the cast will make fun of me because sometimes someone will do something, and I'll go, ‘No. You're not going to move on that line. Bea Arthur would roll over in her grave if you moved on the joke. Stay put,'" Cherry said at the 2019 Television Critics Association summer press tour. "Those lessons still come out of me, and I'm ridiculed.

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Cherry said his "love affair" with writing female characters started on Golden Girls. "It was such a magnificently cast show, the strength of the women. It was great to write older women. I'm always very frustrated that people don't write older women, because they bring so much rich history their characters have lived through," he said. "They've survived things. They've got hidden pain, hidden secrets. It's always natural for me to go there."


Why Women Kill, his new series starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Lucy Liu and Kirby Howell-Baptiste, follows three women over three different decades, all living in the same house, all dealing with infidelity and eventually murder. When asked about how he came to be the go-to for writing what his cast has described as "delicious" female parts, Cherry got awfully poignant.

"I love my mom. I mean, in all seriousness," he said. Growing up, Cherry's father traveled for business and his mom, who was the inspiration for Lynette on Desperate Housewives, ruled the household with the kids.

"And I would sit, and I remember she would have friends over. And when I was real little, I'd get a big thing of LEGOs, and I'd be behind the sofa, just playing. She was trying to keep me out of trouble. And I would listen to her conversations and how she would talk to her friends and the things they would talk about. And I was just always so fascinated. And my mom has a really funny point of view. A dark point of view. She has a dark, funny sense of humor. And I just love her, and I was fascinated by her," Cherry said.


"My career ended, for all practical purposes, in 1996 because my writing partner broke up with me. We had done the Golden Girls together, and we did the worst sitcom of 1995 called The Crew. It was about flight attendants. Couldn't be worse. And we broke up, and I just could not get work. I booked a little thing there, little thing there, but I could not make a living. And during that time, for years, my mother kept loaning me money, and I felt really crappy about it because I was at an age where I should have been able to take care of myself. And I had this idea about suburban housewives, which she sort of had given me. And during this time, she kept loaning me money and loaning me money. And I finally sold Desperate Housewives, and what's funny is she had loaned me exactly, over the period of three and a half years, $100,000. I sold Desperate Housewives for $100,000. I went to my mom's home, and I wrote the check, and I was feeling really cocky. And I walked in, and I gave her the check, and I said, ‘Well, aren't you lucky that you have a son who could figure his way out of trouble?' And my mother took the check, she put it in her purse, and she said, ‘I'm not lucky. I knew what horse I was betting on.'"

Why Women Kill drops new episodes Thursdays on CBS All Access.