Malin Akerman had a very distinct reaction when she first heard the title of the new ABC comedy Trophy Wife.
"I literally saw the title and I said, 'Oh, hell no. I'm not playing a trophy wife,'" Akerman said at the Television Critics Association fall TV previews on Sunday.
Luckily, in the role twenty-something party girl-turned-wife and stepmom Kate, Akerman's character is a bit of a stretch of the title. "We always meant it to be ironic," executive producer Lee Eisenberg said. "I think the most fun for us as the writers of the show is make her fall on her face and, at every turn, make her look not like that."
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And fall she does. In the comedy, Akerman plays a woman who marries an older man, Pete (Bradley Whitford), and suddenly finds herself a stepmother to three children and having to deal with Pete's two ex-wives (Marcia Gay Harden and Michaela Watkins). Like Akerman, her character will also struggle with the trophy wife misconception as Kate begins to juggle the new people and responsibilities in her life. "As the season progresses, I think Kate is going face the challenges of how other people perceive her," executive producer Sarah Haskins said. "She's trying to show people she's not a trophy wife."
Haskins knows first-hand about the perceptions (and misperceptions) that are synonymous with trophy wife. "I have observed the syndrome by being it," Haskins said with a laugh. "One day I ran out of ideas, so I married my next-door neighbor who was 20 years my senior."
Haskins' husband had been married three times before and already had two children, aged 5 and 15, when they tied the knot. It didn't take long for Haskins and her writing partner, Emily Halpern, to realize Sarah's new domestic situation would be great fodder for a television show. "I feel like we both talked about wanting to do something that came from our experience," Haskins said. "I had a teenage daughter who was instantly much, much cooler than I was as a teenager, so that was an interesting experience."
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However, just because the show is centered on Kate and her struggle to adapt to her new life, the show will also shed light on how Pete's two ex-wives are also dealing with the new addition to the family and their lives after divorce. "One of the things we liked about this show is that there's no villain," Haskins said. "All these parents are trying their best."
Going forward, the series will explore the love lives of both Diane (Harden) and Jackie (Watkins) and also show an evolution of their respective relationships with Kate. "We actually have a lot of episodes that we're working on now where Kate and Jackie or Kate and Diane are actually on the same team," Eisenberg said. "This isn't a show where there are enemies."
Akerman, whose own parents divorced and remarried several times, says that the premise is relatable to the first wives, second wives and anyone in an unconventional family dynamic. "For me this show is really relatable just because I think this is the new family unit that we see so often," Akerman said. "I wanted to explore that and bring my own experiences to it as much as I can."
Trophy Wife premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 9:30/8:30c on ABC.