Body of Proof creator and executive producer Matthew Gross has made it no secret that his ABC drama has undergone quite a makeover during its 10-month hiatus. But should existing fans be worried that they'll be watching a completely new series when Season 3 premieres (Tuesday at 10/9c, ABC)?
Yes and no. While the show will feature more police procedural-like plotlines this season, Gross, who prefers to think of the series as a "character-cedural," says the series will continue to focus on the characters at the center of those story lines — primarily Dr. Megan Hunt (Dana Delany) — and their emotions. "My first instinct is, 'Hey, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater,'" Gross tells TVGuide.com. "Ten million people watch the show, so we don't want to alienate the audience we have. We want to keep them engaged and grow the audience.
"Yes, it's a redux and a reboot," he continues. "Our challenge this year was to incorporate the personal stories within the case, so you don't feel like you're leaving the main spine or thrust of that story to go tell a personal one. You want to sort of put it all into one capsule."
The third season picks up three months after the end of Season 2, with Megan returning from a mandated three-month sabbatical following the death of her partner, Peter (Nicholas Bishop). But she won't have much time to calmly transition back to working. The two-part premiere centers on a serial killer who's targeting veterans — and the case becomes extra personal for Megan once her daughter Lacey (Mary Mouser) becomes involved.
So, what's in store for Megan and the rest of the Body of Proof cast in the upcoming season? Here are six things fans can expect:
1. New Faces: With the departure of three of the show's main characters — Peter, Det. Bud Morris (John Carroll Lynch) and Det. Samantha Baker (Sonja Sohn) — at the end of last season, the cast has been filled out with the addition of new faces, most notably Lorraine Toussaint as new police chief Angela Martin and Mark Valley as Det. Tommy Sullivan, an ex of Megan's who recently transferred from New York City to Philadelphia. "Some of these characters had run their course," Gross admits. "We wanted to give Dr. Hunt someone who would stand up to her." Enter Tommy, who has transferred to Philadelphia, perhaps to win back his former flame. "They have this emotional backstory which, 20 some-odd years ago, they went out and he broke her heart. And now he's back to try to win her over."
Adds Valley: "She's the one who got away, and... he's thinking maybe he can get her back. ... They kind of complement each other. They're both rule-breakers, but they don't like to break each other's rule. She doesn't like it when Tommy impinges on the medical examiner's rules, and he doesn't like it when she tries to cross the line with the police rules. But, in their own specialties, they have no problem crossing that line. ... But one thing they do enjoy is solving these crimes together, and you can almost see them forget whatever the relationship was. You can see them just kind of enjoying getting to the bottom of things together."
2. A Different Side of Megan: With the one-two punch of Peter's death and Tommy's blast from the past, Megan is — reluctantly — forced to get in touch with her softer side, Delany says. "She's been on [a] sabbatical, against her wishes, and so she comes back to the office wanting to go to work, and everybody keeps asking about her feelings. And she hates talking about her feelings. ... She's terrified of feelings," Delany tells TVGuide.com. "For somebody who is that brilliant, she's absolutely a wuss when it comes to her feelings. And so, Tommy really challenges that. And I think her journey, if you want to call it that, is finally having to admit that she actually needs somebody, even so much that she goes to a psychiatrist to talk about her feelings, against her will."
One of the things she'll have to work through, according to Gross, is coming to terms with Peter's death — which, in some ways, echoes the death of one of her patients on her operating table several years ago."She feels incredibly guilty," Gross says. "[Peter] died saving her life. Not to mention, she got very, very, very close to him, and she wishes that she never hired him in the first place, because then maybe he'd still be alive. So she harbors that survivor's guilt."
3. Personal and Professional Tension Between Megan and Kate: Further complicating Megan's return to work is the news that her friend and boss, Chief Medical Examiner Kate Murphy (Jeri Ryan), has decided to run for office. "She has to make a lot of decisions, personal and professional, based on this run for office," Ryan says of her character. "And it makes things very tense around the ME's office from time to time because it's a big juggling act for Kate. ... Obviously if she starts letting something slack, Megan is going to be the first one to let her know it." Adds Delany: "Megan has total disgust for politics and her only concern is that Kate focuses on her job as the chief medical examiner. So there's a lot of tension about, 'Are you really doing your job? ... I think it was a smart move on the part of the writers."
4. A Family Mystery for Megan: Another emotional plot line for Megan to deal with is her father's suicide when she was 12. But is there more to it? "Megan is, as she was before, obsessed with finding out why her father killed himself, and if in fact he did," Gross teases. Adds Delany: "She starts to talk about it with her shrink and then, because she's Megan, starts to question whether her father actually did commit suicide, and goes to the length of requesting to exhume his body." Joanna Cassidy will also return for several episodes as Megan's mother, Joan, who "is not happy that Megan is opening that Pandora's box," Delany says.
5. Great Guest Stars: When it comes to guest stars this season, "I really feel like we're trying to pull out all the stops," Gross says. And he's not wrong. Just a small sampling of the actors who will have guest arcs on the show include Ivan Sergei as a Sleeping with the Enemy-esque love interest for Kate, Lost's Henry Ian Cusick as Megan's psychiatrist, Richard Burgi as the District Attorney who's mentoring Kate's run for office, and Tim DeKay as a religious fanatic. Also among those making cameos will be Michael Nouri, Annie Wersching, Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks and, in a return appearance, Luke Perry.
6. Higher Stakes: "High octane." That's the catchphrase most frequently used to describe the new season of Body of Proof. Fans got a small taste of the new mentality in the final three episodes of Season 2, which involved a Contagion-like bioterrorism two-parter, and a serial killer escaping from prison in the finale. "We decided that, in looking at some other shows like, say, Criminal Minds, where the antagonist is a little more malevolent, we wanted to lead into some of these bigger, more thrilling stories," Gross explained. "We really want to continue that momentum as we move forward. So this year, we've created bigger stories with higher stakes, more thrills and chills, and added a second gear to the show ... which is not just finding out who the killer is... but in discovering that, stopping something else from happening."
In addition to hiring new directors, new editors, new writers, a new music composer, and adding 24 executive producer Evan Katz to the creative team, Gross tells TVGuide.com that he provided this instruction to the writing team at the beginning of the season: "We should try to make every episode feel like a pilot." Delany agrees, saying "It's almost like each episode is its own little movie." The story lines this season include an exorcism, a plane crash, a kidnapping, a blackout, a mob war, and characters being accused of murder. "Just really big stories with great twists and turns that are very, very engaging," according to Gross. "High stakes, high thrills, high octane. We're putting the pedal to the metal this year. We haven't been on the air in 10 months. So, we want to lock into the audience that we had, and create a buzz so that people are like, 'Oh my god, you really have to watch this show.'"
Body of Proof kicks off its third season Tuesday at 10/9c on ABC.