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Why You Should Still Watch Mistresses Minus Alyssa Milano

It's juicier, sexier and, simply, better than ever

Robyn Ross

Our favorite summer soap Mistressesis back and, although the show is minus one member, it's juicier, sexier and, simply, better than ever.

When the ABC drama left off, Joss (Jes Macallan) ran off during her wedding and into the arms of Harry (Brett Tucker) -- the ex-husband of her sister Savi (Alyssa Milano) -- while Karen (Yunjin Kim) awaited the news of her HIV test and April (Rochelle Aytes)'s daughter Lucy (Corinne Massiah) learned the truth about her presumed dead but now really dead father. Season 3 will pick up immediately during Joss and Harry's romp, a challenge that showrunners K.J. Steinberg and Rina Mimoun welcomed when it came to addressing Savi's reaction without having Milano, who exited the show, there.

"We had always had our heart set on [picking up the season where we left off] and we wouldn't let anything stop us come hell or high water," Steinberg tells TVGuide.com. "When we knew [Alyssa] wasn't coming back we said, 'OK, how do we do this in the most elegant, creative way possible while still paying homage to a character that meant so much to our audience and our other characters. We came up with a different way to address it and in her absence, it opened up this huge chasm in Joss' life and it made all of this room for Jennifer Esposito's character to come in and breathe life and lightning bolts into our show. So the challenges were fun for us."

Mega Buzz: How will Mistresses address Alyssa Milano's exit?

Keep reading to get scoop on why Joss and Harry won't live happily ever after any time soon, how new character Calista (Esposito) will add a little danger to the mix, who is becoming a fixture in April's life and how we'll see a whole new Karen by the end of the season.

With Savi physically out of the picture, what hurdles will Joss and Harry face in getting together?
Rina Mimoun:
The initial complication is definitely just Joss' guilt. It's her first hurdle that she can't quite overcome. They do at a certain point get past that, but it's very fraught. A way a relationship starts is often a big indicator of where it goes and theirs started in a pretty messed up way, so it's going to have to go through a lot. This isn't just the romance year of Joss and Harry.

K.J. Steinberg: If they were two unfeeling characters only driven buy their sexual attraction and passion for each other, that's what the season would've been about, but Harry and Joss are deeply feeling people. Harry is feeling like he's due his happiness, so maybe in the beginning he isn't as sensitive to the Savi of it all, but he's sensitive to the Joss of it all and what's important to her is important to him. So even through their conflict, there's still a connection.

What has the response been to pairing them?
Mimoun: Not since my time on Dawson's Creek have I felt this level of anger and vitriol. People were not excited about the Joss and Harry thing and family members were all up in my grill about it. But K.J. and I always said this wasn't something we set out to do. It really came to pass naturally from the middle of the first season when their story lines barely connected. It was those few moments on screen together, they just had something there, and we all saw it. At the end of that season, we were like, "We can't do it, it's wrong, this is a betrayal of the sisterhood and this is a show about women for women." Then it became, well, what if it does happen and if we play it truthfully and honestly and we don't make it salacious and silly, and we play the reality of what would it be like. And it all feels very true. There's an element to Savi's character that from the very beginning has always been the most selfish in the group, so her actions, we feel, continue to be true even in her departure.

Mistresses Exclusive First Look: Does Jennifer Esposito make a good replacement for Alyssa Milano?

How does Joss handle the loss of Savi in her life?
She goes through the stages of grief pretty to the number. She's in denial and searches for her, and fathoming the loss of her takes episodes and episodes. I don't think it's ever gone from her, so it motivates a lot of her actions and feelings throughout a lot of the season. It gives her great obstacles between her and Harry, and it really does make her vulnerable enough to make space for a fast friendship with this very eccentric woman [Esposito], who is brilliant and fabulous and fun to watch, and as alive and fun to watch as Jes is. We don't shy away from the fact that Joss is looking for a sister figure.

Tell us more about Esposito's character Calista. Does she become a part of the group? Mimoun: While she does meet the girls, she's very much attached to Joss' story line. As the story progresses, she brings Joss into arguably the most dangerous situation we've ever seen her get into. She's not just a fun and flirty friend -- she comes with a smidgen of danger.

Steinberg: You never know where Calista is coming from; that's the fun of her. You're seduced into this fast friendship and she's eccentric and connected and she's fun to be around, and then the next moment you're asking yourself: What's her agenda? Do I trust her? Is it smart to love this woman?

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Lucy now has a half-brother whose uncle (Rob Mayes) will be a series regular. How will this affect April and Lucy?
We definitely had a lot of fun with shaking up April's home life and infusing it with Uncle Mark, who's a Peter Pan and sloppy and fun and everything April isn't. So we suddenly have this version of Modern Family and these two people trying to parent the two children in the middle of the Cold War between mother and daughter. And I think people will really enjoy seeing Lynn Whitfield show up as April's mom because we find out about who April was as a kid and who she was before all the Paul (Dondre Whitfield) madness.

April has had the worst luck in love. Is romance off the table right now?
Mimoun: Romance is definitely on the table for April because we are Mistresses and romance is always part of our world. But this year, April takes a very decided approach and for the first time she's trying to lead with her maternal side and do right by her daughter. Is that the best way to find love? That's the question she goes through and by the end of the season, hopefully, [she will]. So it's a rocky road and sometimes the best intentions don't always go exactly right.

Steinberg: One thing to be excited about is that Mark and Harry have a bromance and it's nice to see Harry have a male friend!

The season ended with Karen getting the call from her doctor. Where do those results lead her?
Last season, she ended [up] having this existential crisis looking back on her life and thinking everything she does to find love leads to death. This year, she's on a much more positive life-affirming search for redemption. She's aware of the darkness from the past two years and is saying yes to things, and to risk and relationships. And the news at the end of this phone call leads her to a very unexpected journey. And in the most unlikely of places.

Mimoun: It took us to a place we weren't expecting to go, but by the end of the year it's a whole new Karen.

Mistresses Season 3 premieres on Thursday at 9/8c on ABC.

Watch Macallan and Tucker talk about their favorite shows: