With a title like Murder on Pleasant Drive, you can just tell that this Lifetime movie (premiering tonight at 9 pm/ET) is going to delve into something twisted. Based on a harrowing true story, Murder stars The Practice's Kelli Williams as Deanna Whelen, a single mom whose own mother mysteriously vanishes from her New Jersey home shortly after she begins dating a man named get this John Smith (Adam Arkin). Working with her aunt Sherrie (Amy Madigan), Deanna moves mountains to help the procedurally handcuffed police uncover exactly what happened. TVGuide.com talked to Williams about bringing this tale to the screen, as well as the somewhat familiar-sounding ABC pilot she has on the docket.
TVGuide.com: Living and growing up in the tri-state area, I feel that I must have read about this case, yet just can't place it.
Kelli Williams: That's how I felt about it, too. I know it was in the papers and that it was familiar.... These kind of stories are so creepy, especially when they're real. Real-life stuff is weirder than anything you could ever make up.
TVGuide.com: Did you and Amy Madigan consult at all with the real Sherrie Gladden-Davis [author of My Sister Is Missing: Bringing a Killer to Justice]?
Williams: Sherrie came to the set during the last couple of days of filming; Deanna did not. You want to meet them and commend them for not giving up it was a tremendous amount of work they put into basically figuring out this disappearance themselves and at the same time, meeting someone you're playing is always hard. This is their life and you want to be respectful of that.
TVGuide.com: Even though the book was written by Sherrie, did she and Deanna share equally in this journey?
Williams: Yes. I don't think it was changed that dramatically in the script. They basically spent 10 years getting information and going state to state to find out more about John Smith's past, ultimately uncovering his first wife's body. That then got the cops and FBI back involved. The case would have been closed and unsolved otherwise.
TVGuide.com: Adam Arkin is creepy good!
Williams: Isn't he creepy good? I think he's a really great actor and a funny, funny guy. He has the driest, most fantastic sense of humor. I really liked how he chose to play it. He could have played it so obviously, but he played it very subtly.
TVGuide.com: Onto other "legal" matters, what's the status of your ABC pilot Women in Law? Or is it called Sisters in Law now?
Williams: The working title still is Women in Law. We finished the pilot a couple of days ago and I had so much fun, I didn't feel like I was working, which was nice. It's a great group of ladies. [Regina King and Garcelle Beauvais are also in the cast.] Obviously, I was concerned about playing a lawyer again....
TVGuide.com: I was going to say, by my count this is at least your third.
Williams: Oh, yeah, I was one in Lyon's Den! [Laughs] In a way, I don't want to stereotype myself, but what I like about this is it's an office drama more than it's a legal drama. It's more about the relationships between these women. And besides, if I'm going to play a lawyer again, I might as well be pregnant and a lesbian. That trumps the others!
TVGuide.com: A recent trade article about ABC moving either Grey's Anatomy or Housewives from Sunday mentioned Women in Law as a candidate to fill the void.
Williams: Fantastic! That's good to hear. We're really getting into the buzz of what could happen [at the May upfronts], and I've learned over the years to just say, "Oh."
TVGuide.com: So is this more The Practice or Ally McBeal? Drama or dramedy?
Williams: It's a dramedy, which was fun for me because I'm not so serious all the time. I think I smiled maybe twice in seven years on The Practice. And when I did, it would be cut. But here, we're laughing a lot. We had a really good time. Robert Luketic, the director, did Legally Blonde and Monster-in-Law.
TVGuide.com: He's the guy who dropped out of directing the Dallas movie. You told him to do that, didn't you? "J.Lo as Sue Ellen? Are you crazy, Robert?"
Williams: I told him to, yes. "Don't do that!" [Laughs] No, he was really great to work with. He had different songs that he would play before each take. He would do "She Works Hard for the Money," and we would be laughing and dancing.
TVGuide.com: If Women in Law gets picked up, are you ready to go back to the daily grind?
Williams: No, I'm not! The nice thing about this is it's truly an ensemble. I thought The Practice was going to be an ensemble, but it didn't end up being that way. Everybody was just always there. You always had to be there. This is going to be something where we all share in the schedule.
TVGuide.com: It wasn't easy being Lindsay Dole, was it? Didn't she go crazy at one point?
Williams: Did she? She had a stalker, she was shot, she shot people... and yet her son slept through the whole thing! He's a sound sleeper! "We're just out here shooting guns in the hallway, honey!" Good thing he had that air purifier humming in his nursery.
TVGuide.com: It should be an interesting upfront week for Practice alums you have an ABC pilot, as do Dylan McDermott (A House Divided) and Marla Sokoloff (A Day in the Life)
Williams: Are you serious? That's funny. My husband [writer Ajay Sahgal] has one at CBS The Angriest Man in Suburbia so I'm crossing my fingers for him. It'd be a nice year if we both were invited to the upfronts!