Season 2 of ABC's Secrets and Lies (Sunday, 9/8c) picks up a year and a half after the events in Episode 1, and Det. Andrea Cornell (Juliette Lewis) has a new murder case on her hands — not to mention a lot of lingering baggage to deal with.
"What she went through with Ben Crawford ... her character took a turn at the end of [Season 1]," series creator Barbie Kligman tells TVGuide.com. "There is a tremendous weight of guilt, and there's a certain blemish to her, in terms of having once put an innocent man in jail. Because what most people don't know is that she fought to have him not go. So the way it looks to all those on the outside, or the way it would have looked in the papers, was that she put an innocent man in jail and he died there. ... She has not only the pressure of solving the case [but also] the pressure of not wanting to make a wrong step because of last season."
The case in question is that of Eric Warner (Michael Ealy), a private equity heir who's accused of murdering his wife (Jordana Brewster) on the night he's set to officially take over his family's firm. For Cornell, it's foreign territory from the crime she was investigating last year - and one with much more "formidable" foes, according to Kligman.
"We wanted to make sure that the initial suspect was very different than Ben Crawford (Ryan Phillippe), as well as the environment. So, whereas last season it was suburban and a cul-de-sac and neighbors, this season it takes place in a family-owned private equity firm in Charlotte," Kligman says. "Instead of Ben Crawford, who was one kind of guy, who didn't have any higher education and was not well-versed in dealing with the law or how to get around things, this season we have a very well-educated and monied man who has the full support of his family, including his father, who's important within the community.
"In addition to that, he has a sister who's a criminal defense attorney. So, [Cornell's] dealing with a lot more in terms of people who will know what her game is, so she has to mix it up."
As a result, the second season will also have more of an ensemble feel, with the show expanding into "a bigger world" thanks to the additional characters, according to Kligman. However, it will retain the Season 1 technique of telling the story from both Cornell's perspective and that of her suspect; though we'll get to see more from Cornell's POV this year, beginning in Episode 4. We'll get to meet her boss (David James Elliott) and her colleague (Brendan Hines), both of whom contribute to the pressure she feels to get this case right.
On Eric's side, his family members include Mekia Cox as his ruthless sister Amanda and Lostalum Terry O'Quinn as his aforementioned father, a casting choice that Ealy says was a "huge" incentive for him to join the show.
"Terry is a total professional that I admire and respect to the fullest. Some of our scenes together were some of my favorite scenes of the season," Ealy tells TVGuide.com. "I lost my father about four years ago, and to have someone come in and play my father, even in a fictional way, was tricky for me, and it was another challenge. ... [Terry] is just amazing to work with on so many levels, and he just makes things work."
Ealy's admiration of his co-stars don't extend to the roles they're playing, however. "I'd be curious to see who can identify with some of these characters, because I found no connection with these characters," he admitted. "Their family's a lot of drama, and I was thankful for my family and the lack of drama in my family after doing this show."
It's true that, as Warner starts investigating his wife's killing, "he starts to discover things about his perfect wife that make him question whether he knew her at all," Kligman says. "And as he goes further down the rabbit hole, he ends up questioning whether he knew his family members, to whom he's extremely close."
In terms of the surprising discoveries Eric makes, life imitated art on the set, with Ealy and the rest of the cast opting to remain in the dark about the answer to the mystery. "Barbie asked me if I wanted to know who did it, and I said absolutely not. I said, 'I want to find out just like the audience,'" Ealy says. "I think that put us all in a position to play the scenes as honest and organic as possible. ... And, here's the interesting thing - I could not figure out who it was until I read the final episode. So, that to me was a good sign, and at the same time there were about six twists that I did not see coming."
Though Secrets and Lies will have been off the air for more than a year when it returns, it's coming back at a time when viewers' interest in whodunit shows is at a fever pitch, from Making a Murdererto The Night Of.
"What these shows do ... I think they put all of us in the position of a jury. So we're not watching a TV show; we're involved in the process. We as an audience are not just viewers," Ealy says. "And the reason why it works for a show like Secrets and Lies is, for example, our crew, everybody was speculating on who did it. From episode to episode, everyone had a different perspective. Nobody knew the answer until the end... You're engaged in the case, like you're the jury."
Season 2, which was originally slated to air this summer, finished production back in January but was shelved when ABC decided to push it to fall — a move Kligman says she's happy with.
"I think at one point they thought it could be potentially an ideal summer show, like a good mystery book, but this summer in particular with the Olympics and the elections... It's not the kind of show you want to do two episodes, stop, one episode, stop, with preemptions and all that stuff. So I think ultimately the decision was made to move it to fall because it was good enough to hold its own then. And so that, to me, is a good thing."
Secrets and Lies Season 2 premieres Sunday at 9/8c on ABC.