What happens when a showrunner has a recurring nightmare that her seven-year-old daughter will be kidnapped while she's writing a scene in her writing shed 10 feet from the house?
For Tassie Cameron, creator of ABC's new thriller drama Ten Days in the Valley, it's a 10-part mystery series starring Kyra Sedgwick. Cameron, who formerly created ABC's summer cop procedural Rookie Blue, originally crafted Ten Days to help combat a frequent dream of her own child being abducted while she was working. Sedgwick stars as Jane Adler, a TV writer in the midst of a bitter custody battle with her ex, Pete (Kick Gurry). Their daughter is abducted from Jane's home in the middle of the night as Jane churns out a last-minute script under the influence of sleeping pills, wine and other drugs — kicking off a 10-part series that delves into the balance between work and motherhood, the drug world, politics, police corruption and the ugliest side of family law.
The first episode kicks off Sunday on ABC, but TV Guide talked to Cameron ahead of the premiere about how those nightmares are going now, working with Sedgwick and how she recommends viewers get through the twists and turns of the roller coaster series.
You mentioned at the Television Critics Association press tour that this show was inspired by a recurring nightmare of yours. How has finally putting it out there helped with that?
Tassie Cameron: It went away as soon as I wrote it! It was the best thing I ever did. There's a term called exposure therapy where you basically write down your greatest fear. If you're in therapy, you write down your greatest fear over and over again until the fear starts to go away. I feel like I did that in a kind of big way with this script. I haven't had it since.
I'm always fascinated by shows that have a movie-like premise. When you started this did you envision a possible Season 2? If you did, would it be more of an anthology series or would you continue with these characters?
Cameron: I always imagined further seasons if we got to be so lucky. I could see it going a bunch of different ways, but now that I've built these characters and the more that I've lived them and we've been writing for them — and the more that Season 1 kind of developed, me and the writers, there's a great Season 2 that's coming organically out of Season 1. We would stick with some of the same characters and a different kind of mystery.
Your last TV show was Rookie Blue, which had more of a procedural element to it. What was the shift like going from something like that to something that is basically the epitome of serialized?
Cameron: It was a huge relief to write something serialized for me. The procedural engine that you need for 72 episodes of a cop show — that's a different skill set. it was fun and I had a wonderful time doing it, but I think there's probably a reason why I made Jane a writer on a cop show. It was almost to build in the fact that I didn't want to be procedural. Her character could be writing a procedural but i didn't want to be, so it's been amazingly fun.
The heart of this show is about the balance of being in this industry and being a mom. You have so many moms that are involved with this show. How did working with Kyra [Sedgwick] and Erica [Christensen] and the others on set change the story once you got going?
Cameron: There was a shorthand with Kyra who obviously has two grown children and Erica who just had her first baby. My fellow EPs are mostly parents as well. Sherry White, my kind of writing partner on this, her son is in the business. He's in the new Marvel show The Gifted and he's 15. We're all juggling children and chaos with this crazy business. There was a real patience with each other, a real support for each other. Erica could go home and be with her kid. I gleamed a lot of wisdom from people who had been there with older children. It was magnificent and wonderful.
The thing is you don't want to make a show about the work-life balance within the entertainment industry and then make people not have any balance. It was a well-balanced life.
Mystery shows like this tend to fall into two camps. Either the fun is watching and trying to guess who did it or it's better to just let it happen and ride the ride. How do you want viewers to interact with Ten Days in the Valley?
Cameron: I remember watching Broadchurch, the British show, and I loved following along wondering where it was going to go and who did it. I hope that people have passionate theories about what happened, but I hope they'll trust us to take them on quite a twisty ride to get there. Both actually.
Ten Days in the Valley premieres Sunday at 10/9c on ABC.