‘The Sinner’ Lead Jessica Biel Says ‘Every Step Of The Way Was A Shock’

Jessica Biel is coming back to television, and the USA Network’s The Sinner is something unusual for the 7th Heaven actress. Sure, Jessica has starred in a smattering of horror films in her career, including the 2003 reboot of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it’s rare that Biel hasn’t played either the heroine or the damsel in distress. In The Sinner, the actress plays a questionable character, one who may or may not be a victim, or who may or may not be the villain.

Jessica Biel Dishes on What Drew Her to Play Cora Tanner in The Sinner

The Sinner is an eight-part limited USA Network series, based on the similarly titled novel by Petra Hammesfahr, reports Entertainment Weekly.

In The Sinner, Jessica Biel plays Cora, a young mother who suddenly and inexplicably murders a beachgoer in the middle of a sunny summer afternoon. Detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) tries to make sense of the grisly act, while Cora’s husband, Mason (Christopher Abbott), tries to understand her actions.

Ms. Biel, who also serves as executive producer on the project, says she was first drawn to The Sinner through reading the novel and finding herself thrown off guard with a number of plot twists and turns.

“When I read the book, every step of the way was a shock,” Biel said. “I just feel like nothing can shock me anymore. There’s nothing too weird, nothing too dark.”

Jessica says she understands the jaded and cynical state of mind most of us share, but she says Hammesfahr’s writing breaks through that apathy and really unsettles the reader.

“We’ve all seen it all in a sense, the way we’re exposed and have access to everything. But every time there was a surprise in the book, it was a genuine surprise for me,” says The Sinner star. “It just felt incredibly rare to find a piece of material where you didn’t expect every twist and turn along the way.”

Cora Tanner is the Focal Point of The Sinner

As Variety points out, the plot of The Sinner brings Biel’s character to the forefront of the story and not just because she committed the murder that kicks off the story. Cora is at the center, because she remains the biggest question mark of the case. She can’t give a motive and can’t really defend herself, because she can’t ever remember meeting her victim, before killing him.

Jessica adds that, even in portraying Cora in The Sinner, she found the character to be a challenging person to play, made more so by the influences surrounding her.

“The tracking of what she knows, what she remembers, what she thinks she remembers, what is a lie, what was told to her, and when she is lying was very complicated. We would constantly be (considering) if this is a moment where she was telling the truth or lying or is she telling the truth and it’s actually a lie? That was terribly interesting to me.”

What else is there to know about The Sinner, before it premieres on the USA Network? Executive producer Jessica Biel suggests watching the series, before reading the book.

Derek Simonds, who adapted Hammesfahr’s book for this limited series, teases that the key to unraveling Cora’s mystery lies in the flashbacks. He further reveals that the flashbacks become more important, as The Sinner progresses.

The initial murder scene was choreographed with attention paid to every detail, so, for most of the cast and crew, that scene in the pilot episode seemed to take forever to film. Cast members recall shooting the scene multiple times to get everything just right, but Jessica Biel remembers it much differently.

“It just kind of happened to us. It was just so violent and fast and swift,” said Ms. Biel. “Before you knew it, (the shoot) was over.”

The Sinner premieres Wednesday, August 2, on USA Network.

[Featured Image by Mike Pont/Getty Images]