Murder, wealth, scandal, double-crossing and double identities. It’s the stuff that has made “Revenge” a guilty-pleasure hit for ABC, so no one could blame NBC for wanting a piece of the action. But writer and executive producer Liz Heldens insists there was no directive to make a “Revenge” for NBC when she created “Deception,” the network’s new murder-mystery nighttime soap.
“No one said that,” Heldens says. In fact, the show’s twisty tale — of Joanna, an undercover cop (Meagan Good), returning to the wealthy estate where she spent her childhood to investigate the murder of a wealthy socialite — gets its inspiration from a finer pedigree. “I was sort of thinking about how could you do an undercover show with a female protagonist, and at the same time NBC was looking for a soap,” Heldens explains. “And so then I sort of thought could ‘Donnie Brasco’ and the movie ‘Sabrina’ have a baby? And so they did. So that was how it happened.”
The material was juicy enough to attract Victor Garber back to television. The veteran stage actor, currently receiving raves on the big screen in “Argo,” is always up for playing characters with a secret, as he proved in his run on “Alias” for five seasons.
“You know, to me, acting was always about revealing what’s going on beneath, and there’s always a subtext in every scene,” Garber says. “There’s always something else. You say something but you mean something else, and the great thing about ‘Deception’ and why the title is so apt is that nothing is as it seems.”
Lying, after all, is what an actor should excel at, Garber says. “When I read the script, I thought, ‘I understand this because I lie all the time’ — not really, not really,” he insists. “For some reason it just comes naturally to me, and I’ve always thought that’s what acting was. Because ultimately at the bottom there has to be truth, and usually people are doing something and thinking something else. That’s just the way I live, frankly.”
Of course, kicking off a new show circling a central mystery — here the murder of socialite Vivian Bowers — doesn’t come without its potential pitfalls, as writers behind shows from “Twin Peaks” to “The Killing” have learned the hard way. But Heldens knows where this story is going. “The plan that we’ve always had in our heads is to reveal to the audience who the killer is, and Joanna will probably have a pretty good idea [by the end of the first season],” she says. “And the second season is about proving it.”