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Vanessa Williams Adds Some Spice to 'Desperate Housewives'
Copyright 2010 Ron Tom / ABC
When "Desperate Housewives" premieres its new season on Sunday night, Wisteria Lane will be getting a new resident, Renee Perry, played by . Now, ET talks to the former "Ugly Betty" star about landing this plum role and about her ex Rick Fox on "Dancing with the Stars."
ET: Before we chat about "Desperate Housewives," I have to ask: Did you watch your ex on "Dancing with the Stars" last night? Do you think you will take your daughter to see him in person?
Vanessa Williams: She was there last night. That is why I watched. She was in the green dress.
ET: So, what can you tell us about Renee Perry?
Vanessa Williams: She is married to a New York Yankee. She comes to the lane because of marital problems and visits her old friend Lynette, Felicity Huffman's character, and ends up liking it so much she stays.
ET: I saw clips of your character. Is she channeling a little bit of Wilhelmina Slater? There were some nice digs in there.
Vanessa Williams: I think they are playing to that audience that expects something like that. Again, I am not on the writing team, but I think they want to make it as interesting and get as much bang for their buck in bringing people who are fans of mine and what I brought for the last four years to the lane. She is certainly not Wilhelmina, but she is no shrinking violet either.
ET: I heard that creator/executive producer Marc Cherry created this role just for you. Is that true?
Vanessa Williams: Yes, he did. Steve [McPherson, former ABC Entertainment president] called and said, "I want Vanessa on the show." When I took my meeting with Marc, I thought it was for something in the future. I had no idea that there was an interest in having me on the set of "Desperate Housewives" and [me] joining the show. I was available. I was doing Broadway [Sondheim on Sondheim]. It was a limited run so technically, I wasn't signed to anything after the show finished. The deal was done in four days. It kind of happened like wildfire.
ET: We know Renee's marriage is on the skids and that is why she came to visit Lynette. Does she come with any deep dark secrets like people on Wisteria Lane tend to do?
Vanessa Williams: Nothing that they have told me so far. I wish I could reveal something to you, but so far she is just ruffling feathers with the other gals. It has been great that they have given me opportunities to work with each of the girls one-on-one per episode. I have had scenes with … I think I did a couple of episodes with Lynette, a couple of episodes with Bree (Marcia Clark), one episode with Gaby (Eva Longoria Parker). What am I doing this week? This week has to do with me, Lynette and Susan (Teri Hatcher). They are spreading me out tastefully.
ET: What has it been like on the set for you?
Vanessa Williams: They have been so nice and so welcoming. They are genuinely happy to have me onboard. They are a well-oiled machine at this point. Their careers are firmly established, their characters are known and loved, and they are welcoming my new energy. It has been wonderful and easy.
ET: I remember you playing heroines early in your career. When did you make the transition to playing ballsy, bitchy women?
Vanessa Williams: I always have. They just haven't been on film a lot. Since high school I have been able to play strong women. In high school, in college, on Broadway: Kiss of the Spider Woman, Into the Woods, "A Diva's Christmas Carol," and The Odysesey. I have been lucky to play strong women. It is definitely not a one off thing. It has been happening for years.
ET: Is it more fun than playing the heroine?
Vanessa Williams: It is not that it is more fun, I think it all depends what is on the page. If it is written well, it is great. You can only do so much in terms of creating a character, but if it is a great project and a great opportunity, it is wonderful. In terms of me, I haven't had opportunities to really do leading stuff a lot. I do what I am given and I make the best out of it.
ET: Any chance Renee Perry's background may include being a singer and we would get to see her perform?
Vanessa Williams: I don't know. That is up to Marc Cherry and his staff. So far, we haven't heard of any singing episodes or anything at this point.
ET: Last time we spoke when you were on "Ugly Betty," you had just finished your album. Any music plans coming up?
Vanessa Williams: No. We just finished the Broadway show in June. The album came out in August and this will keep me occupied for a while. No music on the horizon.
ET: Wilhelmina was such a fashion plate. How do you feel about what you are wearing as Renee?
Vanessa Williams: Well, it certainly will never be like Wilhelmina again. I certainly miss the racks and racks of couture that were available on a per episode basis. There is really no comparison. On the lane, we try to make Renee seem like she has money and make her different from the gals on the lane.
"Desperate Housewives" premieres its new season on Sunday, Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. on ABC.
Posted September 21, 2010 12:43:00 PM
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