Fall TV Preview: 5 Things to Know About ‘Betrayal’

"Betrayal" (Photo: ABC)

First there was “Revenge.” Then there was “Scandal.” Now ABC is adding to its list of single-word titled series with “Betrayal,” the story of Sara and Jack, both married but not happily, whose chance encounter begins a tale of infidelity, treachery and murder.

The attraction between Sara and Jack is undeniable, but they struggle to resist. After all, Sara (Hannah Ware) is married to a successful prosecutor who has dreams of political office, while Jack (Stuart Townsend) is the in-house attorney for his father-in-law Thatcher (James Cromwell), a powerful man with dubious business practices.

Sara’s nightmare really begins when Thatcher’s brother-in-law Lou is murdered and a member of his family is charged with the crime. Her husband will be the prosecuting attorney. If he wins the case, it will cement his political future, but he will be facing off against Sara’s lover, Jack.

“Betrayal” is a limited series with only 13 episodes ordered, so the plan is to have a gangbuster finale — and then worry about Season 2 if it happens. xfinityTV caught up with the cast and producers to get the inside scoop on the premiere of the new ABC drama:

1. Are Sara and Jack soulmates or will they betray each other?

It is a given that they feel as if they are soulmates. But, then, there is a shot at the beginning of the pilot, in which it is unclear if Sara is holding Jack’s hand or her husband’s. The goal, of course, is to tantalize viewers and make them wonder who Sara is with when the dust settles. So, the short answer is, yes, the possibility of a betrayal between them exists.

“There are so many points of pressure for all of the characters, and the points of pressure make them do things that sometimes you are rooting for, and sometimes you’re like, ‘Oh, please don’t do that,'” says executive producer David Zabel. “So that’s my vague way of saying that, I think, there’s the opportunity that the relationship is not going to sail through, even though it may be true love. There are going to be moments where they are at odds with each other and at risk of betraying each other because of the various pressures that are on them from both sides.”

2. Meet the cast:

~Hannah Ware plays Sara, a beautiful but unhappily married photographer, who begins an affair in the pilot episode.

~Stuart Townsend is Jack, a lawyer married to the daughter of a powerful family, and the man with whom she starts the affair.

~Chris Johnson is Drew, Sara’s husband and a successful prosecutor with political aspirations.

~James Cromwell is Thatcher, a powerful but somewhat shady entrepreneur, and head of his family.

~Wendy Moniz is Elaine, Jack’s wife and Thatcher’s daughter, but also a smart woman trying to achieve her own modicum of success.

~Henry Thomas is T.J. Thatcher’s mentally-challenged son, who is accused of murder.

~Elizabeth McLaughlin and Braden Lemasters play the 16-year-old twins of Jack and Elaine.

3. It sounds as if the majority of the people on this show are going to have skeletons in their closets, similar to “Scandal,” where even Olivia (Kerry Washington), who wears a white hat, helped rig the vote to get her presidential candidate elected. So will we want to we cheer on these characters?

“I think it’s a really good question and, obviously, one that we’ve talked about a lot,” says Zabel. “I think that, on one hand, the relationship is romanticized. But something that we all decided … was to be truthful and not to try to construct something that made it too easy to root for the lovers…. They’re both in relationships that are viable marriages that, I think, most people could look at and go, ‘That’s kind of like my marriage. It’s not a totally dysfunctional marriage.’ … There are lots of places where you go, ‘Wow, I’m conflicted about this relationship.’ So to me, that makes it a more sophisticated story, a more complicated story, and a more real story.”

Adds executive producer Lisa Zwerling: “Our whole writers’ room is pretty much married, and we spend the day kind of rooting for all of them, which is confusing and real and complicated and makes it not the typical infidelity story at all…. There’s no clear bad guys, no unfettered joy. It’s wish fulfillment and also very complicated and dirty and uncomfortable, but that’s what makes it great to watch.”

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4. Which came first: The idea of the infidelity, or the murder story? Since “Betrayal” is based on the Dutch drama series “Overspel,” the idea had already been conceived. But a big part of the appeal of “Betrayal” is it is a mix of a crime drama and a soap opera, which means the thriller aspects of the murder, give viewers a lot more to think about than whether or not the marriages will survive or wind up in divorce court.

“I was disinclined, actually, to do something based on other material,” Zabel says. “I had never done that before, even though that seems to be a little bit of the way that the business is going. And I looked at it, and I loved it. And I loved it precisely because of the hybrid story. So a lot of the building blocks of our series are from ‘Overspel,’ but we’ve changed a lot.”

5. Henry Thomas — yes, Elliott from “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is all grown up — is making his TV series debut as a series regular. To play the mentally-challenged T.J., he pulled from his personal experience.

“I have a cousin who had an auto injury and severe head trauma, and he’s actually the reverse of T.J.,” Thomas says. “He’s physically very incapacitated, but, mentally, he’s very sharp. Also, I spent a little time with elderly people with dementia, and I kind of fused those two worlds and created this person who’s betrayed by his own body and mind to a large extent.”

“Betrayal” premieres Sunday, Sept. 29 at 10/9c on ABC.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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