Kate Beckinsale is counting on one of the side effects of the pandemic helping attract attention to her new Paramount+ comedy/drama, “Guilty Party.” The series – set to launch Oct. 14 on the streaming service – revolves around a disgraced journalist looking to salvage her career through a woman serving a life sentence for a murder she says she didn’t commit.
What Beckinsale noticed was that during all of the time people were staying indoors because of COVID their appetite for true crime stories grew. Much of that came through podcasts.
“We didn’t know we couldn’t get to sleep without it until the pandemic really exposed something weird for everybody,” Beckinsale says. “I think that’s one of the nice things about this show. You are constantly trying to figure out what’s going on.
“Because there’s so many very specific quirky characters, you’re so caught up in that, that it actually isn’t necessarily clear who’s to blame and who is a bad guy and who isn’t a bad guy.”
“Guilty Party”- created by Rebecca Addelman (“Dead to Me”) – has Beckinsale portraying journalist Beth Burgess. She looks to uncover the truth behind why a young mother, Toni Plimpton (Jules Latimer), has ended up with a life sentence. Burgess finds herself in over her head as she contends with Colorado gun-smugglers, clickbait culture, the doldrums of marriage and her own tarnished past.
The first season of “Guilty Party” includes ten episodes. Starring in a TV series is not the norm for Beckinsale as she’s better known for her work in films such as “Total Recall,” “Van Helsing” and “The Aviator.” She also has that long list of “Underworld” movies to her credit.
She almost didn’t get to add the TV series to her credits as Isla Fisher was originally cast in the starring role. Once Fisher withdrew due to pandemic issues, Beckinsale was sent three scripts. She was drawn to the idea of getting to play a character for longer than the average short time frame of the movie world.
“One of the things that’s appealing, I guess, about television nowadays, is that you do get to spend a lot more time with the character,” Beckinsale says. “And sometimes you can take longer to sort of reveal various things rather than having to kind of make it very quick for a 90-minute movie.
“It was definitely an experience. I’ve not really done much television. I’ve certainly not done television during a pandemic in Canada when it was minus 45 degrees. It’s hard for me to separate which element was the tricky one, because it was all new, really.”
Beckinsale isn’t exaggerating when she talks about working in temperatures of 45 degrees below zero. She was just happy that she traveled to the location with the right underwear and socks to help her face the freezing weather in Manitoba.
She was also happy that her cats and dog got to travel with her because of the mandatory two week quarantine before she could start filming. Beckinsale’s convinced she would have gone insane without her pets for company.
The whole process came across as feeling very strange to Beckinsale. She doesn’t tend to be extremely social when working on a new project but there are certain elements that she missed such as bonding dinners with the other members of the cast.
“Most of the time you meet your cast members during the time spent between ‘action’ and ‘cut’ which is really different. And it did make things very kind of immediate,” Beckinsale says. “And, also, you were quite hungry to get to know them in real life. We had a very policed day out involving some kind of kangaroos I think we were all grateful for.
“It was really different. It is a real challenge.”
The one part of the job that wasn’t difficult for Beckinsale was slipping into the role of a journalist. She got to see that world when she starred in the 2008 feature “Nothing But the Truth.” She got to meet with journalist Judy Miller whose life served as the basis for that film.
Beckinsale found it helpful that she got to visit the offices of the Los Angeles Times where she spoke with numerous reporters about how they do their job. That meeting years ago ended up being more important because such a meeting would have not been allowed during the filming of “Guilty Party” because of COVID restrictions and protocols.
A big difference between the two journalism roles is that her character in “Guilty Party” is dealing with the aftermath of being disgraced. Beckinsale got help with those elements through a reading list supplied by Rebecca Addelman.
“The one I found really helpful for me was Jon Ronson’s book called ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.’ My character, as we said, is a disgraced journalist and somebody who’s experiencing a lot of humiliation. It’s in quite a few of the stories in that particular book I found helpful,” Beckinsale says.