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April 19, 2009

'Desperate Housewives'

Teri Hatcher, left, Eva Longoria Parker and creator Marc Cherry (Getty Images photo)

By Kevin P. Taft

Unless you're killed off, it's entirely evident that no one wants to leave Wisteria Lane. And if the riotous panel at the "Desperate Housewives" PaleyFest event on Saturday was any indication, who'd want to? The cast and crew of "Desperate Housewives" was in top form, consistently cracking up the audience and themselves.

In attendance were creator Marc Cherry, producer Bob Daly, Kathryn Joosten ("Karen McCluskey"), Kyle McLachlan ("Orson"), Dana Delaney ("Katherine"), Teri Hatcher ("Susan"), Eva Longoria Parker ("Gabby"), James Denton ("Mike"), Doug Savant ("Tom") and Neal McDonough ("Dave"). With the good-natured camaraderie of the cast, it's no wonder why Hatcher has said she would follow the show until the end, no matter how many seasons it runs. "Why would I want to keep a job?" she joked. "And a character that I love? With people that I love? That's so ridiculous!"

 Cherry is on board for at least seven seasons, which gives Longoria Parker reservations on staying. "Marc touches every word of every script, he's on set every day, we rehearse our scenes with Marc there, so to think of another person doing that and touching those words ..."

Cherry responded to her kindness by admitting that she's "the most astounding cold reader in show business. She will open up the script and she won't know where the story is going so she'll read the dialogue and it's hysterical and then she'll go... HA!"

While the close relationship between the cast is apparent, it can be hard to lose one of their own. With the advent of Edie's (Nicolette Sheridan) death, which airs Sunday -- something Cherry said he wanted to do to keep the series fresh -- he was asked about how he goes about deciding who to kill off and who he won't. He admitted that Bree's (Marcia Cross) Season 1 husband, Rex (Steven Culp), was killed off because Cherry's father had died and he was working out those personal demons. As for who he won't kill off? Joosten said she was still being upset about being killed off on Aaron Sorkin's "The West Wing." "In a moment of weakness or feeling bad," admitted Cherry, "or I didn't want her to be mad at me like she was at Aaron, I went, 'Well, I'll never kill you off.' And as soon as the words were out of my mouth I said, 'Oh, I don't usually make that promise.' But I have made it, and she is the one character on 'Desperate Housewives' who will never be killed off."

Similarly, the recent five-year jump this season allowed the writers to go in a myriad of new directions with the characters. Originally conceives as a 10-year jump to allow the kids of the show to grow up and be teenagers, the network reined Cherry's idea in settling on five. "I wanted to go back to what the pilot originally was, which was smaller problems. I don't like it when the soap takes over." He added, "We got to shock everyone. We got to make Eva Longoria un-attractive, which is really hard to do."

Moderator Will Keck of TV Guide asked the cast if they felt like they were sometimes becoming their characters in real life. Brenda Strong, who plays dead Mary Alice, the narrator of the show, admitted, "I find myself talking to myself all the time." Joosten admitted to being grouchy, so there wasn't any difference. Longoria Parker offered that Hatcher is more like the prim and proper Bree character than her klutsy namesake. "She brought baked goods to her audition," Cherry said, "which was so smart!"

As the panel got looser, Keck asked Hatcher about an incident in Season 2 where her character was wearing a wedding gown and chasing her fiance down the street. Hatcher countered, "Oh my God, I know what you are going to say, and you will not believe what happened to me this morning." She then goes into a labyrinthine three-minute story about how bees got into that very wedding dress while she was in it, and how, today, she had woken up hung over and walked into a beehive outside of her kitchen door. After she apologized for the lengthy story, Longoria Parker patted her on the arm and said, "I think she's still drunk."

One of the traits of "Desperate Housewives" is the amount of scenes the actors have where they are required to be in a various states of undress. "There's a lot of naked people around me," Hatcher said. "I saw Dana (Delaney's) boob once," which got a standing ovation by castmates Denton and Savant.

During one of the few reprieves in the fun, the cast and creator discussed Lynette's (Felicity Huffman) bout with cancer. Many of the writers on staff had family members who had dealt with the disease, so they felt that a go-to slogan for the arc of the story would be, "Your cancer's not just happening to you; it's happening to me." At the same time, they were able to make the story line funny, which they admitted wasn't easy to do. "We found as many ways as we could to examine that and still have a sense of humor," Cherry said.

One of the fan's burning questions is whether Susan and Mike, who divorced during the five-year jump, would wind up back together. Cherry confirmed that his plan is for that to happen, but not right away. "We're having too much fun with the love triangle" between Mike, Susan and Katherine, played by Delaney, who, in her first season on the show, played a very manipulative character. This year, she has mellowed out a bit, so she was asked which character aspect she liked playing more. "It is fun to be nasty, I have to say."

This later brought up an audience question regarding the self-realization of the characters and the reality of the awful things they sometimes do. "As these women go through and do these desperately horrible things," said Cherry, "for some of them, someone stands up and goes 'that's wrong' ... but sometimes you're unaware of your own B.S. And that's just an interesting part of life and you have to deal with the consequences of it afterwards. I never wanted to have a show where people would have affairs and nothing happened as a result."

Soon enough, the cast was right back to the jokes, most notably when Keck asked Joosten, who is in her late 60s, if she could choose anyone on the show to have an affair with, who would it be? "I kinda have my eye on the twins," she smirked, referencing Lynette's teenage boys.

Lastly, Cherry gave the audience a "first look" treat into the season finale -- something not even the cast was privy to the details of. With a sly smile, he revealed that a character from one of the first two seasons will be coming back in a big way.


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