Last summer season’s cable hit, “The Sinner,” returns Wednesday for Season 2 with co-star Bill Pullman and new forged members Natalie Paul and Carrie Coon.
This time round, the USA whydunit? revolves round a creepy 13-year-old (Elisha Henig) who admits to fatally poisoning his 30-something mother and father of their motel room on a visit to Niagara Falls.
Det. Harry Ambrose (Pullman) arrives in his upstate hometown of Keller, NY, after a 15-year absence in an effort to assist homegrown beginner Det. Heather Novack (Paul) examine the murders.
“She’s a very straight-laced overachiever who wants to do well at her job and is moving up in this small town,” says the Brooklyn-born Paul, who performed newspaper reporter Sandra Washington in Season 1 of HBO’s “The Deuce.” “There’s a really deep relationship from her previous that comes again whereas she’s engaged on this case — and, due to that, [it] causes a conflict with one thing she’s actually uncomfortable with.
“One of the major aspects of Heather’s identity that has a bearing on her story is the amount of pressure on her,” Paul says. “She just feels it, knowing [Keller] is the kind of town where you don’t want to seem arrogant — and, because of that, she’s always trying to juggle doing a good job and moving up without seeming like, ‘Who does she think she is?’”
There’s an added wrinkle to Heather’s story; her devoted father (Tracy Letts) is previous mates with Ambrose, and tells him within the season opener that Heather is homosexual. “It kind of plays in [to the storyline] and it kind of doesn’t,” Paul says. “It’s probably not about her popping out as it isn’t eager to overshadow her efficiency as a detective in coaching. When a few of that comes up she doesn’t need her private life to make her appear off her recreation. That [storyline] undoubtedly will get teased out because the season progresses.
“I think what’s interesting is that because [the series] is a whydunit? you get a little bit of information around why Heather hasn’t left [her hometown],” Paul says. “Ambrose is admittedly the prodigal son — he’s the one who comes again and what’s actually fascinating for each of them … there’s form of this unstated dread of leaving and coming again [to Keller].
“What I like about the relationship between Heather and Ambrose is that in every episode they get to know each other a little better,” she says. “He starts out as a mentor figure to her because he’s a friend of her dad’s, and as they work more closely together they get to know each other — it’s not perfect through and through and there are some points of tension, like with any team.”
Jessica Biel, who obtained an Emmy nomination for her function as murderess Cora Tannetti in Season 1, is again for Season 2 as an government producer. “She comes back to the set and it’s always great to see her and talk and talk about what it was like for her,” Paul says. “She said to me, ‘Just follow your instincts.’ ”