Kristen Bell on the Sleuthing Skills of The Woman in the House...’s Anna: 'Veronica Would Be so Disappointed'

The Veronica Mars star hopes her Netflix show will "very lovingly poke fun at some of the tropes" of female-led thrillers.

by | January 27, 2022 | Comments

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The trope spreads like wine stains — or, wait. is it blood stains? — across a white table cloth, drip, drip, dripping over best-seller novels and movie adaptations and seeping into the fabric of television.

The woman, dead eyed with smudged mascara but still with hints to her happier, less-anxiety riddled days, stares longingly through paned glass. Maybe she’s in a tattered robe. Maybe she has a psychological disorder like agoraphobia. Maybe she takes pills or drinks too much wine or lied once and now no one trusts her. Maybe she’s all of these things and is so distracted she can’t put on protective mitts to take one of her many matching casserole dishes out of the hot oven.

For everyone who has gotten sucked into books or movies like The Girl on the Train or The Woman in the Window, the new Netflix limited series The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window sees you, hears you, and wants to laugh with you.

The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window. Kristen Bell

(Photo by Colleen E. Hayes/Netflix)

The show’s aim is to “very lovingly poke fun at some of the tropes or some of the predictability of female-led thrillers,” said Woman in the House… star Kristen Bell, who is the series’ sub-in for Emily Blunt or Amy Adams, who starred in film adaptations of those other books. (It’s not lost on her that a lot of the actresses who play these parts are, like her, singers.)

The series is created by Rachel Ramras, Hugh Davidson, and Larry Dorf, with whom Bell worked on the TV Land comedy Nobodies and is directed by Michael Lehmann, who helmed the first episode of the revival of Bell’s Veronica Mars for Hulu and is known for his own work in the thriller arena thanks to directing the cult classic Heathers.

The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window. Kristen Bell

(Photo by Colleen E. Hayes/Netflix)

The writers pitched this show to her with the title as is, which “elicited a giggle out of me,” Bell told Rotten Tomatoes.

“The titles [of these projects] are formulaic. You know: The Woman in the Floorboards!,” she laughed. “You can write within this formula and somehow it’s completely bulletproof. It is still interesting. The whodunnit still matters. So the goal is to create a whodunnit that people care about. Because if we were just doing a satire, it would get old by the second episode.”

These stories, “particularly the ones written by women for women” Bell said, feature “a sympathetic female character who’s broken or grief stricken, and she’s usually lonely … and did she witness a murder? Is she crazy?. [Either way,] she always has the obligatory line, ‘I know what I saw.'”

The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window. Kristen Bell

(Photo by Colleen E. Hayes/Netflix)

In this story, Bell’s Anna is suffering a loss and spends her days in a murky depression, sipping Big Gulps of wine and wandering around in a fog, while her handyman Buell (Cameron Britton) takes an inordinate amount of time to fix a mailbox. Then the handsome single dad Neil (Tom Riley) and his daughter move in across the street. He likes to use his Peloton in front of an open window, which is great for Anna’s nosiness. Not so great? That he didn’t tell her he had a girlfriend (Shelley Hennig’s Lisa). And also that no one believes Anna when she swears she saw a bloody killing happen in Neil’s house. So she takes it upon herself to solve the murder that might not actually be a murder.

“We were trying to push the level of absurdity so far that you would giggle, yet still interact the way that you would with a psychological thriller: where you’d scream at the TV ‘don’t go down the stairs,” Bell said. This means that Anna’s estranged husband (Michael Ealy) has a job that would never be appropriate for a Take Your Daughter To Work Day and her friend Sloane (Mary Holland) would have initiated an intervention eons ago.

Another of these tropes is giving Anna horribly written and redundant voice-over narration, as well as a paranoia that she hears noises in the house and has a need to try to catch a killer through an elaborate catfishing scheme.

“I love narration,” Bell said of the first twist. “I feel like it gives you an extra flavor to add to the scene. You could take a completely mundane scene and add some words of narration and make it the funniest thing you’ve ever seen.”

The show is also coming when Netflix itself is experimenting with more straight-edged forms of this kind of content. The Alyssa Milano movie Brazen, which premiered in January on the streamer, was an clear warning shot to channels like Lifetime and its history of movies-of-the-week about nefarious neighbors and dead cheerleaders.

Bell considers herself more a fan of true crime, another genre in which Netflix excels.

“I also love suspenseful movies. I love horror movies. I love scary stuff. And I love trying to untangle weird patterns that I don’t understand,” she said.

“Violence confuses my brain so much, so I’ll watch a crazy horror movie,” she adds. “And I think that’s why I’m interested in it. Because my brain is attempting to process all these choices that I don’t understand.”

The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window. Kristen Bell

(Photo by Colleen E. Hayes/Netflix)

As for why she, a named actress known for critical hits like NBC’s The Good Place and the Disney film juggernaut Frozen, would want to do a parody miniseries, she said, “Up until a few years ago, I was guided by Would I watch this? Do I think it’s good? Are there good people involved? And now I’m almost exclusively guided by Do I think I will have fun on set?

Bell also acknowledges the irony that she’s now playing a really bad DIY detective after her breakout role in Veronica Mars had her playing the titular ace teen (and then adult) gumshoe investigator.

“I did think Veronica would be so disappointed in the way that Anna was conducting herself,” Bell said. “I think Veronica Mars would have solved this case pretty quickly and put my character Anna, in a mental institution. Or, minimally, given her the therapeutic help that she is in need of.”

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