Season one of acclaimed anthology series American Crime was a gripping exploration of the traumatic impact a murder can have on the families involved. More than a whodunnit, it was a graphic character study that broke TV molds.
Season two begins tonight with a different premise and all new characters. The theme this season is teen rape. Lili Taylor plays the mother of an Indianapolis high school student who accuses members of the school’s championship basketball team of sexually assaulting him and posting photos on social media. Taylor spoke to Rotten Tomatoes about why this new season is even more over-the-edge than season one and what audiences might be able to expect.
Kerr Lordygan for Rotten Tomatoes: Season one went above and beyond, as far as edginess and controversial topics for a network TV show go. Do you think season two will top that, and if so, how?
Lili Taylor: I think it is going to top that. I think there are a lot more relationships this season and it’s a lot more complicated. And more intimate in a way than it was last season. That, as just a sort of human element, will touch people in a different way than last season.
Rotten Tomatoes: Any surprises this season?
Taylor: A lot. I think that’s part of John [Ridley’s] thing is surprise and kind of keeping you on your toes — the audience, the actors, and the crew, everybody. Even the crew doesn’t know a lot of times what’s happening. I think there’s going to be a lot of, “If you think it’s going one way, it’s probably going to turn on its head.” I mean, the scripts for me from [episodes] four to nine were blacked out, I don’t barely know. Truly, they were blacked out. That’s the thing that John even wanted us to –- it wasn’t even about leaking scripts out to press, it was more about us not knowing, keeping us on tender hooks.
Rotten Tomatoes: Does that make it difficult to plan your character arc?
Taylor: No, no. Well, yes and no. He tells us what we need to know and I really trust him on that. And he doesn’t let us know something unless he thinks we should know it. And I trust him. I might not trust all showrunners that way but I do trust him.
Rotten Tomatoes: What stands out for me about the greatness of American Crime is these amazing performances of these very complex characters, so complex and three dimensional. How does it feel to do such challenging work?
Taylor: It’s amazing. I think Felicity [Huffman] said it a lot last year that it was one of her best jobs. I mean, these just don’t come along a lot, so working with such good writers and a creator who cares so deeply who truly wants to collaborate with actors and the crew –- everybody — they don’t come along much. When they do, you just know it and you just eat it up.
Rotten Tomatoes: Do you have a favorite season?
Taylor: This one. It’s the second season, but I think there’s always lessons that could have been learned and things that John wanted more of that he missed last season so I think that for me it’s this season. It’s just going to be a wild ride, so buckle up because it’s just thrilling.
Rotten Tomatoes: You’re also known for your horror work (The Conjuring, Hemlock Grove). Are you a horror fan?
Taylor: I like scary movies, like I’m more of a classic, Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby kind of thing, so I’m not [into] as much gore, but I love, love, love really good scary movies and I think The Conjuring is totally that.
Rotten Tomatoes: And you’re working on a Leatherface prequel now?
Taylor: Finished that. And that had these two great filmmakers from France so it felt like an artistic — It felt like it was pushing the genre, which I found very interesting.
American Crime season two premieres tonight on ABC at 10 p.m.