Jessica Biel, Bill Pullman star in USA Network's moody "whydunnit," The Sinner

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29 July 2017

USA Network, Aug. 2, 10:00 PM ET

By Lori Acken

If you still think of Jessica Biel as Mary Camden, headstrong eldest daughter on The WB’s long-running family drama 7th Heaven, her return to television in USA Network’s The Sinner is about to blow your mind. Biel executive produces and stars in the eight-episode event (which premieres Wednesday), playing Cora Tannetti, a small-town mom whose life revolves around her job and her family.

Then a day at the beach goes very, very wrong. Cora watches as a bikini-clad girl climbs into her boyfriend’s lap … and something snaps. Cora plunges the knife she’d been using to slice a pear into the young man’s neck, in a bellowing frenzy and in full view of her family and other folks on the beach. No question she’s now a killer. The mystery is why. A mystery Cora, who endures fleeting recollections of a childhood gone terribly wrong, may not want to figure out.

Wading through the complexities of Cora’s personality and predicament becomes the job — and then the obsession — of world-weary Detective Harry Ambrose, played by Bill Pullman. Ambrose harbors a few secrets of his own and sees something in the dazed young woman that convinces him to resist the town’s and his colleagues’ demand to wrap the case up quickly, and to figure out what makes Cora tick. And what made her kill.

“It’s a natural, human instinct to live in denial a little bit, and the body reacting to traumatic things is, ‘Oh, if I could just go to sleep, maybe it’d help,’” says Pullman. “Harry finds himself surrounded by people who are going to sleep about Cora … and he grows even more intensely identified with peeling back the onion of what may have motivated her to commit a violent and stunning murder.

“What starts as a lot of resistance to Harry Ambrose eventually builds into an awareness that maybe there is something that ties us together that she commits to,” Pullman continues. “She’s not able to trust me until we go through a certain amount of time where she realizes why I’m helping her.” And, Pullman warns, a happy ending may not be in the offing for either wounded soul.

“As much as Ambrose is really contained, there is that sense of what a snap would be like — that it is always present and, in certain scenes, really right out the front door waiting,” he says. “Eventually there is going to be something of a snap in the cards.”
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