From the get-go, ABC’s new mystery drama Big Sky, marking David E. Kelley’s return to broadcast TV, has been marketed as a three-hander, with posters featuring Katheryn Winnick, Kylie Bunbury and Ryan Phillippe as the show’s three leads.
That was all a ploy to protect the big twist in the final seconds of the series premiere episode when Phillippe’s character is shot dead. The shocking ending seemingly came out of nowhere as Winnick, Bunbury and Phillippe’s characters spent the premiere going about their business — and their complicated relationships — with no sign that any of them was in any danger.
“I was shocked certainly, and I think that’s also what made me so excited about it,” Phillippe said of his reaction to the twist when offered the role during a panel held last week. “So often in entertainment you can see what’s coming a month away, and to have moments in a series like this where it kind of takes your breath away, when you are absolutely shocked and did not see it coming, it’s exciting to me.”
Based on the book series by C.J. Box, Big Sky follows the investigation into the kidnapping of two sisters on a remote highway in Montana. The premiere episode followed PI Cody Hoyt (Phillippe) and his partner Cassie Dewell (Bunbury), with Cody in the middle of a love triangle that also includes his estranged wife, Jenny (Winnick).
Bunbury shared her reaction when she got to the end of the pilot script.
“We read and it and said, wow, Ryan’s fans are going to be pretty pissed,” she said.
The former Pitch star let the secret slip in a Good Morning America interview Tuesday morning, spoiling the big twist hours before the premiere aired.
“I was shocked as well and really excited that ABC is taking a chance like this to kill off a star like Ryan,” she said to a stunned reaction from Winnick and Phillippe.
During the Big Sky panel, Winnick applauded the plot shakeup.
“I think it’s such an interesting way to open up a series,” she said. “Obviously there is a lot of true love there in many different ways between the there of us, and to have that ending, nobody expected that.
And I feel it’s a real opening for ABC showing that they want to go for edgier, cable feel. We gave them that in Episode 1.”
Added Phillippe, “And I think it sends the message that in a series like this, no one is safe, so you really have to pay attention and hope that the people you love stick around.”
Asked whether we have seen the last of Cody, Phillippe said, “I will say it’s not the last you’ll see or hear of him,” with Bunbury chiming in, “flashbacks.”
Indeed, I hear Phillippe will appear in several episodes.
Cody was shot by John Carroll Lynch’s State Trooper Rick Legarski. There was a lot of blood but not explicit confirmation that Cody is dead.
Asked for such confirmation, Phillippe was coy.
“You’ve got to watch next week,” he said.