Since airing earlier this summer, USA’s The Sinner has transfixed audiences—in no small part due to Jessica Biel’s incredible performance as the mysterious Cora Tannetti. With the eight-episode limited series’ finale around the corner, we spoke to Biel about her experience working on the show and what she hopes audiences will come away with after taking it all in. If you’re not caught up, you still have time to stream The Sinner in its entirety before the finale on Wednesday, September 20th at 10/9c on USA.
What can you tell us about your character?
Cora is one of the most interesting characters I have ever had the chance to play. At the beginning of the series, she leads a seemingly normal life as a mother and wife. That all changes one day when she commits an act of violence in a very public setting, and from there the audience is taken through a journey where they get to learn more about her past and what brought her to that startling act. It’s been really exciting to play a character that evolves so much.
What’s so interesting about the premise of the show, is how little your character seems to know about her own motivations behind the murder she commits. How much or how little did you actually know about your character while filming the series?
It was great to have the book as a resource to get to know the character and be able to read the whole story beforehand. In terms of Cora’s arc, the book shed light for me on where her emotions and complexities were coming from.
The series is unique in that it’s close-ended coming in at only 8 episodes. How has working on a project like this been?
For The Sinner in particular, it’s a great way to bring this story to life and give the audience a true cinematic journey into the psyche of Cora. It’s a really exciting time in television because we now have so many different formats to tell stories. Being able to give the audience a true resolution at the end, and to answer all their questions is part of what drew me to this project. In a way, it’s been like working on an 8-part movie.
What was your process like to get into character? Was it full of passive research and reading, or was it more active involving discussions with individuals that have committed similar crimes or psychologists who have dealt with those who have committed similar crimes?
Having the book as a resource was tremendously helpful in preparing for this role. By really understanding her backstory upfront, I was able to really focus on each memory and emotion that Cora experiences and bring those feelings to the screen. This story is so particular to this character, it was more about finding ways to get into the psyche of Cora. I was able to relate to Cora as a mother—she loves her son so much, yet has demons to battle. Cora also has struggles that we all can relate to, looking into the past and wishing we could change something that we have struggled with. These were big jumping off points for me as I was studying this character.
What do you hope audiences come away with after watching the series?
Because we are a limited series, it’s really exciting to know that audiences will have closure at the end. All of their questions will be answered, and they will have a full look into the case that has been presented to them.