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WITH ideas being pilfered ad nauseam when it comes to TV shows, irrespective of genre, Hollywood scriptwriters have to seriously tap into their ingenuity to break new ground.
House of Lies, a new dramedy on M-Net, has a freshness that can be applauded. It thrusts viewers into the world of high-flying consultants, who smoothly clean up those awful corporate PR messes.
This setting offers up a hotbed of lies, burning ambition, jealousy and personal setbacks.
Penned by Martin Kihn, who was born in Zambia, the TV script is adapted from his book, House of Lies: How Management Consultants Steal Your Watch and Then Tell You the Time, which draws on his three-year working experience for a large consultancy firm called Booz Allen Hamilton.
Hollywood heavyweight Don Cheadle steals the limelight in the lead role of Marty Kaan, a cut-throat and high-ranking consultant. His biggest rival is his ex-wife, who works for the top consultancy firm.
Also bringing much pizzazz to her role is Kristen Bell, best known for her role in Veronica Mars.
Bell is cast as Jeannie van der Hooven, an Ivy League graduate who displays immense potential with her savvy for sussing out situations. And she works with Marty.
The 31-year-old actress, who migrated to mostly movie roles amid occasional nods to cameo appearances, couldn’t be more chuffed to be sinking her teeth into a juicy character.
In an interview with Huffpost TV, she says: “I had an itch to do TV again with a few specific goals in mind: I didn’t want to carry it on my shoulders. I wanted to work with someone out of my league. Also, I wanted a network that had cache and the ability to provide a provocative storyline. I’m not even saying that necessarily had to be the dictionary definition, like ‘sexy’; I just wanted something out of the box, something that could tackle issues that wasn’t necessarily falling under the censorship umbrella of prime time.”
Making comparisons with her character, she shares: “I think I can be as ambitious and determined as Jeannie. I think it’s difficult not to. I’m not as morally bankrupt as she is (laughs). I think I have a different set of values… but I think in moments I can absolutely be as cut-throat, as ambitious and as determined.”
As the series progresses, Bell says, viewers will get a sense of her character’s background and as a result understand her fractured family ties.
With writers exploiting her sexiness. too, Bell sheds light on an interesting episode where her character gets her foot sucked on by a guy.
“I had just met another actor, who, as per the crazy script written, needed to put my foot in his mouth. We talked about it and I washed my foot and he had a mint – just for… giggles – and we kind of went for it. We didn’t practise it at all, obviously, because (1) Why would you? That’s weird. (2) We wanted it to be realistically awkward when we did it.”
Meanwhile, Cheadle, last seen in CSI and, on the big screen, in Iron Man 2, pushes the boundaries with his humour and personal shenanigans.
On the latter, he said in one of his interviews: “I’d have to say I come from a long line of jokers. We play a lot in my family. My father, my mother – comedy was a part of our lives together. We listened to Richard Pryor. I grew up with that mentality. One of the first jobs I had was as a stand-up. I did it until I bombed, then I said: ‘That’s enough of that.’ It’s something that’s been in my DNA for a long time. I just have not had a lot of opportunities to express it, so it is great to have a shot with these clowns to do that now.”
Viewers are going to be pleasantly surprised by these powerhouse talents unleashing a fun and exciting side as they put their spin on things in House of Lies.
• House of Lies airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Thursday at 9.30pm.