By JUDY SLOANE
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD-CBS’ new action comedy “True Lies” is inspired by James Cameron’s 1994 motion picture of the same name starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis which, in turn, was based on the 1991 French comedy “La Totale!”
In CBS’ version, Steve Howie portrays Harry, an international spy for the U.S. intelligence agency Omega Sector, a secret that he keeps from his wife Helen (Ginger Gonzaga) and their three children. Helen, a language professor, is bored to death with her daily routine. But when Harry’s double life is finally exposed, and Helen’s skills are discovered (thanks to her TaeBo and yoga lessons), she joins the agency, and her husband, in covert missions around the globe.
Steve Howey and Ginger Gonzaga joined the members of the TV Critics Association via zoom to talk about their adaptation of the story, which premieres on Wednesday, March 1, 2023, at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
Q: “True Lies” is such an iconic film. What was some of the connective tissue that you wanted to bring from Jamie Lee and Arnold’s performances and what did you want to do to make the dynamic in this show feel completely different?
Steve Howey: I said that I would never, out of respect for the man, do [an] impersonation. I’ve never done it, not once, and I never will. He’s an iconic actor, an iconic man. And it’s an iconic film.
But after meeting Ginger [I realized] that she’s literally one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. We just wanted to do something on our own. We couldn’t mirror the movie. We wanted to bring our own flair. And I think we did.
Ginger Gonzaga: I was in a lucky position where I had never seen the film, and so even before the pilot, I committed to not watching it, because I know Jamie has an iconic performance. The last thing I want to do is an impression of Jamie Lee Curtis. I love her so much. I have so much respect for her. I didn’t want to absorb any of it, and so I got to organically make it based off of a script that was brand new to me.
The DNA of the show is in the film, there are so many winks at it. I think just because of the year it is, 2023, it already has that freshness to it. It’s the perfect amount of time between when the film happened and when we remade this.
Q: Steve, I know you suffered an injury toward the end of filming.
Howey: (he shows his bandaged finger) Great question. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and, at the same time, a lot of fun. I hurt my back. I pulled my left quadriceps. Then on Episode 12, I had to throw a stunt double against the wall, and it snapped my finger back.
So, yeah, it hurt, but it was kind of fun, too. But doing your own stunts … careful what you wish for. I’m hoping for next season to really use my stunt double a lot.
Q: We love TV shows about strong kick‑ass female characters. Ginger, how did you prepare for some of Helen’s fight scenes?
Gonzaga: I just fight people on the street in my life! (Laughter.) On the very last night of the pilot, [the cast went] out in New Orleans. And I was assaulted by a woman, literally taken by my hair and thrown onto the ground. It wasn’t until I saw Steve Howey’s legs marching over my body to stop said woman that I knew that I was going to be okay. So I was unfortunately a damsel in distress in real life in that situation.
This show is super physical. I like to say that I’m stupidly brave, so I kind of assume I can do things when that’s not always the case. I’ve learned how to do everything that way, riding horses, skiing. But I had done gymnastics in my life, and so I tried to incorporate a little bit of that.
I had no idea how much I would need Pilates for this job. You physically have to be strong. I literally need the muscle that comes from that in order to do some of the work. And in my free time I was taking some boxing classes.
Q: This reminded me of certain shows I’ve seen in the past that I really enjoyed. If you could choose one show in the past that you think this show is similar to or that it reminds you of, what would you choose?
Gonzaga: “Handmaid’s Tale.” (Laughter.)
Howey: We talked about this before, and I was mentioning shows like “Moonlighting.”
This action/drama/comedy, the elements that we were doing, from the cast, we all dreamt about doing something like this. So while we were doing it, it was like, “Oh, my God. This is amazing.” It’s so much work. But Ginger [and I] had this chemistry, and we were supporting each other, and it was fun. And we had laughs and tears and all of the broken bones!