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Actor Matthew Lillard: 'Good Girls' is 'going to a real exciting place'

Kurt Anthony Krug
Special to The Detroit News

Lansing native Matthew Lillard doesn’t mind “carrying the bags for three incredible women” on NBC’s dramedy “Good Girls,” which is set in Metro Detroit.

“I loved the idea of pulling comedy out of high emotional stakes. The pilot was well-written. Even though it was about these three women… it was a great opportunity for me,” said Lillard.

On “Good Girls” (now in its third season, which ends Sunday), Lillard — best known as Shaggy in the “Scooby Doo” franchise — plays Dean Boland, husband of Beth (Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men”), his high school sweetheart. They have four kids. Dean, who once owned a car dealership and cheated on Beth, made bad financial investments with their money.

Mae Whitman, left, as Annie Marks, Retta as Ruby Hill, Christina Hendricks as Beth Boland in "Good Girls."

This prompts Beth, along with her younger sister Annie (Mae Whitman, “Parenthood”) and best friend Ruby (Retta, “Parks and Recreation”) — who also have money trouble — to rob a grocery store. They steal $500,000 and discover after spending a chunk of their cut that local gangster Rio (Manny Montana, “Graceland”) was using the store to launder money. They have no choice but to do jobs for Rio, eventually paying off their debt.

Even though they’ve gotten in over their heads, they stick with being criminals, especially since de facto leader Beth enjoys it. Subsequently, Beth has an affair with Rio. At the end of last season, Beth shoots Rio, believing him dead.

Matthew Lillard of "Good Girls"

This season, the three establish their own money-laundering business. Beth and Dean have reconciled. However, Rio is alive and Beth lies to him, saying she’s pregnant with his child so they don’t get killed.

“That is a huge, huge deal. Season 2, we open up and Beth thinks she’s shot Dean. This time, she thinks she’s killed Rio. She’s obviously very bad at this,” said Hendricks, laughing. “This year, it’s been about covering her tracks more than ever. This time, she’s fed up with constantly having to serve other people and constantly be backtracking and feeding off someone else’s pocket. This time, she’s figuring it out for herself and creating her own (criminal) empire, if you will.”

Meanwhile, Dean, now a spa salesman, spurns his boss’ (Ione Skye, “Say Anything”) unwanted advances and quits his job out of loyalty to Beth.

“For me, from Dean’s and Beth’s perspectives, their marriage was dead. (They) were living in this shell of what used to be. She was frigid and done with anything physically with Dean. And Dean found solace in other places,” said Lillard. “There’s, of course, this awakening Beth has. In Season 3, they’re at this place now where they’re working more as a team than they have in a long time. They’re in a better relationship than they’ve been in a long time.”

Christina Hendricks as Beth Boland in "Good Girls"

Added Hendricks: “They’ve gone through a lot together. He sorta knows everything at this point… One, she’s in love with him and has been her whole life. He knows so much and he’s willing to help out and be there for her, so she’s got to reevaluate that relationship and that they’ve been partners in a way, even more than she ever thought. She’s really learned to value that relationship in a different way when she certainly didn’t in Season 1.”

Hendricks said viewers respond to Beth’s relationship with Annie and Ruby .

“They’re each other’s ride or die,” she explained. “They have been since they were little kids and they continue to do so. As the soup gets thicker and thicker and thicker, they just show no sign of waning. That’s what I think people really respond to with this show is their relationship. They call each other out when someone does something stupid; they’re the first one to point it out, but they’re always gonna be there for each other and always gonna take care of that person, above and beyond anything. I would say if anything’s a constant on the show is that relationship between the three of them.”

Lillard’s character is unlikeable, but you can’t help but like him, Hendricks said

“I adore him,” she said. “He’s such a gentleman and a beautiful actor. He’s so fun. He can do this extreme comedy that’s so broad and hilarious, and then he has these really deep tender moments as Dean. It’s hard to play an unlikable guy, and he makes him likable in these despicable circumstances; you really can’t hate Dean. You want to hate him, but you just can’t because Matthew brings this human quality to him.”

In turn, Lillard praised Hendricks.

“For my money, she’s the best No. 1 on the call sheet I’ve ever seen. If you’re the star of the show or the lead in a movie, you’re No. 1 on the call sheet. She’s funny and an incredibly talented actress. She’s always present in the work, which is great. She’s such a gift,” he said. “I’m lucky to go to work with her every day, that’s the God’s honest truth. You hear a lot of lip service in this town and people say a lot of (expletive), but I mean it: It’s a gift to work with her.”

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this season of “Good Girls” has been truncated (Lillard was supposed to attend the Motor City Comic-Con in Novi May 15-17, but that’s been postponed because of the pandemic).

“Our season was cut three episodes short. I think the show is going to a real exciting place,” said Lillard. “Creatively, the show was building towards its climatic conclusion with Dean and Beth working towards finding a legitimate solution to their financial situation. He thought he was in partnership in Beth. It turns out that Beth was still operating in a way that wasn’t always above-board. At the end of the season, they have different interpretations of where they’re at. Again, the relationship is complicated. The storytelling is complicated. I don’t want to give too much away because my hope is that we come back for a fourth season and finish the third season.”

At this time, NBC hasn’t announced if “Good Girls” will return for a fourth season.

Hendricks said the show gets richer with time.

“You have to consider how ludicrous and how ridiculous it is; that’s what keeps it fun. They don’t know what they’re doing and that’s when the show’s at its best — when they’re making mistakes,” she said. “I love series work because I feel that the longer you know a character, the richer a character gets… they become familiar to you. Whenever there’s rich history, there’s more to play with every line. To me, it always gets better and better as time goes on, actually.”

Lillard said the show’s about normal people.

“We’ve been living in the Marvel Universe for so long,” he said. “You’ve got people struggling to pay rent — now more than ever — struggling to make marriages work, struggling to raise their kids right, struggling just to get by. You’ve got three women doing what they have to do in order to survive. That’s what people want to see.

“The work Christina, Mae, and Retta are doing is worthy of people’s attention. You can put their performances against any performance on TV. They’re remarkable actors and worthy of anyone’s time and you should be supportive of their work.”

'Good Girls'

10 p.m. Sundays

on NBC