'Red Widow': ABC's new drama offers a criminal take on motherhood

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The Gospel of Matthew quotes Jesus as saying, in part, "All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword."

But sometimes it's not so much a matter of taking up the sword as being taken up by it, in the form of circumstances beyond your control.

On Sunday, March 3, ABC premieres "Red Widow," executive produced and written by Melissa Rosenberg ( "Dexter," the "Twilight" films) and adapted from the Dutch series "Penoza."

Radha Mitchell stars as Marta Walraven, a stay-at-home mom in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. She loves her three children, her husband, Evan ( Anson Mount, "Hell on Wheels"), and the life he has built for them. But there's a rub -- this domestic bliss comes from what Marta believes is Evan's illegal trade in marijuana.

It's not a completely unfamiliar situation for Marta, since she is the daughter of Russian gangster Andrei Petrov ( Rade Serbedzija). She and her sister, Kat ( Jaime Ray Newman), wanted to escape from their father's world, but Marta only wound up trading down for an apparently lesser criminal enterprise -- or so she thought.

When Evan is gunned down in front of the family home, Marta's life is turned upside down. FBI agent James Ramos ( Clifton Collins Jr.) offers her justice for her husband in exchange for her cooperation, but Marta can't quite make herself work with the law and refuses.

But as the truth about Evan's death emerges, Marta learns that he was involved in something far bigger than she knew -- including being neck-deep in debt to international crime boss Nicholae Schiller ( Goran Visnjic).

Schiller wants more than Evan's life in exchange for this debt, and he expects Marta do whatever he wants to clear the books ... and not even her children are immune from the effects of Marta's deal with this particular devil. 

red-window-cast-abc-325.jpgAlso starring are Sterling Beaumon, Luke Goss, Suleka Mathew, Erin Moriarty, Jakob Salvati, Lee Tergesen and Wil Traval.

"It's a character that is not a very familiar one on network television," Rosenberg tells Zap2it, "a female lead and a mother, who's doing some really questionable things, morally and legally questionable things. She's a flawed person, making a lot of potentially wrong moves.

"This is a character you don't see a lot, and it's what attracted me. Here's this moral woman in an immoral world. How far will she go? How far over the line will she step? She steps over the line pretty far ... ."

But unlike a lot of kick-butt women on television, Marta doesn't have martial arts training or superpowers. She's just an ordinary human being.

"This woman is very identifiable," Mitchell says. "This could be you or someone you know, in an extraordinary situation, dealing with issues that one would hope one would never be challenged with.

"At the same time, she learns a lot about herself in the process and discovers that she is a bit of a bad... . Maybe that's something she didn't really want to know. As she ventures into the shadows and has to deal with all this dark stuff, she discovers her strength and prowess.
"She's not immediately some kick-... ex-CIA. She doesn't have any special powers. 
Whatever she learns, she's learning in the situations she finds herself in."

When Rosenberg originally watched "Penova," she wasn't sure how it would fit on a broadcast TV network like ABC.

"I talked with them," she recalls, "and they said, 'No, we love it.' I said, 'I'm not going to stop with the edginess,' and they said, 'Go for it.' And go for it, I did.

"That's exactly what we're dealing with: 'How far can we go?' They haven't once told me 'No' on any storyline."
Photo/Video credit: ABC