No mystery here — “Women’s Murder Club” is slaying its Friday night competition. The new show — think “Cagney & Lacey” squared with hints of “Charlie’s Angels” tossed in for good measure — is raking in more than 8.5 million viewers a week and consistently winning its 9 p.m. time slot. (The next new episode airs Dec. 7.)
That comes as good news to actress Paula Newsome, one of the show’s leads. But nabbing stellar ratings was far from her mind when she originally considered the role. She was more enamored with the fact that the drama was set in San Francisco.
“I had been in San Francisco a couple of years ago for a production of ‘Caroline or Change,’ and I just love The City,” Newsome says. “Your restaurants — you guys will be my downfall. It’s an amazing city.”
“Murder,” based on James Patterson’s best-sellers, is an engaging, fast-paced ride. It chronicles the lives of four successful working women: a homicide inspector (Angie Harmon), a medical examiner (Newsome), a crime reporter (Aubrey Dollar) and an assistant district attorney (Laura Harris).
Although the Writer’s Guild strike may have temporarily stalled ABC’s plans to officially pick up the series for an entire season, several more episodes of the freshman series have been ordered. The show is likely to enjoy a good run through the remainder ofthe year.
“Thank God the networks — and people — are really pulling for strong female characters,” Newsome says, noting that with “Desperate Housewives” and TNT’s “The Closer” and “Saving Grace,” there are more roles now for actresses than ever before.
“We’ve had this women’s movement, where women chose to ‘work’ … and now there’s this whole dichotomy of work versus relationships,” she says. “I think women in my generation are struggling with that. We’re beginning to see that on the small and big screen, where women are trying to balance their home life with their work life to varying degrees of success.”
Originally from Chicago, Newsome eventually hit her mark on the New York stage before heading to Los Angeles. She made the rounds on everything from “Friends” and “Judging Amy” to “ER” and “Criminal Minds.” A small but memorable turn as a medical counselor in last year’s indie hit “Little Miss Sunshine” suddenly opened doors.
She calls her three “Murder” co-stars “sisters” and sees her role, in particular, as being a significant breakthrough.
“I think about where we started … when people would be in their living rooms, saying, ‘Oh, my God, there’s a black person on television,’” she says, “So I always think about that, and I always see more for us [as a race] and more for our culture.”
It’s one of the reasons she became an actress. “[Acting] gives me the courage to share who I am,” she says. “I just think we can do more things for the world when we show who we are, so that’s always my path — to consistently be honest. It encourages people to lean in.”