It is well known: art imitates life. And the adage is true with Desperate Housewives, whose showrunner Marc Cherry was strongly influenced by his very, very close entourage…
Her name is Martha Cherry and she is the one who inspired the series, the one who made her son (Mark Cherry) a successful showrunner. It all starts when the mother-son duo watches a TV show about a woman who drowned her own children. “I turned to her and said, ‘God, can you imagine a woman so desperate that she would hurt her own children?’ said Marc Cherry shortly before the release of Desperate Housewives. “And my mom took her cigarette out of her mouth and turned to me and said, ‘I’ve been there.’” (The Salt Lake Tribune, May 2012) Everything changes then for Marc, who understands for the first time that housewives also lead complicated, even… desperate lives. And at the time, his life was not all rosy either. Since his work as screenwriter and producer on the comedy Les Craquantes (or The Golden Girls for fans of the VO), 12 years have passed: 12 years, 4 failed sitcoms and he hasn’t worked at all for 4 years. And, as if that weren’t enough, his agent is in prison for embezzlement. Marc then owes a nice sum to his mother in question. “I owed my mother $100,000. I went years without getting a job interview. No one believed I could be anything. I had friends who didn’t even call me for a while. And then I have [écrit] this screenplay because it was an attempt to show people that I was a better screenwriter than they thought.
MARTHA AND LYNET
Martha Cherry was indeed the starting point of Desperate Housewives, the show, but it was not only that: it also inspired some of its characters. First there’s a bit of Martha as Lynette Scavo’s upset mom (Felicity Huffman). Remember the mythical scene where Lynette leaves her sons for a few minutes on the side of the road because they are out of control in the car: an on-screen transcription of a real Marc-et-Martha moment! “I was 5 years old, sitting there thinking, ‘Surely she can’t be serious. Then she backed the car up and she said, ‘Are you ready to behave yourself now?’” he recalled. “You know, it might be child abuse, but it was totally effective.”
MARTHA AND BREE
But above all there is a bit (a lot?) of Martha in Bree Van De Kamp (Marcia Cross). The showrunner notably remembers finding his mother making the bed while his father – in the midst of a heart attack – was waiting to be taken to the hospital, just like Bree in the series. He was also strongly marked by the latter’s reaction to his homosexuality. Just like Andrew Van De Kamp (Shawn Pyfrom), when Marc reveals his sexual orientation to his mother, his response is not what he hoped for. “When I came out to my mum, she told me the only thing she cared about was that she wouldn’t see me in heaven. And it was kind of hard to deal with, considering I’ve had a kind of idyllic relationship with her all my life.” Andrew, however, had a more adversarial relationship with Bree than Marc had with Martha. “I think I put [en lui] much of my remaining anger towards a woman [que] I absolutely love it because I made him this delusional psycho,” Cherry said. But let’s not doubt it: Martha adores Bree… on a certain point at least. “My mom loves that Marcia Cross plays her because she thinks it makes her prettier in a way!”
MARTHA AND MARTHA?
And what about Martha Huber (Christine Estabrook), the neighborhood gossip who encouraged Mary Alice Young (Brenda Strong) to commit suicide in the first episode? Well yes, she was named after Martha Cherry. But we reassure you: it’s a coincidence that Martha Huber is murdered in the show… Well, we hope so! Of all the screenwriters who have starred in the series, Mark Cherry is not the only one to have used his own life to inspire his writings: “We solved the problems that we had with a lot of people”, he describes. So it seems that Desperate Housewives was also an outlet for people other than its creator. But do not get me wrong : “I love my mother. Without my mother, there would be no Desperate Housewives.” That is what is said.