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Apples Never Fall

Annette Bening stars in this screen adaptation of Apples Never Fall, a gripping mystery from the author of Big Little Lies

It all starts with the seemingly perfect family: Revered tennis coaches Joy and Stan Delaney (Annette Bening and Sam Neill), a husband and wife who run a famed tennis academy in West Palm Beach, Florida, finally decide to sell their business in anticipation of the golden years of their lives. Instead of embarking on a glorious retirement, however, Joy vanishes into thin air and Stan is acting like nothing is wrong. Now it’s up to their four adult children, Amy (Alison Brie), Troy (Jake Lacy), Brooke (Essie Randles) and Logan (Conor Merrigan Turner), to figure out what happened to their mother, and if she is in danger — or even alive. 

Apples Never Fall on W Network. Pictured: Meet the Delaneys: Annette Bening as Joy, Jake Lacy as Troy and Sam Neill as Stan.

Complicated family relations are the forte of Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty, and Apples Never Fall is no different. Setting her book in the world of tennis adds a new layer to an already juicy mystery. “What’s so powerful about it is, when you’re a family of deeply competitive people raised by deeply competitive people, it’s in the blood and that amps up the mystery,” says showrunner Melanie Marnich. “It amps up what could have been possible, what these people could do to each other in the name of competition and in the name of competing for love. Tennis would give this family a certain stature in that community, and when they get taken down a notch, [it turns out] that stature was very important.”

Apples Never Fall on W Network. Pictured: A pair of police detectives (Jeanine Serralles and Dylan Thuraisingham) are on the case.

The series marks Bening’s first return to television since the HBO film Mrs. Harris in 2005, and her first time as a series lead. The project adds to a banner year for the actress who just received an Oscar nomination for her performance in Netflix film Nyad. “I think there are more and more opportunities where the stereotypes of women, not only older women, but younger women, are being transformed. And it comes from a project like this,” Bening says. “It was really fun for me because I had never done something over so many episodes. As we were working, we were talking and changing, and Melanie established this atmosphere where we were all in it together.”

Apples Never Fall on W Network. Pictured: The Delaney kids (left to right): Troy (Jake Lacy), Brooke (Essie Randles), Amy (Alison Brie) and Logan (Conor Merrigan-Turner).

The sense of intimacy was heightened by the fact that Neill had just made public his blood cancer diagnosis, which the actor said would require treatments for the rest of his life. “He is just a wonderful human being and was sort of energized by the fact that he was working, quite frankly,” says Bening. “We were all in awe of how he carried on. And, like the rest of us, he just wanted to have a good time, you know? He made plans for us all to get together. He’s a friend, and he’s an amazing person.”

Apples Never Fall on W Network. Pictured: Alison Brie as Amy.

Although jovial off-screen, Bening’s on-screen hubby does a brilliant job of raising suspicions on the show. “He’s got that thing,” says Bening, who loved her back and forth with Neill. “Acting is listening, acting is responding. You just give your partner everything and then you don’t have to do anything. When you have somebody like this to be with, you just don’t worry because you just concentrate on them. That made things easy.”

Apples Never Fall on W Network. Pictured: Conor Merrigan-Turner as Logan.

In the seven episodes, each family member is dedicated one hour. For Brie, best known for her roles on Community and GLOW, portraying the black sheep of the Delaney clan was an opportunity to explore a different type of character. “She’s not quite as driven as the archetype of the characters that I’ve normally played,” the actress reflects. “I really liked that she is this open wound and really leads with her emotions. And the writing was extraordinary. I hadn’t read this book before, but knowing that Annette was attached, and Sam Neill, I could picture these amazing actors. The way that Melanie has written the show, I found extremely compelling. Each character really gets to dig deep.”

Apples Never Fall on W Network. Pictured: Essie Randles as Brooke.

Where the cast discovered varying degrees of success was with their tennis skills. “We took extensive tennis lessons through the first month or so of prep, leading up to filming, with remarkable coaches and pros,” explains Lacy. “It was remarkable. They were all incredibly talented and so patient and could make it manageable for those of us who did not play regularly.” Well, maybe less so for Brie. “It was very clear that the Delaney boys were the best at tennis, and I’m not ashamed to say it,” she confesses. “I never figured it out. They said, you know what, you don’t play very much in the show, and we can put a ball in digitally. Why don’t you just learn choreography? And I said yes.”

Apples Never Fall on W Network. Pictured: Jake Lacy as Troy.

Thankfully, real tennis skills aren’t necessary to make this Moriarty mystery compelling. “It was an incredible honour and a joy to watch everybody work together,” says Marnich. “We’re doing post-production right now, talking about music for certain scenes. We’re like, no, we’ve got to keep the music out of the way of the performances. It’s affecting, seeing these virtuosic performers doing something together. It shaped the post process, in [us] saying, ‘Get out of the way,’ because it’s so beautiful to watch.”

Apples Never Fall On W Network. Pictured: Husband-and-wife tennis coaches Stan and Joy Delaney (Sam Neill and Annette Bening) before Joy’s disappearance.

Apples Never Fall premieres on Thursday, March 28 on W Network

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