For seven years, the Universal Studios lot has been home to Wisteria Lane, the notorious street where all the Desperate Housewives live. Earlier this summer, ABC announced that the upcoming eighth season will be the show’s last. Wisteria Lane has one year left in our neighborhood, and many of the show’s stars came out to celebrate one last hurrah with the Television Critics Association over the summer.
Marcia Cross is actually the only desperate housewife I had not yet met. As an entertainment journalist, I’d met Felicity Huffman and Eva Longoria for movies, and Teri Hatcher for other Housewives events. I was a little starstruck by the graceful red haired goddess of Sunday night television.
If you’ve followed the drama of Bree Van De Kamp, Bree Hodge and single mom Bree, you probably can’t imagine how they’ll top what she’s already been through. Cross sort of can’t either, as she anticipated going back to work. She sat at a table in the ballroom of the Beverly Hilton hotel, holding court in an elegant black gown, lighting up a room filled with other TV stars. Desperate Housewives returns for its final season this Sunday on ABC. Come back Wednesday and Thursday for interviews with two more of the cast members.
PATCH: What has going to work on the historic Universal Studios lot meant to you all these years?
MARCIA CROSS: Driving onto that lot, there has not been a day, no matter how tired I am that I don’t feel so grateful that I’m at home there. That the gate goes open, that I wave to the guard, that I drive on this place with incredible history, I have so much gratitude for that. I always got such joy and sense of the privilege that I had this great job, that I was driving onto the lot, that I belonged there. That is something you don't have all that often in a lifetime and I really have very much cherished that.
PATCH: What were your favorite places to go outside of the studios, around Studio City?
CROSS: There's only one place I ever make it to. And if I have twenty minutes I go down to Peet's. And then I turn around and go back. I don't ever have time to hang out. It's been a heavy work duty.
PATCH: How would you like to see Bree's storyline wrap up? What would you like to see happen this last year for her?
CROSS: Well, I didn't want to say too much because I'd like to pitch a few ideas to Marc [Cherry]. Although I'm sure he's already figured it out. But the other thing is I definitely want to see all my men again. I've had a lot men. There's a lot of fabulous men. I want them to come back. Everyone. There's just so many of them. Steven Culp to Kyle and Brian Austin Green and Roger Bart and I'm probably missing people, but I've had a lot of fellas.
PATCH: What was your favorite moment from the show over the years?
CROSS: Oh, I don't know if I could say my favorite right now. I'd really have to think about that because I've had some incredibly wonderful things to do.
PATCH: Have you been on Bree's side the whole time? Or were there any decisions ever where you thought, “Oh, boy. She shouldn't do that?”
CROSS: Are you kidding? I've been on my knees in front of Marc Cherry going, “No. Please don't make me do that.” And he would say, “No, do it for me. Please. I know. Just do it.” And he was always right, which is the thing.
PATCH: Are some of those the things fans might have said, “No, don't do that, Bree?”
CROSS: No, because I was always wrong. My instincts are always wrong. And he was always right.
PATCH: Like the first time Rex almost died and she just said, “I felt badly about that.”
CROSS: And things like that. It's just who she is.
PATCH: How did you first find out the show was ending, and how are your costars taking the news?
CROSS: I just found out. I texted Felicity [Huffman] about coming tonight assuming she'd already known, and she didn't know yet. So she found out through my text. I had no idea. But I had said to the girls earlier, I said, “They're making an announcement. You don't make an announcement unless there's something to announce.” But I don’t know. Everybody seemed to be in a little more denial and I felt pretty clear, like let's be ready because it's coming. And also that it was a good thing, that it felt right. It's hard to say it and when I say that I think of the whole crew, because those are the people you don't see that we're all very attached to and grateful to and who will all have to go find new jobs.
PATCH: Have you have formed a couple of very strong friendships that will last a long time on this show?
CROSS: Oh, yeah. Many, many, many. My hair and makeup girls. I think of them some days, like I'm in a boxing ring and I'm tired and they get me going and they get me back out there and they've supported me through this entire thing. Obviously the actresses, it goes without saying, that we are so bonded and connected. I couldn't have more love and respect for them. I mean, we're the only ones who really have been through the journey together.
PATCH: This show's going to be celebrated every few years at big awards shows. People are going to want to see you guys reunite. You guys will still be together for the rest of your careers, I would imagine.
CROSS: Yeah, that's true, I suppose. Well, I hope I'm Betty White then.
PATCH: Do you think you'll jump into another show right away?
CROSS: I don't think so. I mean, I think there's a cycle that goes on. There's a reason for it. Unless there was a role that was completely a chameleon where I was just almost unrecognizable, I just feel like what the culture is is people come forward and they rise and they shine. And then you kind of ebb for a little while. And I think that's okay.
PATCH: Is there a mommying duty that you are excited to really devote yourself to once you’re off work?
CROSS: You know what I think I'll do is the minute that we sort of wrap I'll become like hands-on mom at school because I know I won't want to do it forever. I'll want to put in that transitional year that they'll be going into kindergarten. So I'll be like, “Here I am.” Because then I'm sure I'll get the itch. Actually the thing that I've given up is not my time with my kids, it's my time with my friends. So I've put all my time into my show and my children and my husband. So the thing that I really miss, it’s going to be eight years, are seeing my friends. They didn't fall away. They're not gone. But I just haven't been able to see them or enjoy that part of my life.
PATCH: Ironic for a show that celebrates female friendships.
CROSS: Ironic. And I miss it. So that'll be the focus for me.
PATCH: Do you think you learned from the show what not to do with your female friends?
CROSS: Don't kill people. I'll tell you that.
PATCH: Do fans ever come up to you and tell you you’re their favorite?
CROSS: Yes, but I’m sure they come up to other people and say the same thing.
PATCH: I’m sure too but how touching is that?
CROSS: I always am very touched and surprised. I’ve always been surprised but yeah, it’s a really wonderful thing. Even if I’m not their favorite, the fact that they watch the show and they love the show still makes me happy.
PATCH: After a busy day, what’s the craziest thing you do to [unwind]?
CROSS: Walk in the door and my two girls come running to me and screaming my name and “Mama, mama, mama” and hug me and I’m just like [relaxed].”
PATCH: Have they done anything funny recently?
CROSS: Now they can speak and they say about tonight, they want to know where I’m going and “Don’t go mama” and “When are you going to be home?” I try to explain a little bit now, mama’s show’s ending, they’re going to ask the questions. They’re going to ask hysterical questions: What’s several? How many is several?
PATCH: What has it been like to play Bree coming out of her shell? Did you ever worry it would always be that veneer she had the first season?
CROSS: I didn’t really know but I did know that I didn’t want to play her unless I could make it interesting, that there had to be something underneath and a place to go from there. Luckily I got all that.
PATCH: What is the legacy of the series?
CROSS: The thing that makes me the happiest is just knowing that people have gotten all this joy and entertainment out of it. The only way I know how it really feels is there are times when I’ll watch another show, which I haven’t really done much in seven years I have to admit because I’ve had no time. When I watch something else I understand and go, “Oh, that’s how I feel. They got that gift from us. They got to laugh, they got to be a part of something.” I do think that’s where entertainment is a gift. We create a world where people get to enjoy it and laugh about it and cry about it. I’m grateful for that world.
PATCH: How do you picture Bree ending up?
CROSS: Well, I hope it’s something that I couldn’t dream up because Marc is always better at that than I’ve ever been. He just knows how to spin things. She’s definitely come a long way so I’ll be curious to see what he has in mind.
PATCH: What can we expect from the first episode on Sept. 25?
CROSS: In some ways darker than the real ending. Wat I got to do which is pretty heavy and the four of us more actually seem to be on the same page about dealing with that situation.
PATCH: Do you want a happy ending or something more open ended?
CROSS: I don’t know happy or not happy but I do think open ended in the sense that these people’s lives go on. I hope we’re not all dead. I hope it’s something where you think, “Huh, where is that person 10 years from now?”
PATCH: Would you do a Desperate Housewives movie?
CROSS: We’ll worry about that down the road.