Can you believe that it has been over 16 years since Desperate Housewives first aired on ABC? For eight ludicrous seasons, fans tuned in every week to see what kind of trouble the ladies of Wisteria Lane would get into next. Yes, it was cheesy at times and, yes, a little outrageous, but critics and fans alike fell in love with Gabrielle, Lynette, Bree, Susan, and Edie.
But as it turns out, the drama didn’t stop just because the cameras stopped rolling. From angered exes writing tell-all memoirs to petty feuds and alleged gender discrimination, the set of Desperate Housewives wasn’t exactly the happiest place on earth. We’re taking a look at some of the most insane behind-the-scenes stories and lesser-known facts from the hit ABC series, Desperate Housewives!
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Teri Hatcher playing the role of hopeless romantic Susan Mayer. However, she wasn’t the only one eager to fill the role before filming started. In fact, it was revealed in the 2006 book Desperate Networks that Seinfeld actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus was after the role, but ABC executives felt that she didn’t fit the part.
Can you imagine JLD sipping wine with the other housewives on Wisteria Lane? I sure can’t. But, hey, it all worked out in the end. Had she been cast as Susan Mayer, we would have never seen her as the Vice President in Veep, which premiered a month before the Desperate Housewives Season Finale.
Marc Cherry, the series’ creator, first came up with the idea for the show while watching news coverage of the Andrea Yates murder trials in the early 2000s. He was intrigued by the way women “lead lives of quiet desperation.” Cherry began writing the script in 2002 and began pitching it to several networks. However, he shopped the pilot around for a while.
In fact, it was passed on by SIX networks! Showtime, Lifetime, CBS, NBC, Fox, and HBO all turned Cherry down, pilot director Charles McDougall told The Telegraph in 2005. Huge mistake. The pilot was not only the most-watched program of the week with 21.3 million viewers, but it won three Emmy Awards.
Everyone is familiar with Mary Alice Young’s narration of the show, but fans may be surprised to hear that wasn’t the name that the show’s creators had in mind. In the original script, Brenda Strong’s character was actually named Mary Alice Scott, but Cherry was forced to change the last name at the last minute.
“We changed Mary Alice Scott to Mary Alice Young because we couldn’t get the name cleared with our lawyers,” Cherry wrote in the 2005 book, Desperate Housewives: Behind Closed Doors. “If over three people in the country have that name, you’re fine, but with anything less than that, they make you use a different name. Apparently, there was one Mary Alice Scott in the country.”
One of the most scandalous plots on the show was also one of the first. Who could forget the secret love affair between Eva Longoria’s Gabrielle Solis and the teenage lawn boy John Rowland played by actor Jesse Metcalfe? Who knew that Metcalfe’s love life was filled with just as much drama?
The actor’s ex-girlfriend (and the winner of Season 16 of The Bachelor), Courtney Robertson, wrote a book detailing her various relationships with Hollywood men, including Entourage’s Adrian Grenier and, of course, Metcalfe. After meeting at a house party in L.A., Robertson says that the two began to date, but it was far from a whirlwind romance given the fact that Metcalfe suffered from substance abuse problems. She also made their bedroom problems very, very public. Ouch.
Desperate Housewives had so much drama that at one point, it was hard to follow who was sleeping with whom, as well as the crazy amount of issues that went on inside each household. This is why producers felt that the series needed one family that was somewhat stable: the Scavos. However, many fans would be surprised to learn that this wasn’t the producers’ original plan.
In the original script, Tom was supposed to cheat on Lynette in Season One. But at the last minute, producers changed their minds and gave the Scavoses a beautiful storyline. It was a good idea, too, especially since Huffman won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in 2005, among several other awards.
With the perfectly manicured lawns, white picket fences, and beautiful houses, Wisteria Lane was one of the most stunning streets on television. Many fans would be surprised that not only were these homes not functional, but they were used in several other famous shows or movies. Wisteria Lane is actually Colonial Street, a back-lot set street at Universal Studios.
Susan’s home was seen in The New Lassie and The Hardy Boys. Gabrielle’s was in Harvey and Lady Killers. Bree’s home was in The Burbs, and Mary Alice’s was in a Leave it to Beaver movie. “When you open a door on Wisteria Lane, you really are opening a door into the soul of the characters who live there,” Thomas Walsh, the show’s set designer, said.
Actor Neal McDonough has one of those faces that makes you think, “where do I know him from?” The answer is all over the place. The actor has appeared on several shows, such as the Band of Brothers, Suits, Justified, and of course, in Season 5 of Desperate Housewives. He played Dave Williams, the sinister motivational speaker husband of Edie Britt.
In real life, McDonough is a devout Catholic, so committed to his religion that he refuses to film bedroom scenes. While Cherry took his requests seriously, not all shows were as understanding. After leaving Desperate Housewives, McDonough joined the cast of Scoundrels but was soon fired after voicing his opposition to filming a sex scene with his co-star Virginia Madsen.
Marcia Cross’ character was based on a real person: Cherry’s mother. In fact, the entire Van De Kamp family is based on Cherry’s family. While Cross was praised for her portrayal of the perfectionist homemaker, originally, she didn’t want the part. In fact, Cross originally auditioned for the part of Mary Alice Young, but Cherry thought that her acting was better suited for the role of Bree.
She also wasn’t Cherry’s first choice. Actress Dana Delany, who eventually joined the show as Katherine Mayfair, was originally chosen to play Bree. However, she turned down the role because it was too similar to her role in the soap opera Pasadena. Another interesting fact is that although Bree was the only housewife to never be pregnant, Cross was pregnant throughout Season 3.
The first time we learned the cast wasn’t one big happy family was back in 2005 when the show’s five leading ladies graced the cover of Vanity Fair. Although the poolside snap was gorgeous, fans were surprised to see the bold headline that read, “You Won’t Believe What It Took Just to Get This Photo!”
In the magazine, journalist Ned Zeman wrote that the photo shoot was quite the experience. For starters, it was monitored by an unnamed ABC representative to ensure that certain demands were met. “Whatever you do,” the ABC rep said when he arrived, “do not let Teri go-to wardrobe first.” He also barred Hatcher from being in the center of any group photo.
Despite the rep’s requests, Hatcher was still the first to go into wardrobe and apparently consulted with the shoot’s stylist days in advance. “This is a problem,” the rep warned. “I’m getting text messages from Eva. Everything is not fine.” Once the shoot’s creative director got all the ladies onto the set, Hatcher was placed next to Marcia Cross in the center of the shot.
This enraged Cross, who stormed off the set, screaming, “do your [expletive] job!” Hatcher then ran off the set, grabbed her cell phone, and reportedly went to cry. The end result was Nicollette Sheridan in the center, with Hatcher and Cross on either side and Eva Longoria and Felicity Huffman at the bottom front.
To add more fuel to the fire, Huffman and Cross weren’t visible when the fold-out cover was closed. ABS and Touchstone Television released a statement in response, calling the events at the photoshoot “one isolated incident.” They added that negotiating certain elements of photoshoots, like who stands next to whom, is standard practice.
The photoshoot simply caught everyone on a bad day and therefore didn’t go as planned. “Because of this, our talent were made to deal as best they could with a situation, not of their making,” the statement continued. “This one isolated incident does not define these women or their relationship.” While fans may have bought this in the beginning, more details of the cast members’ behind-the-screen antics began to emerge.
After Sheridan was killed off the series in 2009, she filed a $20 million dollar lawsuit against Cherry and ABC. The actress accused Cherry of striking her on the head during a rehearsal in 2008 and being fired by ABS after reporting the alleged abuse.
Cherry later said that the alleged assault was merely a tap on the head with his fingers, which he did to show her how to act out a certain scene. It was a classic he said, she said scenario that caught the attention of audiences across the globe. To make matters worse, The Daily Beast eventually wrote that infamous article detailing the tensions between Cherry and other people on set.
Several unnamed sources came forward to detail the difficult work environment Cherry creates on set. “He will assault an idea,” one former staffer said. “He is very confrontational in this way. He has hissy fits.” A different source said that “He hates women.” But while several people came forward with their own stories about Cherry, others came to his defense.
“Marc has a very clear vision of what he wants,” Cherry’s former colleague said. “He’s not a saint, but he’s not a monster.” In a 2010 article by the Daily Beast, sources said that Cherry had a tumultuous relationship with Hatcher and Sheridan, who were both considered the most outspoken members of the cast.
The series’ creator testified that he apologized to Sheridan for tapping her on the head, but when she requested a second apology with a bouquet of flowers, that’s where Cherry drew the line. “I had upset her, and I don’t like upsetting my actresses,” Cherry said in court. “But when George [Perkins, the executive producer] informed me that now she wanted flowers, I said, ‘No, that’s saying something more,’ so I declined.”
Sources say that this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Relations between the two had been rocky for a while, and according to The Daily Beast, Cherry wanted to write off Sheridan’s character long before she was killed off in Season 5. But after this incident, the actress’ departure was moved up from the Season Finale to episode 18.
During the testimony, it was revealed that Sheridan had been the last person to learn that her character was going to be killed off in Season 5. Several network executives, including former ABC Studios president Mark Pedowitz and former ABC president Steve McPherson, testified about meeting in which the series’ storyline was discussed.
When the cast and crew celebrated the series’ 100th episode, Cherry proudly announced that ABC had renewed the show for another two seasons. He then revealed his plans to kill off Sheridan to Huffman and Longoria, but only after the two ladies told him that Sheridan wanted to negotiate their new contract as a group. Until this day, Cherry claims that he killed Sheridan off because her character’s storyline was running stale, not because she was a diva.
Although the case was eventually thrown out of court, the allegations tainted his squeaky-clean image. On the outside, Cherry was a jolly and witty guy who had struck Hollywood gold at the age of 42. He had been a struggling writer living with his mother up until Desperate Housewives was picked up. Cherry was a true rags-to-riches story, and fans ate it up.
“When you hear him speak at the Writers Guild, he’s super smart and charming, and you’re like, ‘No way is this guy a jerk,’” an anonymous source told The Daily Beast in 2010. So, why was Cherry allegedly such a menace on set? Apparently, when Cherry went off to do publicity for the show during its second season, ratings sank. This apparently jolted Cherry, who has been a hands-on perfectionist ever since.
Apparently, Sheridan wasn’t the only one who was hard to work with. “All of the women lived in their own little worlds,” a source told E! News in 2012. “Eva Longoria was the friendliest, but they could all be rude.” Cross and Hatcher were also divas on set, with Cross running to her trailer for more makeup any chance she got, and Hatcher acting cold to anyone who crossed her path.
According to one source, Hatcher caused a huge fiasco when her then-pregnant character Susan had to scarf down a stack of pancakes. She refused to eat carbs and allegedly demanded to eat blueberries instead. This led to a showdown with Cherry, who eventually gave in.
The drama on set wasn’t just among the actresses. Apparently, there was a sense of gender discrimination amongst the writers. According to The Daily Beast, only 14 out of 39 writer-producers were women, and their time spent working on Desperate Housewives was short-lived.
The publication also said that female writers were kept out of the writer’s “polishing room,” and when storylines involved women’s body issues, like pregnancy, menopause, and aging, their input was not valid. Apparently, Cherry only listened to his male writers because, hey, who knows a woman better than a man? It makes sense that most of the writers were men, given the fact that the show has been criticized for its overly sexualized stereotypes.
When Desperate Housewives wrapped after eight seasons in 2012, the entire cast presented the crew with a parting gift. Well, not the entire cast. While newcomer Vanessa Williams’ name was on the card, Hatcher’s was not.
“Just know that on all your future adventures, you are carrying a little piece of our love and gratitude. Thank you for a magical 8 years. Love, Eva, Marcia, Felicity and Vanessa,” the card said. Ouch. I guess we will never know if it was Hatcher who refused to participate in the gift or if the ladies “forgot” to tell Hatcher about the card. However, one thing is clear: Relations between Hatcher and the other leading ladies were pretty tense.
Sheridan has been romantically linked to some of the cheesiest names of the ‘80s and ‘90s, including singers Leif Garrett and Michael Bolton, and actors Scott Baio and Harry Hamlin. The least famous of her ex-boyfriends is Nicklas Söderblom, a Swedish personal trainer who wrote a tell-all book about his relationship with Sheridan.
According to Soderblom, Sheridan approached him in 2003 at a coffee shop. He proposed a year later. However, shortly after the proposal, Soderblom said that things started to go awry. He says that Sheridan had a short temper and wouldn’t let him sleep in her room. These and several other claims were the reasons why Soderblom claims the relationship deteriorated.
In 2019, the FBI revealed a huge plot by wealthy businessmen and Hollywood stars to get their kids into the country’s top universities via shady and, of course, illegal. A number of prominent people were arrested, including Lori Loughlin from Full house and Desperate Housewives’ Felicity Huffman. The actress paid an SAT proctor $15,000 to change the answers on her daughter Sofia’s test.
Huffman was arrested and charged, while her husband William Macy was not. The actress pleaded guilty and served two weeks in prison. She was fined $30,000 and required to complete 250 hours of community service. She also received one year of supervised release, which ended on October 25, 2020.
Drama from the Desperate Housewives set was so bad that it seeped into Huffman’s sentencing hearing. A few of Huffman’s friends wrote letters defending the actress’ character, including her co-star Eva Longoria. In the letter, Longoria revealed that as a newcomer to the industry, she was bullied on the set of the show.
“There was a time I was being bullied at work by a co-worker,” the actress wrote, careful not to name names. “I dreaded the days I had to work with that person because it was pure torture. Until one day, Felicity told the bully ‘enough,’ and it all stopped.” Longoria also added that although she was filled with anxiety, she never mentioned the bullying to anyone.
Longoria wasn’t the only one to write about a “problematic cast member.” In his letter for Huffman’s sentencing hearing, Cherry mentioned an actor with “big behavioral problems” that made it nearly impossible for the cast to get along. He also said that the actress in question decided that she was only going to speak with the directors and not to her fellow cast members.
He went on to call this behavior “alternately maddening and hilarious.” However, Huffman did give in to the bully’s demands. According to Cherry, Huffman still said “good morning” to this person, even though she knew that she wouldn’t get a response. “Just because that woman’s determined to be rude doesn’t mean she can keep me from being polite,” Huffman allegedly told Cherry about the situation.
The series wrapped in 2012, and it seems that Hatcher’s career disappeared with it. During the peak of Desperate Housewives, Hatcher was raking in $325,000 per episode, and her face was splashed across the cover of almost every tabloid. The Hollywood “It” girl was also walking down red carpets on the regular, but now no one seems to know what she’s been up to.
Today, Hatcher has her own YouTube channel, where she shares videos about everything from how to cook her favorite dishes to offering travel advice. Although her channel has 14,000 subscribers, it’s a long way from where she was ten years ago. According to IMDB, Hatcher doesn’t have any pending projects. I guess that’s what happens when you’re not nice to your co-workers.
While many people believe that Longoria was an “overnight sensation,” she wasn’t as new to the industry as people thought. In fact, she had been working as an actress for years before she landed the role of Gabrielle Solis. Longoria guest-starred in Beverly Hills 90210 and General Hospital before landing the role of Isabella Brana on The Young and the Restless.
Since Desperate Housewives ended, Longoria has kept herself busy. In 2013, the actress served as an executive producer on Devious Maids, which was also created by Marc Cherry. She has also directed episodes of the ABC comedy Black-ish, The Mick, and Jane the Virgin. After her highly publicized divorce from Tony Parker, Longoria found lasting love with Mexican businessman José Bastón.
Before landing the role of Bree Van de Kamp, Cross already had quite the resume. The actress played Dr. Kimberly Shaw in the Fox soap opera Melrose Place, but she left after the fifth season. She also appeared on several sitcoms such as Boy Meets World, Seinfeld, Ally McBeal, and The King of Queens.
In 2019, Cross revealed that she had been secretly battling anal cancer, which is currently in remission. “I know there are people who are ashamed,” the actress said in an interview with CBS This Morning. “You have cancer! You have to then also feel ashamed? Like you did something bad, you know because it took residence in your anus?” Cross hopes that by sharing her story, she can destigmatize the cancer.
Sheridan began her career as a model, appearing in Vogue and the cover of Cosmopolitan. It wasn’t until she landed a role on the short-lived ABC soap opera, Paper Dolls, did Sheridan begin her acting career. She also starred in Knots Landing until it was canceled in 1993.
After getting killed off of Desperate Housewives, Sheridan joined the Dynasty reboot. “I was a big fan of Nicollette from way back when. She wanted it, and she will be great in it,” Mark Pedowitz, the president of the CW, said. However, in 2019 the actress announced that she would be leaving the show so she could focus on “some personal family responsibilities.”
Before Desperate Housewives, Strong made several guest appearances on shows like Seinfeld, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Blossom. However, she is best known for her role on Desperate Housewives as Mary Alice Young, who narrates the show. Her narration earned her two Emmy Award nominations.
After the show, Strong landed roles in shows like Blood Relatives, Dallas, 13 Reasons Why, and Supergirl. Apart from acting, Strong works as a fertility expert and yoga instructor. She has also taught at the Mind/Body Institute at UCLA. The actress is currently married to her second husband, director-actor John Farmanesh-Bocca. She has one child from her previous marriage to Tom Henri, a son named Zakery.
These days it seems that people can only remember Huffman for her participation in the college admissions scandal, but Huffman is so much more than that. After making guest appearances, Huffman finally landed the role of Dana Whitaker on the show Sports Night, where she won several awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Actress.
After Desperate Housewives, it was important for Huffman to take a role that was the complete opposite of Lynette Scavo. In 2013, she landed the lead role in the Fox pilot Boomerang, which was, unfortunately, not picked up by the network. The following year, she was cast as the lead in the pilot American Crime, which was luckily picked up by the network.