Things You Didn't Know About Desperate Housewives
Though it's been off the air for a decade now, Desperate Housewives is still a show that manages to entertain and shock viewers with its drama-filled storylines about the lives of rich housewives living on Wisteria Lane. The suburbs might sound boring, but this show proved that they’re anything but! Their antics were way better than anything your crazy neighbors could come up with!
There was a ton of drama and intrigue to be found in the episodes of Desperate Housewives, but there was much more drama and intrigue going on behind the scenes that you didn’t get to see! Though they may have come together to create an amazing and captivating show, the cast and crew had their fair share of difficulties, injuries, and big personalities when the cameras stopped rolling. Making this was definitely no walk in the park.
Today, we’re taking a look at all the shocks and secrets that took place behind the scenes of Desperate Housewives. Which lead actress gave everyone trouble? Why did one actor refuse to play his part? Who almost got killed off because of bad behavior? We’re answering all those questions and more as we break down all the things you didn’t know about Desperate Housewives.
Let’s get started!
Bree is based on Marc Cherry's mother.
Bree Van de Kamp is a character that’s almost too outrageous to be a real person. There’s not a neurotic in the world who is more tightly wound, highly driven, and picture-perfect than she is! However, as strange as it seems, Van de Kamp was actually (loosely) based on a real-life person.
Bree was the work of series creator Marc Cherry, who based the unusual character on someone very special in his life—his mother. In fact, the entire premise of the show was based on her time living in the suburbs and how trapped and desperate she felt there.
Multiple cast members were injured on set.
Desperate Housewives is a TV show with a major body count. No matter which season you choose to watch, you’re sure to find plenty of characters getting killed off, or maimed, at the very least. However, it wasn’t all TV magic—there were some real-life injuries that occurred on set too.
In one famous scene, Susan Mayer (played by Terri Hatcher) takes an embarrassing tumble into a wedding cake. Unfortunately, Hatcher actually broke two ribs while filming the shot. Additionally, Eva Longoria had multiple accidents on set, including a head injury that actually sent her to the hospital!
Several scenes were too racy for TV.
It’s clear that the writers and producers of Desperate Housewives wanted to amp up the sexiness factor as much as they could without actually ever crossing the line into full-blown smut. This show had to air on a major TV network after all! And sometimes, things got a little too hot for TV.
Several scenes in multiple seasons of the show were filmed but never actually made it to air. In particular, in season five characters Mike Delfino and Katherine Mayfair had several love scenes that were ultimately cut. The reason? The chemistry between the two actors was just too realistic for comfort.
Felicity Huffman almost refused to audition for her role.
Felicity Huffman became a superstar of the TV world for her beloved portrayal of Lynette Scavo on Desperate Housewives. It was a part so perfect for her that she may as well have been born for it. However, Huffman had a bit of misplaced pride in her acting abilities that almost cost her this role of a lifetime.
After learning about the role, Huffman knew that this would be the perfect match for her…to the point where she almost refused to audition for it, thinking it should just be given to her. Thankfully, she finally broke down and did the audition, and the producers loved what they saw.
Lynette and Tom Scavo were written to be relatable to viewers.
There’s really no character on the show who isn’t a bit of a basket case. You couldn’t pay us enough to settle down on Wisteria Lane with these nut jobs! However, some characters on the show were more relatable than others to audiences. In particular, viewers seemed to gravitate toward Lynette and Tom Scavo.
And this was no coincidence! Realizing that the show was so dizzyingly drama-packed, the writers wanted at least one family on Desperate Housewives who had some true sense of stability and love. Despite the fact that Tom was originally planned to cheat on Lynette, they scrapped this idea in favor of making the couple a rock in the midst of all this chaos.
The show was originally a 30-minute comedy.
Like most television shows, Desperate Housewives underwent some major revisions before actually making it to air. There’s always some TV executive who wants to tinker around with things! While the premise of the show stayed mostly the same through development, the style and vibe of Desperate Housewives were almost drastically different.
The Desperate Housewives that people now know and love is an hour-long drama series. However, early in development, Marc Cherry wanted the show to be a 30-minute comedy. While the finished show had its moments of dark humor, it’s crazy to think that this show full of deception and violence was almost a shortened laugh-fest!
Nicollette Sheridan sued when her character was killed off.
The death of Edie Britt in season five of the show was a major shock for viewers, who had come to love her since her appearance in the pilot episode. While some thought this may have been a creative decision for the show, that was far from what really happened behind the scenes.
In reality, Nicollette Sheridan, who portrayed Edie, was actually fired by Marc Cherry. This ultimately led Sheridan to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against Cherry, but she had no luck with it. The case was dismissed by a judge who determined that Sheridan had not actually been wrongfully terminated.
The exterior sets were used in several famous TV shows.
The exterior sets for Wisteria Lane are so beautiful and picture-perfect that you’d almost think you were watching The Stepford Wives instead! While that’s not the case, the show did share its sets with some very classic TV shows…including one you probably would never have suspected!
Despite the show airing in the 2000s, the exterior sets for Desperate Housewives were actually constructed all the way back in 1942. During its lifetime, the set was used for famous, classic TV shows like Leave it to Beaver and The Munsters. That last one sounds pretty odd, but we think that Lily Munster would have livened up Wisteria Lane!
The pilot episode had record-breaking numbers.
Some TV shows struggle in their early seasons. It sometimes takes episodes for the show to really find its groove and its voice. However, that was not the case at all for Desperate Housewives—it was a runaway success from the moment it aired. Numbers don’t lie, and the numbers were looking real good!
The pilot episode alone broke TV records, with a staggering 21.3 million viewers. But the amazing ratings didn’t stop there! The season finale for season one topped 30 million viewers on its first airing, making it the most-watched episode of the season. Plus, an eight-season run is nothing to be ashamed of!
Tom and Lynette are friends in real life.
Tom and Lynette are a couple with great chemistry. While everyone else in the show is always falling into chaos and misery, these two manage to keep it together and love each other through life's ups and downs. And considering that the actors are close in real life, this comes as no surprise.
While never romantically involved, actors Felicity Huffman and Doug Savant were real-life friends. Considering how much drama went on behind the scenes, it was probably smart to have a buddy on set! During one round of contract negotiations, Huffman even offered to take a pay cut so that Savant could be paid more.
Eva Longoria was the first person cast on the show.
During the casting process for the show, Gabrielle Solis (played by Eva Longoria) was the first of the housewives to move onto Wisteria Lane. It’s clear that producers knew what they wanted right from the start because she’s also one character whose personality and premise stayed largely the same through development.
Gabrielle is a character who feels neglected by her husband and so seeks out the attention of other men elsewhere. She was also created to be a little mean and unlikeable, but it’s hard to hate Eva Longoria even when she’s playing a heartless adultress! She quickly became a fan favorite despite all her major character flaws.
The show went through multiple name changes.
Like most shows, Desperate Housewives went through some major changes during development. For a while, the show wasn’t even called Desperate Housewives! The producers definitely picked a perfect name for the show, but honestly, some of their other options weren’t half bad. We’re still glad they picked what they picked, though!
During development, they toyed around with several other titles for the show, including The Secret Lives of Housewives and The Secrets of Wisteria Lane. Neither are as snappy and memorable as Desperate Housewives, but we’ve heard worse ideas for TV show titles!
Pretty much everyone hated Terri Hatcher.
Even if you never watched an episode of Desperate Housewives, there’s one bit of show trivia you probably already know—almost everyone on set hated working with Terri Hatcher. Some claim it was jealousy that Hatcher’s character became a breakout star, but come on…if EVERYONE hates you, there’s probably some truth about your nightmare behavior.
One of the most memorable times this drama came to light was when the main cast was featured on the cover of Vanity Fair. The picture was captioned “You Won’t Believe What It Took Just to Get This Photo!” which speaks volumes. Hatcher was apparently so unbearable at the photoshoot that other cast members threatened to leave it entirely.
Susan was almost killed off in season five.
It was a poorly kept secret that Terri Hatcher was difficult to work with on the set of Desperate Housewives. But things were so tense and unpleasant with the actress that the show almost did away with her entirely. As insane as it might seem to fans of the show, Susan Mayer was almost killed off in season five!
This plan was so seriously considered that the show had the setup for her death all arranged. In that season, Susan and Mike kill a woman and her child in a car accident, and the woman’s grieving widow moves onto Wisteria Lane. It would have been very easy for the writers to have him get his revenge by killing Susan and/or Mike.
52 characters were killed off during the series.
Desperate Housewives was billed as a “drama/mystery”, but in reality, the show was undeniably a primetime soap opera, complete with all the over-the-top anticts that come with that. And, like every good soap opera, a lot of that drama came from the constant maiming and killing of characters.
Despite just running for eight seasons, the show ended up killing off a total of 52 characters! How are the streets of Wisteria Lane not running red with the blood of the slaughtered? And this violence and mayhem weren’t always restricted to minor characters—we’ll never forgive them for killing off Edie!
Neal McDonough refused to do any sex scenes.
Things get pretty hot and heavy on Desperate Housewives on a regular basis. While it made for tantalizing TV, not everyone on the cast was thrilled that the show was so focused on sex. One actor was opposed to it so much that he actually refused to be a part of any racy scenes!
Dave Williams first appears on the show in season five as the grieving widow who eventually marries Edie Britt. The character was portrayed by Neal McDonough who, because of his Catholic beliefs, refused to do any sex scenes with his on-screen wife. He was fine with shots of them in bed, but anything more than talking was off-limits for the Christian actor.
James Denton was glad his character was killed off.
Most actors aren’t thrilled when their TV character gets killed off—the dead don’t get paychecks, after all! However, there was one death on Wisteria Lane that was a welcome sight for the actor who portrayed him. As awful as it was for fans, James Denton, who played Mike Delfino, was thrilled that his character got the axe in the final season.
In an interview after the shocking episode was aired, Denton said, “I said I think it would be great to go out with, I don’t want to say with a bang, but with a good send off…And also the producer had to pay me anyway so it worked out great for me.”
Eva Longoria, Marcia Cross, and Felicity Huffman were friends in real life.
While everyone seemed to have problems with Terri Hatcher, the other three women who made up the main cast of the show actually became friends thanks to all their time together on set. In particular, Eva Longoria seemed to rely on her castmates when there was trouble in her real life.
When she was in the midst of a divorce from her husband, Longoria said that Felicity Huffman in particular was a source of comfort for the actress. An insider familiar with the situation said, “Felicity was really supportive of her and really helped her through a hard time.”
The cast and crew threw wild parties together.
It seems like there isn’t an episode of Desperate Housewives that goes by without someone throwing some lavish and beautiful party. It’s clear that Wisteria Lane loves a good shindig. And, as it turns out, the actors and crew were particularly fond of partying hard themselves!
According to set insiders, there was plenty of fun and revelry that went on between cast and crew when the cameras stopped rolling. In particular, Desperate Housewives actress Dana Delany said that Marc Cherry himself threw the best parties: “Marc is a great entertainer. He has crazy, good parties at his house!”
Bree and Katherine were almost a couple.
Katherine Mayfair (played by Dana Delany) is a late arrival to Wisteria Lane, first showing up in season four of the series. However, she quickly develops a deep friendship with Bree, and the two eventually become business partners. However, there was at one point much more in store for these two ladies!
Although Bree and Catherine eventually go their separate ways during the series, writers toyed with the idea of making them a couple, something that Delany was all on board for. She said, “I really thought that Bree and Katherine should be together. I really did…I think it would have worked.”
Julia Louis-Dreyfus wanted the role of Susan.
While Desperate Housewives definitely has its fair share of laughs, it’s by no means a comedy show—and with 52 deaths across the entire series, it’s probably a good thing that the show didn’t lean in heavily on the comedic angle! However, there was one funny woman who was vying for a home on Wisteria Lane.
As bizarre as this casting choice would have been, Julia Louis-Dreyfus had her heart set on the role of Susan Mayer. Unfortunately, executives didn’t think she was right for the show and passed on her. However, she wouldn’t be down on her luck for long because she was cast as the lead in the award-winning comedy Veep shortly afterward.
Six networks passed on Marc Cherry's pilot.
From the moment the pilot episode aired, Desperate Housewives had killer ratings. With numbers that good in the early days, networks must have been chomping at the bit to bring this hit to air, right? Actually, that wasn’t the case, and show creator Marc Cherry got pretty desperate himself to find the show a good home.
Before eventually being aired on ABC, Cherry shopped the show around to six other networks in an attempt to land a deal. He got nos from big names like NBC, Fox, CBS, Showtime, HBO, and even Lifetime! Once the show became a runaway success, we bet those stations were really kicking themselves.
The show's narrator got a name change for legal reasons.
Mary Alice Young is the most unusual housewife on Wisteria Lane in that she’s dead for the entire series. In fact, it's her suicide that originally kicks off the pilot episode. However, she’s with us every episode, narrating the crazy events on Wisteria Lane from the great beyond.
Before the show aired, she was known as Mary Alice Scott, but the show’s legal team told them that this was a no-go. Apparently, a character can only have a name that’s held by at least three people in the country. The legal team could only find one Mary Alice Scott in the United States, and so the name had to be tweaked.
Jesse Metcalfe got his big break on the show.
These days, Jesse Metcalfe is known for numerous roles, including the film John Tucker Must Die, the Hallmark series Chesapeake Stories, and even Dancing with the Stars. However, before his work on Desperate Housewives, he was nowhere near a household name. This show was the big break he needed to get his career started.
Before Desperate Housewives, Metcalfe had done some work on the soap opera Passions, which prepared him well for such a drama-filled show. In the early seasons, he played John Rowland, a teenage landscaper who begins an affair with Gaby Solis (played by Eva Longoria).
The show had to work around Marcia Cross's pregnancy.
Go back and rewatch season three of the show and tell us if you notice anything unusual. There are no full-body shots of Bree to be found, and she quickly leaves mid-season. But this was no camera error—it was actually done to hide the fact that actress Marcia Cross was pregnant at the time.
Disguising a real-life pregnancy is nothing new for TV shows who don’t want an actress's character to also be pregnant. However, the show took things even further and actually filmed Bree’s scenes in Cross’s home when her doctor put her on bed rest. That’s dedication! Thankfully, they didn’t write her out of the show entirely and she returned baby bump-free to season four.
The show had more than 30 guest stars during its run.
Desperate Housewives became such a sensation that it’s no surprise that more than 30 guest celebrities appeared on the show during its run. Some stars, like Heidi Klum, played themselves in the fictional world of Wisteria Lane, and some appeared in guest spots on the show before they became famous themselves!
While names like Jane Lynch and Chloe Grace Moretz might sound familiar today, they were no-name actors when they got the chance to appear on the show. Other big names you might recognize include Laurie Metcalf, Lily Tomlin, and even Carol Burnett!
Almost every episode title is related to Stephen Sondheim.
Stephen Sondheim was a world-renowned composer and lyricist who was responsible for some of Broadway’s biggest and best hits, including Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. It’s very clear that someone at Desperate Housewives was a major fan of his!
With the exception of only a few, almost every episode title on the show is based on the title of or lyrics from one of Sondheim’s songs. The whole cast and crew may very well have been huge Sondheim fans because Vanessa Williams apparently sang “Send in the Clowns” and the end of the show’s wrap party.
Season four had fewer episodes because of a writers' strike.
Most seasons of Desperate Housewives have roughly 24 episodes. Except for season four—it was the runt of the litter. This season of the show had to be shortened for reasons beyond the show’s control: the Writers Guild of America’s 2007 strike. Instead of a full 24, this season contains only 17 episodes.
The striking writers seem to have had some friends on the cast and crew of the show, too. Series creator Marc Cherry was named the lead negotiator for the WGA, and actress Eva Longoria apparently provided food to the protesting writers. Thankfully, the strike was resolved and things went back to normal on Wisteria Lane.
The show may have inspired another famous TV series.
There are lots of fans of this drama-filled and intriguing show, but the show's biggest fans seem to be the ladies of the Real Housewives reality series. In fact, some of the Real Housewives think that they wouldn’t be on TV if it weren’t for the show…which suddenly makes me less fond of Desperate Housewives for some reason.
Gretchen Rossi, who appears on the Real Housewives of Orange County, had nothing but high praise for the show and its creator, saying, “I'm a huge fan. It inspired the Real Housewives franchise — and honestly, I feel I owe a lot to Marc Cherry for creating a show that inspired a real life version of housewives!”
Costumes were designed with each character's personality in mind.
All the ladies on Wisteria Lane look impeccably dressed, and that’s because there was a very driven and thoughtful costume designer working hard behind the scenes. Cate Adair was in charge of clothing the entire cast, and to do so, she gave each of the housewives a wardrobe that reflected their personalities and storylines.
She received an Emmy nomination for her work and explained her process of costume design for the show, saying, “It is an amazingly written show, and in terms of my work as a costume designer, the process is definitely a collaborative art. When the clothes fit with the world that was created by both the set designers and the writers, which in turn are brought to life by the actors, it resonates with the viewers.”