Does an Open Marriage Drive Kirby Howell-Baptiste to Murder in ‘Why Women Kill’?

Kirby Howell-Baptiste has been everywhere in 2019. You’ve seen her in the Veronica Mars revival and recent seasons of The Good Place and Barry. Now she’s in CBS All Access’s new series Why Women Kill? The mystery spans three decades and Howell-Baptiste plays a women in 2019 who may or may not murder her husband by the end of the season.

Kirby Howell-Baptiste in Why Women Kill
Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Taylor of the CBS All Access series WHY WOMEN KILL. | Mitch Haddad/CBS

Howell-Baptiste plays Taylor Harding, a woman in an open marriage with Eli (Reid Scott). When Taylor invites her lover Jade (Alexandra Daddario) to live with them, Jade tempts Eli and creates complications in their marriage. Howell-Baptiste was on a Television Critics Association panel for Why Women Kill to talk about her character. Why Women Kill premieres today on CBS All Access.

Kirby Howell-Baptiste sees the positive in ‘Why Women Kill’s open relationship

The title Why Women Kill suggests that Taylor and Eli won’t live in harmony for long. At least at the beginning of the show, Kirby Howell-Baptiste sees the positive potential in the open relationship she’s portraying.

“It’s very interesting to play this character,” Howell-Baptiste said. “I think that what is wonderful about Taylor and Eli’s relationship is that I think that sometimes when you’re in a traditional marriage, there’s always the allure of, like, the grass is always greener and what’s outside?”

Taylor and Eli are in this kind of relationship to hopefully improve their marriage.

Why Women Kill
Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Taylor of the CBS All Access series WHY WOMEN KILL.|Ali Goldstein/CBS

“I think that what I think is wonderful about that relationship is exploring that idea and seeing if you do open your relationship up to another person, what kind of issues does that create?” Howell-Baptiste said. “Does that help a marriage?”

Kirby Howell-Baptiste learned there’s no easy way to have a marriage

The complications of episode 1 already illustrate that open marriages come with all sorts of new responsibilities. What it boils down to is: the relationship will be hard however it is structured.

(l-r): Alexandra Daddario as Jade; Reid Scott as Eli; Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Taylor of the CBS All Access series WHY WOMEN KILL. | Ali Goldstein/CBS

“I think fundamentally marriage is hard,” Howell-Baptiste said. “This is us saying there’s more than one way to do something, but each way you do it takes a lot of work, and there will be unique struggles that come from whatever lifestyle choice you’ve chosen.”

Marc Cherry researched open marriages for ‘Why Women Kill’

Why Women Kill creator Marc Cherry wanted the 2019 marriage to be different than the show’s ‘60s and ‘80s marriages, which are traditionally monogamous. At least, they are monogamous until infidelity makes the wives contemplate murder. Taylor and Eli are different though.

“I know some people in a polyamorous relationship, and I’m endlessly confused by the issue,” Cherry said. “I started thinking about how marriage has changed. To me, the biggest thing that’s happening right now for us as a society is people who are in throuples, are coming out of the closet, and people are talking about it. Certainly, as a member of the gay community, I know more than a few couples who are in open marriages.”

Some of Cherry’s writers helped him research open relationships.

Marc Cherry
Marc Cherry of “Why Women Kill” speaks during the CBS segment of the 2019 Summer TCA Press Tour | Amy Sussman/Getty Images

“As we did our research, one of our writers knew a lot about it, for reasons that shall remain private,” Cherry said. “So we started to have very honest talks in the writers’ room about this new thing that’s happening in society, and people are being very open about it and writing about it and talking about it. So I just thought, ‘Well, let’s talk about that and show how that whole situation isn’t completely thought out about. What are the complications that come of that, and how does jealousy rear its head in those relationships?’”

‘Why Women Kill’ is another first for Kirby Howell-Baptiste

Playing a woman in an open marriage is groundbreaking for Kirby Howell-Baptiste. Taylor also fulfills a lifelong ambition by allowing Howell-Baptiste to play a lawyer.

“My nana’s always wanted me to be a lawyer,” Howell-Baptiste said. “I said, ‘I’m not going to be a lawyer, but one day I’ll play one.’ And then this role came along, and I got to play a lawyer.”

Kirby Howell-Baptiste is so 2019 in ‘Why Women Kill’

Taylor is the modern woman of Why Women Kill in many ways beyond the modern relationship she has.

Kirby Howell-Baptiste
Kirby Howell-Baptiste arrives at the WHY WOMEN KILL Premiere Event | Francis Specker/CBS

“She’s such a strong woman,” Howell-Baptiste said. “I think it’s a unique challenge as well to represent an entire era, a generation. I thought that was pretty incredible being given the opportunity to be sort of the face of what a woman in 2019 looks like, sounds like, acts like. So that was really, really exciting to me, was being in a show where I could represent an entire era and represent how that has changed and how women have changed.”