Conviction: Hayley Atwell Plays a Bad Girl Doing Good

Hayley Atwell Conviction ABC ABC/Bob D’Amico
ABC’s “Conviction” stars Hayley Atwell as Hayes Morrison.

Premieres: Oct. 3
Airs: Mondays at 10pm
Who’s In It? Hayley Atwell, Eddie Cahill, Emily Kinney, Merrin Dungey, Shawn Ashmore, Manny Montana

ABC bolsters its stable of engrossing dramas featuring brilliant but flawed heroines and their spunky teams of helpers with this addictive charmer, that also serves as a solid whodunit.

Captain America’s Atwell plays Hayes Morrison, a reckless, rapier-wit former first daughter who has become a brilliant lawyer and professor despite her taste for trouble.

When Hayes’ latest adventures (see also: cocaine and a dab of ill-advised seduction) land her in the pokey yet again — at the peril of her mother’s Senate campaign — she finds herself given an offer she can’t refuse: In exchange for freedom, Hayes will head up the newly formed Conviction Integrity Unit (think the Innocence Project but, as one character explains, “we’re not committed to exonerating you”) under the watchful eye of New York DA Conner Wallace (Cahill), who sees a prime opportunity to further his career.

As Hayes tries to outwit Conner, appease her family and suss out injustices in a mere five days per case, she finds herself inspired by her ambitious but secretive team that includes resentful Sam Spencer (The Following’s Ashmore), no-B.S. former cop Maxine Bohen (Dungey, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), atonement-seeking Tess Larson (The Walking Dead’s Kinney) and street-smart forensics whiz Frankie Cruz (Montana, Graceland).

“Hayes tries to have fun with it,” Atwell says of hers and Wallace’s Moonlighting-esque bond. “She’s playing cat-and-mouse with Conner — using it as psychological warfare so that she doesn’t get bored. She doesn’t focus too much on the depressing reality of how stuck she is in this situation.”

Or — at least at first — how much good it could do her, her team and some wrongly imprisoned souls.

“For each character, we’ve planted seeds within the pilot suggesting that they each have their own backstory — whether it’s a secret, whether it’s a relationship that’s informing their work, whether it’s a demon or a self-destruct button of their own that they’re struggling with. That’s great because the audience get to be really nosy into the lives of these people. It really is about spending an afternoon being a fly on the wall in your neighbors house and going, ‘Your perfect rose garden and your smile every time you leave the house hides what happens behind closed doors.’

Asked if she shares any of Hayes’ novelty-seeking traits, Atwell smiles.

“I don’t like getting into trouble with authority, and yet there’s a rebel in me somewhere that’s desperate to get out,” she says. “Hayes just stayed at the party too long. She’s still behaving like a college student. I think once you get to a point where you’re in your thirties and you’re still behaving like a college student — even though you’ve got a job and you’ve got money and you haven’t hit rock bottom or essentially lost anything yet — the fact that you’re still doing that suggests a real unhappiness there. It’s not about fun anymore; now it’s a kind of acting out of darker impulses.

“I knew that if I was going to do something different from Peggy Carter, which people had really enjoyed watching, it would have to be something that challenged me and that was stimulating and kind of messy around the edges,” Atwell says. “That’s what Hayes is.”

Conviction premieres Monday, Oct. 3 at 10pm on ABC

About Lori Acken 1195 Articles
Lori just hasn't been the same since "thirtysomething" and "Northern Exposure" went off the air.