NBC’s “Good Girls” has been called “Breaking Bad with Women” — so that would make series star Retta its version of “Breaking Bad” chemistry maestro Walter White.
“I was pre-med in college and I worked as a chemist at [a pharmaceutical company] for four years after that,” says Retta (her full name is Marietta Sangai Sirleaf). “But I don’t have the ambition of Walter White to start a criminal empire.”
Retta did, though, have the ambition to act, and her career took off following her pharmaceutical career, primarily as a co-star on the NBC sitcom “Parks and Recreation.” Her role as Ruby opposite Christina Hendricks (Beth) and Mae Whitman (Annie) on “Good Girls” marks her first starring series role — though she says fans recognize her for other reasons.
“I can generally tell by who the fan is,” she says. “I can usually guess what they watch. College age and younger are ‘Parks’ fans, middle age to older women are ‘Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce’ [fans] and I have a mix of millennials and women who watch ‘Good Girls.’ ”
The series, back for Season 2 (Sundays at 10 p.m.), follows trio Ruby, Beth and Annie, forced by circumstances beyond their control into a life of crime. Its humor is dark and its narrative is often intense: Ruby, for instance, has a sick child with expensive health care bills, and Season 1 ended with her police officer husband, Stan (Reno Wilson), learning of criminal activities.
“That was stressful to shoot,” says Retta. “I didn’t want that for Stan and Ruby — I didn’t want the trials and tribulations of them having to deal with a giant secret she was keeping from him. I didn’t want poor Stan to be hurt and upset. It gave us interesting [material] to work with, but I’d read a script and texted [showrunner Jenna Bans] like ‘Why!’ and she’s like, ‘Because it’s good TV!’ ”
But, despite the ongoing friction between Ruby and Stan, Retta says there’s hope yet for the couple.
“To watch them go through what they’re going through will be satisfying,” she says. “Now that Stan knows, she can’t mess it up, so it’s going to be a big struggle between friendship and family.
“Ruby’s got to make a decision. It’ll be cathartic — by the time we go through the season, you’ll have some satisfaction.”