Aaron Lazar as Reverend Paul Thomas, Deneen Tyler as Nora Ellington, Mark L. Young as Jason Conley, Melia Kreiling as Ginger Sweet, Benjamin Aquilar as Antonio Rivera, Gerald McRaney as Eugene Monreaux, Kim Cattrall as Margaret Monreaux, Aubrey Dollar as Rose Monreaux, Corey Cott as Eric Monreaux, Olivia Macklin as Becky Monreaux and Steve Harris as Franklin Lee
Tate Taylor didn't grow up wealthy in Jackson, Mississippi.
Neither of his parents went to college, and his dad sold women's clothing. But he did grow up going to church every Sunday, so he's quite familiar with the characters in Filthy Rich, his new drama that premiered on Fox September 21.
The show is based on a New Zealand series of the same name, in which three illegitimate kids come after their dead dad's fortune.
In Taylor's version, the fallen patriarch is televangelist Eugene Monreaux (Gerald McRaney), whose widow (Kim Cattrall) must divvy up a portion of her late husband's estate between their two children and Eugene's three newly discovered kids: a sex worker, an MMA fighter and a pot grower.
"I know every one of these people," Taylor says, adding that he drew inspiration for the colorful Monreaux clan from his family and "all the stories and characters in my life down here [in Mississippi].
"I love complex characters and themes, nonlinear storytelling and multiple ensembles," Taylor says. "I'd never be good writing a road-trip buddy movie with two characters driving cross country."
Taylor only lived a road-trip buddy movie before launching his show-biz career. First, he earned a marketing degree from Ole Miss, then worked in marketing and sales for a Fortune 500 petroleum company for three years. At that point, he realized he wanted to be making things, not selling them.
After meeting Octavia Spencer when they were production assistants on the 1996 feature A Time to Kill in Mississippi, the new friends drove west to launch their acting careers. In L.A.
Taylor spent four years in the Groundlings improv troupe, then went on to work as a writer, director and actor. Now, after more than a decade of writing and directing movies (The Help, Get on Up, Girl on the Train), he's set his first TV creation in a soapy world he knows well.
Although he's not religious, Taylor — whose credits on the series include creator, writer, executive producer and director — was eager to paint Christians in an authentic light. "I've got very good Christian friends who feel like their religion and faith have been hijacked by extremists," he says. "They don't have a voice and they deserve to be heard."
Taylor was eager to listen to the Christians in his cast, including McRaney and Corey Cott, who plays Monreaux's son Eric.
"They read the pilot and liked it," he says. "But they had reservations. 'What are you gonna do to our characters?' I said, 'I promise you I will poke fun at religion — but I am never gonna make fun of it.' And once they had that trust, I was able to push the envelope."
For Taylor, making fun is degrading, which he's trying to avoid. "It's saying, 'Look how dumb they are,'" he explains. "Poking fun is having fun, acknowledging the pitfalls and clichés. They're there for a reason."
He's convinced middle America is hungry for a kinder, funnier depiction of Christians. As he said while pitching the show, "My part of the country is starving for this."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 10, 2020