Last season, Renée Lawless’ character, Katheryn Cryer from Tyler Perry’s “The Have and the Have Nots” was put through the emotional wringer. Her husband went missing, her daughter was found dead, she had a confrontation with her husband’s mistress, she was forced to push away her closest friend, and her son began to relapse into self-destructive behavior. Cryer’s life is crumbling to pieces around her, but none of it is her doing. She’s emotionally battered, she’s lost everything that truly matters to her, and she’s just exhausted.
“You know, exhausted is a really good word. It was completely exhausting,” Renée agreed in a recent interview with Examiner. “You probably noticed that the whole season took place over only a few days, and whenever you were starting to think that I could come up and breathe for a little bit… something else happened! It was exhausting. And, it was physically wearing on me, too. There were nights I remember coming home and thinking, ‘I don’t even have the strength to eat.’”
That is why, when Renée goes to Atlanta to shoot the episodes of “The Haves and the have Nots,” she chooses to stay in an apartment all by herself. “I become a crazy person when I’m learning my lines,” she laughed, “Some days are just so tiring that I don’t even want to talk to anyone when I get home.”
As an example of the emotionally charged material that left Lawless so drained, at one point in this past season, the Cryer family and friends are all gathered in the living room just trying to get over the shock of finding Amanda dead in her bedroom. Katheryn is devastated… and that’s precisely when Celine Gonzales (Eva Tamargo) decides to get clingy with Katheryn’s husband. The scene escalates until the tension is released in possibly the single most memorable moment in the series to date: Katheryn gets fed up with Celine and drags her across the floor by her hair in an effort to throw her out of the house.
“That was one of my most favorite moments of all time,” Renée acknowledged with wicked delight.
To prepare for the scene and to make it so utterly convincing, Lawless revealed that during their downtime, she and Eva sat on the couch and had it out with each other while in character. “I was saying things that have never ever been said out loud and had never been written in the script,” she recalled, “but now those words were in my arsenal.”
“Katheryn is giving all her anger to Jim,” Renée continued, “but if you notice, the whole time I’m screaming at Jim, Celine is hanging all over him! Let’s say I’m not even an actress, when I’m sitting there and I’m talking to my husband and my maid — whom I don’t even want to be in the house anyway — is just hanging all over my husband in front of all of these people on the day that I found out that my daughter killed herself?! It doesn’t take a whole lot of acting to get angry about that!”
In contrast to that charged scene, later in the season, Jim goes up to his daughter’s room, searching for something to help him understand what happened. He finds his wife already in the room, sitting silently and glaring at him. Katheryn holds Jim responsible for not getting Amanda the help she needed. In that moment, when the Cryers have lost everything, that is when they find each other.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying that because that is exactly what we wanted. That’s the way it was written, that’s the way we both felt, and that was what we strove so hard to get across!” Renée expressed. “I’m so glad you said that because I feel like we did our job! It wasn’t even articulated to us, it was just something that we figured out.”
“Spoiler alert,” she teased, “we will always be at each other’s throats — I don’t think the fans could enjoy it as much if we weren’t — but that was a big moment for Katheryn and Jim. In giving up, we found our common ground again, we found what it was that brought us together in the first place. And, as a result of that scene, even though there’s still going to be a tug-of-war to a degree, you’re going to see a little bit more of a partnership between Jim and Katheryn.” She allowed a few seconds for what she said to sink in. “Notice, I said partnership, I did not say relationship. There’s a big difference.”
On the topic of Katheryn Cryer’s strength, Lawless cautioned, “Tears don’t necessarily mean weakness. She’s a strong character, yes, but it would not have worked if I had played her as unfeeling and unemotional because people would’ve gone, ‘You cold bitch! Your daughter has just killed herself!’ I like Katheryn when she’s strong, but I don’t consider her crying over the death of her child as being weak.”
“Moving forward, we’re going to see a lot more of her strength,” Renée added. “That doesn’t mean she won’t have her moments, but you are going to see more of her strength and her resolve. And, I think you’re going to see a turning point, not just between Jim and Katheryn, but a turning point between a lot of the characters. At our core, we’ll still be the same, but you are going to see some changes. Also, this coming season is another build, every episode is going to build and build and build. Let me think for a minute, what’s the finale?” Renée went silent for a few compelling seconds, then remembered. “Oh yeah, that happens.” She relished. Her soft laugh was all-knowing and rather sinister.
The summer season premiere of “The Haves and the Have Nots” is tonight, June 30, at 9/8c on OWN. For more information on Renée Lawless, visit her website, like her on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and check out her IMDb!