‘Apples Never Fall’ Creator Melanie Marnich ‘Manifested’ Annette Bening’s Casting

Oscar-nominated “Nyad” star Annette Bening on Peacock? Well, sometimes miracles do happen.

“Apples Never Fall” creator Melanie Marnich wanted to swing big when it came to pitching her take on the Liane Moriarty thriller novel adaptation. Despite never having showrun before (Marnich’s writing credits include on “The O.A.,” “Murder at the End of the World,” and “The Affair”), she was determined to cast A-lister Bening as Joy Delaney, a tennis pro coach matriarch who goes missing. While all signs point to her husband Stan (Sam Neill) as the most likely culprit, Joy’s case unlocks further Delaney family secrets swirling around their four children, played by Jake Lacy, Alison Brie, Conor Merrigan-Turner, and Essie Randles.

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Bening, in fact, was at the center of Marnich’s initial pitch to Peacock.

“When [producer] David Heyman was looking for writers for the project I was like, ‘I’m going for it. I want this one,'” Marnich told IndieWire. “I think in my initial pitch to him, I was like, ‘I see Annette Bening as Joy. Annette is Joy.’ She was in my pitch to the network. I feel like I wrote her, I manifested her.”

What about Bening gave off Joy Delaney energy? Well, for starters, Bening’s range was perfect for playing a woman both trying to find herself in a midlife crisis and also hide her own dirty laundry with dangerous consequences.

“I just saw her as Joy for so many reasons. I mean, her sublime talent, first of all, her presence, her soul intelligence,” Marnich listed. “She breaks the screen every scene she’s in.”

Bening also pushed Marnich to consider more of Joy’s position in the story, and signed on as a producer herself.

“We approached her and had some really wonderful initial conversations with her. She asked so many good questions, of course,” Marnich said. “When she agreed to do it, first of all, I couldn’t…I was just over the moon. And then, you know, she classes up a joint, right? She makes it classy and then it’s like, OK, who can go toe-to-toe with her for [the character of Stan]?”

"Apples Never Fall"
‘Apples Never Fall’Jasin Boland/PEACOCK

Bening joining the Liane Moriarty cinematic universe makes sense: The Moriarty adaptations have included a slew of Oscar winners and nominees including Laura Dern who appeared in “Big Little Lies” and Nicole Kidman who led both “BLL” and “Nine Perfect Strangers.” Kidman is set to produce another Moriarty adaptation soon.

But after Bening joined, Marnich was met with another challenge: finding the right Stan.

“The name of Sam Neill came up and I’m a massive, decades-long fan of Sam Neill,” she said. “We had those initial conversations with him and he so clearly connected with the role and he too brings such just heart and integrity and strength to what he does and it seems so perfect for that character and so many just understood him.”

Despite Neill playing a maybe-sinister character, Marnich added that “Sam’s a big softie and it’s quite ironic [with his character], but he understood what made that character, that character.” And with that duo came the Delaney family tree.

“There we were with mom and dad, and such incredible movie stars,” Marnich said. “Jake [Lacy] and Alison [Brie] were next. I’m obviously huge fans of them going back for many shows. And by the time we approached them, we had the first three episodes written to share so they could see their characters and a bit of where the characters went. Both of them can balance the drama with the humor, which was extremely important. There aren’t jokes in the show, but it’s funny and you need actors who could deliver that. My whole cast is good at that. But Jake and Alison together really had that great sibling dynamic.”

Writer, showrunner, and executive producer Marnich rounded out the Delaney family with local Australian actors who were found on site ahead of production.

“We got very lucky,” she said. “We’re very fortunate to have you this wattage of talent. And also that they clicked so beautifully as a group was really just an added treat.”

“Apples Never Fall” premieres March 14 on Peacock.

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