There's a reason Felicity Huffman's always been my favorite of ABC's "Desperate Housewives."
And as she came into an ABC party Sunday night to find several of us lying in wait for, she reminded me why all over again.
Asked what she'd liked to do next, now that she knows the coming season of "Housewives" will be the show's last, she said:
"I'm hoping to go into the middle of the country and open, you know, supermarkets. Mall openings are also good. Or gas stations. I think those are three areas I could sort of go and do this stuff."
But seriously, isn't it going to free Huffman for work she's probably been offered in the past but hadn't hadn't had time for?
"Yes," she said, hesitantly, "that would be lovely. . . I don't know, some people say I'm crazy, but you go into acting jail at the end of these things, because it's hard for people to see you as anything else but Lynette Scavo or whatever it is, so I think it's unwise to kind of look at the carnage of past television actresses around you and go, 'Well, it's not going to happen to me,' 'cause I think it probably will. Which is why I'm planning to open supermarkets and gas stations."
(Oddly, I remember a somewhat similar conversation with Bryan Cranston -- minus the supermarket openings -- as "Malcolm in the Middle" was ending its run. Since then, he's won three back-to-back Emmys for "Breaking Bad." Just saying.)
So how did Huffman get the news?
"I was working Friday, pretty late, and I got an email from Marcia [Cross]. . . and she said, 'Well, I guess you've heard,' and I hadn't and then you know I emailed Eva [Longoria]," she said.
Producers George Perkins and Bob Daily came to the set, "but you know what it's like: They tell you something, it's very hush-hush, no one knows this, state secret, and you go, 'Oh my God, OK,' and 15 minutes later everybody's going, 'What about…?"
After the announcement, "It was very quiet and everyone was that odd combination of really sad and very sorry and at the same time very grateful," Huffman said. She'd have been happy, she said, to go for two more seasons ("I love my job") but was happy ABC had enough respect for the show not to wait till it was "all tired and worn out."
Huffman said she also got a call from "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry.
"He called me, and it was lovely to talk to him. He said he's known for a little while now, but he can't seem to keep his mouth shut, so he had to keep himself away from set," she said, laughing, "because he knew that everyone would be like, 'Hey, Marc, what's going on?' So he made himself scarce."
Actors are usually the last to know what's happening with their characters and when a reporter told Huffman he'd heard Lynette would be "a cougar" this season, she said, "Liar!" and then moaned, "Oh, no, I have to go work out."
The way Huffman sees it, anything could happen in a final season: "Tom could shoot Lynette. I mean they're bringing Brenda [Strong, who narrates the show and plays the character who committed suicide in the pilot] back, and they sort of want to bring it full circle. Someone's got to get shot in the head."
Daily's not talking specifics, but he agreed that there's room for surprise.
"I was around for the last season of 'Frasier,' when it went off the air. And you realize that you can do things and not have to worry about the ramifications. You know, people can have a baby and you don't have to see the baby grow up. Or people can die and you don't have to deal with the sorrow that's associated with that. So it is freeing in a way," Daily said.
"The hard part was the fact that you feel like you've done every possible storyline after eight years. But we are finding things that we've never done before and we're trying to involve all the women in our mystery -- you know, usually we have some mysterious outside character move onto the lane and bring the mystery with them, but we're trying to have it be a little more organic this year for the women," he said.
As for working in Strong's Mary Alice -- the actress will also be seen as Bobby Ewing's new wife in TNT's "Dallas" remake -- "it'll l all be in flashback. But there'll be a big reveal at the end of the first episode that will tie back to that Season 1 mystery of Mary Alice. And so she'll be appearing in flashbacks to sort of fill in some of those gaps."