As the pandemic wears on and live gatherings remain dangerous, virtual premieres and experiences are becoming the norm. On Thursday, Nov. 12, ABC held its own virtual premiere party for its upcoming primetime drama, Big Sky, created, written and executive produced by David E. Kelley and starring Ryan Phillippe (USA’s Shooter), Katheryn Winnick (History’s Vikings) and Kylie Bunbury (Netflix’s When They See Us, Peacock’s Brave New World).

ABC set the stage by sending invitees in New York and Los Angeles a Montana-themed “Country Crate” dinner, which included tri-tip sandwiches, chili, cornbread with honey butter, and huckleberry fry pie, all delivered in a rustic metal box with a red-and-black checkered tablecloth. Guests, including those who were not in New York or Los Angeles, also received a gift box full of local Montana treats, including a Montana state baseball cap, a fir-scented Yellowstone candle, huckleberry licorice, bison jerky and a pine cutting wrapped in burlap to plant at home.

Prior to the premiere, event producers Little Cinema hosted a virtual “All in Bar,” set in a watering hole that appears in the show, where attendees could hang out prior to the premiere with a local (played by an actor) and listen to some live music.

LA- and NY-based guests also were sent huckleberry vodka and other ingredients to mix a signature drink, the Big Sky Mule, so they could really feel like they were hanging out in a bar in Montana.

Besides the talent and civilians, lots of celebrities also attended the virtual premiere, including Lena Waithe, Mayim Bialik, Lance Bass, Brooke Shields, Fortune Feimster, Yvette Nicole Brown, Adina Porter, Iliza Shlesinger, AnnaSophia Robb, Sharon Osbourne, Hannah Simone, Kate Flannery, Kristin Davis, Kathryn Gallagher, Kate Nash, Rachel Roy, Danica McKellar, Poppy Montgomery, Caroline Rhea and more. Many of them posted about the event on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #WelcometoBigSky.

Just before the premiere, Kelley jumped on the call to surprise guests and talk a bit about the show that marks his return to broadcast TV after his success with such shows as HBO’s Big Little Lies and the currently airing, The Undoing, also on HBO. Kelley has a long relationship with broadcast TV, having created, written and executive produced such programs as Boston Legal, Ally McBeal, The Practice and many more.

“I’ve loved the books by C.J. Box,” said Kelley. “Fantastic characters, fantastic setting in Montana. It’s a bit of a thriller ride but also a character piece.”

He also warned that the show would get dark pretty quickly: “There’s also a lot of dark secrets and ugliness that goes on. So, one moment you’ll be leaning in, the next moment not so much,” he said.

Big Sky follows private detectives Cassie Dewell ( Bunbury) and Cody Hoyt ( Phillippe) as they team up with his estranged wife and ex-cop, Jenny Hoyt ( Winnick), to search for two sisters (Jade Pettyjohn, Natalie Alyn Lind) who have been kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote Montana highway.

“We think of this as a thrill ride, and a great piece of entertainment at 10 o’clock at night,” Kelley said. “We’ve got a lot of great characters that you’ll come to feel for and care for as the series evolves.”

After the first episode aired, Phillippe, Winnick and Bunbury stuck around to chat with Variety’s Angelique Jackson, who moderated the session, about their thoughts on the show and their characters, and how they reacted to the pilot.

Big Sky also stars Brian Geraghty, Dedee Pfeiffer, Natalie Alyn Lind, Jade Pettyjohn, Jesse James Keitel, Valerie Mahaffey, John Carroll Lynch and Gage Marsh.

Big Sky premieres Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 10/9 c on ABC.

Tags: abc big sky david e. kelley little cinema virtual premiere

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