Jessica Biel is taking a stab at her most dramatic role yet. 

After 11 seasons on The WB’s 7th Heaven and an ample film career, the actress is returning to TV as executive producer and star of USA’s new thriller The Sinner (Wednesday, 10 ET/PT), an eight-episode adaptation of Petra Hammesfahr’s bestseller.

The mystery centers on troubled young mother Cora Tannetti (Biel), who violently kills a man, seemingly at random, while at the beach with her family one afternoon. Facing life in prison, well-meaning detective Harry Ambrose (Bill Pullman) attempts to unravel her murderous motivations, only to discover unsettling details about her past that raise more questions than answers. 

Biel, 35, caught up with USA TODAY to chat about The Sinner and son Silas, 2, with husband Justin Timberlake. 

In what ways could you relate to Cora, or at the very least, sympathize with her? 

The thing about Cora that I hope a lot of people relate to is that everybody struggles with things in their past or things about them that they’d like to change. At times, we all put on a mask to present a way you are to the world that maybe isn’t 100% true.

For most of the show, Cora wears a prison jumpsuit with messy hair and no makeup. Was that a refreshing change? 

It’s very freeing, because you don’t have to spend a long time in the morning focusing on (your appearance). It’s very much a part of the experience she’s having and who she is as a character to not rely on those tools. To look in the mirror and see myself looking a particular way helps me even more to step into her shoes. It’s wonderful, actually. I’m loving it. 

You’ve produced films such as The Tall Man and The Book of Love. How does your experience working behind the scenes on The Sinner compare? 

One of my favorite things to do is work with writers on character and dialogue. It’s been really challenging because there’s a much different delivery schedule for television, and we have a lot of dates that we have to hit, and we are kind of driving the train down the track on the fastest gear possible, which is very intense. There’s a lot to do and a lot to keep up with, but I really have enjoyed my experience.