Fairly Legal centers on Kate Reed (Sarah Shahi), a top litigator frustrated with the endless bureaucracy and daily injustices of the system, who takes a hard left to become the ultimate anti-lawyer: a mediator. Using her knowledge of the law, along with her savvy, intuition and a whatever-it-takes approach to resolving conflict, Kate finds the middle ground for a wide variety of adversaries — from Fortune 500 corporations to bitter divorces. After the sudden death of her father, she finds herself at odds with the new boss, her stepmother Lauren Reed (Virginia Williams)…and in bed with her soon-to-be ex-husband, Justin Patrick (Trucco), a top gun in the DA’s office. Helping her keep all of this chaos at bay is her trusted, geek-chic assistant Leonardo (Baron Vaughn).
Check out the great answers to some of the questions below!
On how he got involved with the show and what drew him to the character
I guess the process was a little over a year ago. I had just finished completing work on Battlestar Galactica. You know, that series came to an end. I was looking for work and for another show and to get into another project. I liked the idea of Fairly Legal being 180° turnaround. That’s the complete departure from the tone of a show like Battlestar Galactica and that was attractive to me.
I think it’s important for an actor to look for diversity in their roles, and I like the idea of playing a human being, for one. I like the tone of the show, the light-hearted, the dramady so to speak and the character interests me. I’m a son of a police officer, and so the aspect of law and prosecution interests me greatly.
I was looking for a departure from the character of Anders. I was looking for something to do that was going to be a polar opposite. Coming off a show that was so … in popular culture and was so identifiable as Battlestar Galactica and Anders, I think it was important to do something a little different, just so I didn’t get pigeonholed into one character-type. I have absolutely no disrespect to the character of Anders and the series (Battlestar), but just as an actor, you need to look for some diversity. I’ll always hold that character dear in my heart. I just wanted to do something that was different, play a human being, play something contemporary and to have kind of a light tone to it. And this came along and it just felt like the right fit.
Jump with us to see what else Michael had to say.
Our good friend Lisa asked what challenged him about playing this new character
That’s a good question. I think striking a balance between the character of Justin Patrick and Kate Reed is the challenge. We’ve sort of explored the unconventional side of the male character in Justin and in terms of this relationship between Kate and Justin, we’re in the midst of a divorce when we pick up the series, as you know. They still have a relationship that would be considered friends with benefits, so there is definitely an aspect—these two end up in bed together several times and oftentimes, for the male, in a relationship, that arrangement seems to be okay. If it aint broke, don’t fix it.
I think what’s challenging here is that the writers of the show have given Justin the sort of moral perspective. He’s not copacetic with this relationship. He doesn’t like the way things stand. He wants some sort of resolve. I find that a unique perspective and one that is challenging in this character.
On starring in a brand new show versus guesting in an established show
This is a unique experience … actually start from the beginning because it is a trend I have of coming onto an already established product and being lucky enough to get to play characters that were definitely memorable— they were written so and they were big arcs on these particular shows. So, this is a little bit different for me to start from page one.
I hope I can carry that energy—that record through and establish a character that is memorable and that people want to see week after week. The result is to be determined. We’re just getting out of the gates. We started [two weeks ago], we air tonight, and we’ll see. I’m as curious as you are.
On the chemistry between Michael and co-star Sarah Shahi
The chemistry between Sarah and I is something that we discovered on set. To use a term instantaneous is probably inaccurate. It was more something that you develop as the scenes go on, but it definitely developed in the pilot. You know, when you’re thrown into a scene with somebody and you’re half naked, there’s not a lot of room for discussion. You just jump right in and sometimes the dynamic works between two actors and sometimes it doesn’t. And Sarah and I were fortunate to discover that there was a good rapport. There was a lot of trust between the two of us.
The creators of the show are open to exploration in these characters and Sarah and I have a lot of fun working off each other. So, we were very lucky. The chemistry is something you just can’t fabricate. It just is there between two actors or it’s not and having never met Sarah before, we’re very lucky to be able to jump into these roles and discover that there was a chemistry and I think it’s working for the two characters and you’ll see it continue throughout the entire series.
On creating a backstory for their characters before filming started
No, we didn’t—Sarah and I had not met. Well we met when I was testing for the role, Sarah was obviously cast in the project and then they were bringing people in for what they call chemistry reads to work opposite of Sarah and to see what the dynamic … work out. So, Sarah and I met briefly in that process. And then when we got to shooting, it was pretty much fly by the seat of our pants.
What we have discovered is that we created backstory throughout production, in the process of shooting. Instead of actually having time to do homework and sit down pre-production, we created our history during production. We tried to put little subtleties into certain scenes and certain times that wasn’t—things that were necessarily on the page that I think translate well.
There’s just certain times when there’s a scene between Sarah and I, between Justin and Kate, in which there’s a familiarity that only two people who have been together for a certain amount of time, particularly who have been married and living together, they do. In the way she might reach over and take a sip out of my coffee cup, we don’t make a big issue out—there’s certain characteristics, the familiarity, that we found during production in the midst of filming and I think that sort of informs our back story.
On why the characters got a divorce, yet can’t seem to stay away from each other
Yes, I think there is no clarity yet in that and I think there’s a certain irony that Justin in his job and his 9 to 5 and his work is all about clarity, black and white. No gray area. I think the irony here is that when it comes to his personal life, he can’t—they can’t make that judgment. They can’t decide yes or no. I think that’s what makes their relationship so complicated and that’s what makes it love in general so difficult. These two, on paper, are not right for each other. They’re butting heads all the time and they just discovered that they have a real tough time living with one another, but there’s still a strong physical attraction, obviously, but there’s also an emotional attraction. I wish I could answer that question and say you know with certainty they should be divorced or they should be together. I think Justin is trying to find some resolution. I would say that he’s swaying towards a permanent separation, just for some clarity, but that isn’t so easy. It’s just not that black and white when it comes to love.
Whereas I show on my job, Justin’s job, as black and white in his day job, the same for Kate. She is a mediator by day, but somehow can’t seem to translate her professional skills into her personal relationship.
Fairly Legal airs on Thursdays on the USA Network at 10/9c.