What do viewers need to know about your character that might not be apparent from the premiere episode?
On Jan. 20, USA will be debuting its newest drama, Fairly Legal. Taking the lead on the show is actress Sarah Shahi, who stars as protagonist Kate Reed. On the series, she experiences quite a loss and a transformation, going from lawyer to mediator.
Shahi recently chatted with reporters via conference call about her role on Fairly Legal and what it's like working with co-stars and guest stars. She also commented on the challenges and relationships her character has to face and doled out some teasers about what we might expect on this first season of the series.
Sarah Shahi: I don't know if there's much because what you see is what you get with Kate. That's the thing. You can pretty much be guaranteed that there's always going to be a surprise. You won't really know what that is. She'll go to any length that she needs to to help people and solve their cases. She's a no bullshit kind of girl, and I think that comes across in the pilot and you continue to see more of that. The dynamics between the characters are further explored as the series goes on, but as far as Kate goes you just see her. That's it.
What were some of the biggest challenges for you in bringing this character of Kate to life on screen in this show?
Sarah Shahi: There were a couple. By the way, I like that question. I've done so many interviews so far and nobody has ever asked that question. One of the challenges was, for me, this is a character who just goes on her heart. She becomes so involved with the people that she's dealing with, whether it's in her personal life or it's a working relationship. The challenge was/is allowing myself as an actor to allow Kate to be emotional about it, but then at the same time she had to be professional. A note that I was constantly getting from certain producers were, "You need to be more business-like. You need to be more business-like," but I think that's the opposite of this character. That's why people like her; she's so anti-business. She's so anti-corporate. There's nothing about her that's business necessarily.
I think the struggle with her is just trying to find that balance between what are the things that she does that she just runs with her emotions on, and then what are the things she has more of a business approach. It turns out that there wasn't a lot that had a business approach. The beauty of this character is that she is so emotional. She gets caught up so much with what she does, and a lot of times she gets in trouble for it and her head doesn't necessarily always follow what her heart tells her to do.
What is it like working with Michael Sardo and the cast of Fairly Legal?
Sarah Shahi: It's amazing. I could pinch myself working with Michael. He is one of the most egoless show runners I have ever come across and such an amazing writer. I don't want to make his head too big because I say how brilliant he is all the time, but I don't want to do this interview and then he not give me what I want next season because I gave him a big ego, but yes, he's wonderful to work with. He's such a corroborator. He's so creative, so smart, one of the wittiest people I know. I'm sure if you talked to his wife she'd say something different, but from my perspective that's my experience with him.
The cast is great. We find it so easy for whatever reason and I think we just got lucky. The dynamics that you see are kind of real, in a way, and if Leonardo and Kate are annoyed with each other, that's kind of how Baron and I can be with each other in real life. Virginia and I, we get along, and it's really easy to play that we don't like each other because we like each other so much. So it's fun.
What are some of the guest stars we can expect to see this season?
Sarah Shahi: Well we have Richard Dean Anderson who's probably the most well-known guest star. Dean Norris from Breaking Bad was another one who's amazing. Those are kind of the heavy hitters. The rest of them are wonderful actors, but not necessarily any names.
Can you talk about the relationship between Kate and Leonardo and what that dynamic brings to the show?
Sarah Shahi: Yes, Kate and Leo, he's the only one there in the show that doesn't quite fawn over Kate. We were very careful when making the show to try not to present a blank persona. We wanted somebody who could fail, who had flaws. This Leo character and Kate, they have a very brotherly sisterly relationship, and he's the kind of guy who knows her better than she knows herself. He knows what she's going to do two steps before she does it. So it's actually been pretty great to have somebody like that on her side.
What can you tease about her love life in the first season? I know in the pilot episode she's sort of with her ex-husband. So what can you tease about what's coming up?
Sarah Shahi: Well, the tease is, I guess -- the finale is incredible, a lot of unexpected things happen in the finale. I love the finale; it's my favorite episode. But it's more exploration of the dynamics of her and Justin. It's like when we first meet them he is her soon to be ex-husband, so at one point I'm presented with divorce papers, but I don't know if I want to sign them or not. So it's interesting because a lot of times in TV shows, the dynamic between the male and female lead is sort of a will they won't they, but this time it's the opposite. It's they already have and they've kind of fallen apart. So now the exploration is will they or won't they get back together? Will they or won't they get divorced? So that's sort of the biggest relationship tease in the story. Then there's just more sort of unexpected and sort of out of control--Kate's like a tornado sometimes the way she kind of comes in and settles situations, so definitely a lot more tornados.
Why do you think people will want to take their time to tune in and watch Fairly Legal?
Sarah Shahi: I think that's a question for the people who hopefully tune in to watch it, but here's what I do hope for the show. I hope that people watch it because they just want to see a good story, and this storyline, and I hope people get caught up in the fantasy of TV. It's not taking itself too seriously. The show is very light. It's kind of cheeky and flirty. It's not a procedural. So I just hope people tune in because they want to laugh or sometimes cry and just be entertained really.
(Image courtesy of USA Network)