This summer, USA Network is on fire. Currently, they have six series airing, plus the limited series, Political Animals. All seven have some great storylines going this year, not the least of which is Suits, now in its second season. So when I was given the opportunity to speak to one of the female leads, Gina Torres, who plays Jessica Pearson, I jumped at the chance. Literally. There was jumping involved.
Okay, confession time before I get to the interview. I love Gina Torres. I’m not even going to pretend to have some sort of professionalism when it comes to that. Those who read my articles or my Twitter feed regularly know I’m a Joss Whedon fan. Not a little one. Like a “I cry when I hear him speak about anything because I’m a little crazy” sort of fan. So talking to Zoe from Firefly… Well, we’ll get to that. But first, Suits.
(Technically, first, there was me fangirling all over Torres when she called me. But because I have the power to edit out portions of our conversation, I’ll skip that. But I’ve told you because I’m also honest.)
Small Screen Scoop (SSS): Congrats on the second season of Suits! It has been amazing this year and firing on all cylinders.
Gina Torres (GT): I have to agree with you. I’ve been very proud of this season.
SSS: But Jessica is having a rough season. Season one she got to play it pretty easy, but Season 2 has not gone as well. Yet she always looks impeccable, so I suspect she is magic. I’d look horrible if I’d been through all she has this season.
GT: [laughs] Awww.
SSS: What has it been like to see Jessica crack with the return of Daniel Hardman and all that has been going on in the wake of that?
GT: It’s been fantastic. Last season was, at the risk of sounding ungrateful, there was a sense of, um, I had the conversation with the writers of like, ‘Put me in coach, put me in! I can do this. You’ll be surprised!’ And he stayed true to his promise. The first season there was so much to be done in terms of establishing relationships and what they mean and to grow upon that. And the second season, it kind of leaves the ball field wide open just for that dynamic to happen. We are getting more of everybody. I think the audience was ready to get to know who these people were. The first season was such a brilliant tease because you got to know just enough of them… and now this season you get to see the picture filling in with all this color. It’s why I love the ads and posters this seasons because they are black and white with just this splash of color. And I really feel we are filling in the entire picture of what is Pearson/Hardman and about everyone there.
SSS: And on that note, as it gets rough for Jessica professionally, are we going to get to see more of her personal life? Is she going to turn to someone or something for support?
GT: That is the million dollar question. I love it. Pretty much every interview that I’ve done there’s the question of “Will we ever see a partner for Jessica? A love interest? Someone she can be vulnerable with?” I would love to see that. Clearly the audience wants to see that.
SSS: I just want to see her leave the office. Except for the occasional business dinner, she never leaves the place.
GT: I know, I never leave. It’s the running joke between Aaron Korsh [the creator of Suits] and I. It’s like, okay, so are we building an apartment? Has anyone done location shooting for Jessica’s fabulous penthouse?
SSS: And you have to beat Harvey’s – he has a pretty nice place!
GT: I know! I agree. So, we’ll see. It’s another mystery. I’m very excited about how it’s going. I’m excited about how the audience is taking to it, taking to Jessica. Her challenges, her wardrobe, her future. I think it really bodes well for everybody, myself included.
SSS: The Donna story arc is a major part of the season – was it hard to shoot the scene where Jessica fired her. I know Sarah Rafferty isn’t gone, but man… that scene was tough to watch.
GT: Yeah, it was tough. It was, um, and this is where you get the weird actor answer… it was great! It was great shooting because it was great to work with Sarah. She is such a fantastic actress. She and I are good friends. We’ve become good friends behind the scenes as well… You look forward to playing and jumping into these scenes as an actor you hope for and want for. The comedy scenes as well. Anything where you get to show different aspects. It’s a little tedious being fabulous all the time. You want to add a little spice to the mix which is why the story with Ella Follman [a judge Jessica’s character had a unpleasant history with] – I really enjoyed just biting into the bitch cake. It was so much fun. And how much fun for you guys to think, ‘Oh… I don’t know if I like her now.’
SSS: And in the scene where she fires Donna, the look Sarah Rafferty made was so tough. It was heartbreaking and Jessica just kept going…
GT: Yeah, it was hard. But I was hoping we struck a good balance. I didn’t want the audience to think it was something I actually enjoyed… that it was necessary.
SSS: I think in the following episode where we see that it was more about Harvey not wanting to do it rather than Jessica wanting to, that helped.
GT: Yes… I think so.
SSS: Now, I’ve seen the next episode [“Rewind”] that flashes back five years.
GT: Really? How’d you get to do that?
SSS: Press site. It’s one of the perks.
GT: [laughs] Ahhh….
SSS: So, what can you tell the readers about the episode and what we learn about Jessica?
GT: You know, this law show is less about the law and more about personal relationships. And seeing these sort of super people going through changes and seeing how they deal with them. I think what we’ve all learned is we like them better when they become all too human. Just beautifully flawed. Because that’s the only way we can experience them and experience ourselves. Because you’re always looking to, whether you want it or not, if you’re a fan of a particular show, especially one like this, you think to yourself, ‘What would Harvey do?’ or ‘What would Jessica do?’ because we play in these sort of high stakes circumstances. So if you ever find yourself in one of those circumstances or something that is close to it and you kind of like how we’ve been dealing with our world… it’s nice to inspire people. To take them places they wouldn’t go. As far as Jessica goes, and the flashback scenes. I think you see… I mean, she’s still fabulous, but you see her getting ready to take on the role of managing partner. She’s ready. She’s nobody’s second lieutenant.
SSS: Yes. I think the episode worked so well as a way to see how Jessica was building up to fight back with Hardman. The final scene with Jessica and Harvey… I won’t say what it is so as not to spoil, but it was subtle and you could see how she would attack this. Last week ended and I was a bit nervous for her. But she had a moment in this one where you knew – don’t second guess. She’s still Jessica.
GT: Right. Yes. She is.
Now before I go into the non-Suits part of the interview. I had several people asking me to ask Torres about Patrick Adams and Gabriel Macht (who play Mike Ross and Harvey Specter, respectively). And her response was: “They are adorable. They are just as adorable as you would want and expect them to be… They are great. I love working with them and I’m stoked because I get to work with Patrick more this season. Last season every time I entered a room he would leave it.”
So there you go friends. The adorable boys are just as adorable as you think. Swoon away.
Now, into the “Melissa has a panic attack as she asks about Firefly” portion of the interview. Brace yourself, kids.
SSS: Now, I know you weren’t there, but what was it like to see the reaction of the fans at the 10th Anniversary Firefly panel at Comic Con this year?
GT: I haven’t seen it!
SSS: You haven’t seen it?
GT: No. It just sort of got by me. I’ve been working, which is why I wasn’t there. I couldn’t get out of my commitments for work. But I heard it was insane.
SSS: It was. I wasn’t there, I couldn’t go… but I’ve seen it and it was very loud.
GT: Yes. I heard it was intense! The last time I did Comic Con, which I think was just before Serenity, we were backstage waiting and they got hungry. The crowd just started getting hungry and they started singing the theme song.
GT: Yeah, wow. I mean, I don’t even know the words to the theme song. So yeah, that’s pretty cool.
SSS: Do you get stopped for that, for playing Zoe, more often than anything else?
GT: You know, it’s a pretty even mix. It depends on what town I’m in. New York – there are a lot of Whedonites in New York. But I’m getting a lot more Suits commentary. I think because we are supposed to be a New York show. But Firefly is a huge part of my life and I will say… I got the Comic Con Entertainment Weekly edition a couple weeks ago. I saw a picture of my guys, of my crew. I wasn’t even thinking anything of it, I mean it’s been a long time and we all more or less stay in touch. But seeing everybody all together. I… I got full and I quite unexpectedly burst into tears. It wasn’t anything I had planned. It wasn’t about ‘Oh, what did I miss?’ because life goes on and mine is rather full. But I do miss those guys. And even though we didn’t get five seasons, I do feel so blessed that I got to know them and work with them and laugh with them and play with them. And sometimes, if that’s all you get it’s more than enough.
SSS: You are known for playing kickass women. Well, Jessica hasn’t literally kicked anyone’s ass yet, but I’m still waiting for that to happen. But you play women like Jessica and Zoe and Jasmine [on Angel] and Anna on Alias, which I loved – what is it like to play these women? Is there any one that you use as role model?
GT: I love them all. I mean, what’s not to like? They are all so different. What they have in common is, well, athletic prowess. They know how to shoot whether it’s a laser or a sawed-off shotgun. But these women aren’t just strong and capable, they are smart and they think on their feet. And they always do what they feel is their best at the time. And what more can we ever ask of ourselves? It’s something that I touched upon earlier. To be in a position to play these people that can be inspiring. It’s a tremendous responsibility and you don’t want to short change it. You don’t want to short change the power in that. I don’t want to pretend that I don’t see that. That in some small way to distract them enough… if only to distract them long enough, 45 minutes, to maybe not make a really bad mistake. Does that make sense?
SSS: No, that makes sense.
GT: You know, that they were so taken with what was happening at the time, with Zoe or Anna or whoever, that they got out of their heads long enough to try to figure out the designer that made the skirt Jessica is flouncing down the hall in [laughs] that kept them from making a phone call that they’d regret. I think that’s something.
SSS: Yes. It’s one of the many reasons I love television. It’s art, but it’s also escape.
Isn’t she amazing? The conversation went on a few more minutes where we discussed my love of Zoe and how she inspires me. I stumbled over myself and had a horrible answer, but it was amazing. I’ll be keeping that recording. Thank you to the lovely Gina Torres for her time and for embodying another BAMF like Jessica!
I hope you all tune in tonight, Thursday August 9th, for a brand new episode of Suits on USA Network at 10pm.
Written by Melissa Miller. Find her on Twitter @serrae
Suits Photos : Robert Ascroft/USA Network
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