Last week, the second season of USA Network's series "Fairly Legal" started off with a big bang, literally, when the boat on which Kate Reed (played by series lead Sarah Shahi) lives blew up, leaving the legal mediator without a place to call home. Besides her current state of homelessness, the new episodes also show Kate with even more conflict on her plate including her ex, Justin (Michael Trucco), who she may find it easier to finally divorce since he admitted he was unfaithful to her, her controlling stepmother/employer, Lauren (Virginia Williams) that she butts heads with as well as a new in-house legal opponent in smarmy Ben Grogan (Ryan Johnson).
Our Jim Halterman rang up Shahi on her lunch break earlier this week to chat about the challenges with these new episodes, the romantic triangle coming up and a particular favorite curse word of hers that she still cannot say on her show.
Jim Halterman: Going from season one to two, do you approach playing Kate any differently now that you have a season under your belt?
Sarah Shahi: As far as my approach to the character goes, it is exactly the same. That hasn't changed. What's changed is she gets to be more dramatic this year. We get to see her flaws a little bit more. She tries to evolve, she tries to grow up and be more responsible but there are things at which she succeeds and then there are other ways that she doesn't so that's nice to be able to see a much more deeper, multi-dimensional Kate. Part of the reason I took this role on in the beginning was that I was really attracted to her flaws.
JH: And her boat blew up in last week's season premiere so she's also homeless!
SS: She's homeless! She ends up moving in with Lauren and so that provides for some really nice comedy between the two of them.
JH: So we'll see them at home together?
SS: We go home with them about four and five times throughout the season.
JH: I love the relationship between them because there's some tolerance but you also feel like maybe they like each other in some way. Could they ever be BFFs?
SS: I don't think they're going to ever be BFFs. There's a respect of each other and a tolerance of each other but at the end of the day these two are night and day and they see the world through completely different sets of eyes. On the show, Kate has to have an adversary. Kate cannot be the way she is without someone who is the opposite. You cannot have the good without the evil in some way and that's what Lauren represents.
JH: And I'm guessing that's what the Ben character stands for since Kate butt heads with him right from the start.
SS: Yes! It's more of the same with them. Kate has to have some good adversaries in the show and it's almost everybody around her. Kate is the center of the show and her adversaries are Lauren, Ben, Justin and the system. She sees things in many different colors and many different shades whereas everyone else it's very black and white.
JH: When Gerald McRaney is on the show as Judge Nicastro, he's almost like a father figure to Kate. Do you see him that way?
SS: Yes. He's the only person that can make Kate a little nervous. He has the power to throw her in jail just because she's late or just because she says goodbye the wrong way. He makes her walk on eggshells but at the same time there's a very fatherly guidance that comes from him and I think that's something that she misses, especially with her father being gone.
JH: He has a great line in next week's episode where he says to Kate that she actually loves the chaos in her life. Do you think that is true?
SS: I think so. I think this is a character that sees the fire and walks right into it instead of trying to extinguish it. She likes conflict, she likes drama and I think part of that was how she grew up... she rebelled against the money and the family and then I think part of it is that she's just fucked up! She's very childish and she's passionate. She's the kind of character who leads with her heart and her head sometimes follows and sometimes doesn't. In the work situation, that works but when it comes to her personal life, not so much.
JH: Do you think the chaos keeps her from facing up to some of those big life things she needs to be confronting and dealing with?
SS: Oh, absolutely! Those quiet, still moments when you realize that your world is crumbling around you and I think Kate does everything she can to try to escape those moments.
JH: Will we see a romantic angle between Kate and Ben or will it be purely adversarial?
SS: Yeah, it will turn into a romantic thing and we're going to build to a nice little love triangle between Ben and Justin where she's going to have to make a decision.
JH: There's still so much fire between Kate and Justin but can she forgive him [for cheating on her]?
SS: The second season, we wanted to make Kate uncomfortable and take away her security blankets like Justin, the boat that she lives on, we introduce Ben, who is an adversary through and through and so it's going to be interesting to see what happens with her. They want to force her to grow up and that's something that sometimes she does and other times not. In every episode, she's taking one step forward and two steps back.
JH: In being the lead of the series, is there a different kind of pressure that maybe you haven't felt in other parts of your career?
SS: It is different but I don't really view it as pressure. I'm a big voice on the show and it's something that I do quite naturally or something that I've fallen into quite naturally. I love my job and I'm in love with my character and so it's very easy for me to put on a bunch of different hats when I'm on the show be it a producer hat or helping out and writing some of the stuff... it's not pressure. It's just something that just happens because I'm so invested in who she is and I love my job. I've never felt any pressure, so to speak.
JH: What's the difference for you in being on a cable show as opposed to broadcast network or is it all the same from where you sit?
SS: We get to cuss, which is nice, but we still can't say some of my favorite cuss words like motherfucker. I love motherfucker. I just love the way it sounds. I will say that it's nice being on a network like USA because it's definitely very collaborative from my end. [USA Co-Presidents] Jeff Wachtel and Chris McCumber, [NBCU Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios Chair] Bonnie Hammer... they love their network. They're the number one cable network but they run it like it's a mom and pop network. The door is always open and they always return a call and an email. They really make you feel like you're at home and you're one big great family and I think that's something very unique and something I haven't experienced at other networks.
"Fairly Legal" airs Fridays at 9:00/8:00c on USA.