Friday, June 11, 2010

Interview: Kate Levering Shines on Drop Dead Diva

Lifetime's breakout hit Drop Dead Diva returned this past Sunday for its second season with a definitely BANG! It premiered to record ratings and has no intention of slowing down. I talked to Kate Levering (pictured left, credit Lifetime Television), who plays bitch-on-wheels lawyer Kim Kaswell, and she gave me the scoop on her character as well as what we can expect in Season 2.

Celebrity Extra: Whenever I talk to someone who plays a bitch on TV or in a movie, they almost always say it is so much fun, because they get to do and say things they normally wouldn’t. So, I am thinking it must be fun to play Kim, because she is a major meanie!

Kate Levering: So true. And that’s very funny, because I say the same thing. I say that it’s really fun to do and say things that you would normally never do in a million years.

CE: And the writers give you such wonderful things to say.

KL: Yes, the writers really have found her voice. I think that it doesn’t always happen for a group of writers to really collectively find a voice of a character. They have done a great job with Kim.

CE: When you were first auditioning or reading for this role, what about it appealed to you and made you want to get it?

KL: First of all, I worked with the producers Neil Meron and Craig Zedan in the past. That’s kind of a no-brainer. Everyone always wants to be associated with anything they’re doing. They’re award-winning producers. They have a great track record, where everything they touch kind of turns to gold. So that was a no-brainer. Drop Dead Diva is a new story that we haven’t seen on television. This is a show that is dealing with issues that haven’t been dealt with. I think that from this show we are going to see more, I think there already are, two new shows that are kind of touching on the issues that we are touching on. But I like that we were the first people to kind of put this out there.

CE: I love the concept of the show — it’s so outlandish, yet believable at the same time. Is that something that appealed to you?

KL: I think that obviously you have to be able to suspend reality. That’s with any of our favorite shows: Lost and Heroes and Twilight and Vampire Diaries. Television asks you to be able to suspend your belief in some way. So obviously it’s not completely reality-based, but the message is what’s most important. I think that’s what a viewer looks for. This is a show that is creating dialogue. It’s creating dialogue between mothers and daughters and girlfriends. It’s kind of creating this water-cooler-type dialogue with women, especially dealing with discrimination in the new way and really looking at what it means to be discriminated against as an overweight person and our society’s obsession with weight.

CE: I know you aren’t mean in real life, so how do you go about playing someone as sassy as Kim? What or who do you draw on for inspiration?

KL: I don’t think that there is anybody in particular that I draw on to play the role. I’ve played these types of roles before, which is kind of funny because they think I do a great job of playing these types of roles. I hope I’m not like any of these characters in person. People don’t say that I am unless they’re all lying to me. I think you just kind of draw from that place. I say things that I would never ever be able to say, and you just kind of have to go for it.

CE: This show is so much fun to watch, I can only assume the vibe on the set is fun too; is it?

KL: We have the best time. I love going to work. I get off on spending obscenely long amounts of time on set. I love it so much. For some reason — and I don’t think it happens very often — but for some reason, our synergy and the way that we gelled, personalitywise, has just been incredible. We love each other. And we are dysfunctional in every way like a family. We go to dinner with each other. We spend weekends with each other. A group of us recently flew to New York for Ben Feldman’s 30th birthday party. We embrace each other: partners and spouses and children. Part of it is because we are on location in Atlanta shooting, so we are away from everything that is familiar. In a way, all we have is each other. So we were kind of forced into this. Not forced meaning it wouldn’t happen otherwise, but it helped us create a very fast bond — a very strong bond.

CE: And knowing during the first season that you were renewed for a second season, when so many new shows aren’t, that must have made it even easier for you guys to bond and relax more in your roles.

KL: I’ve never been on a cable show before. I’ve only ever been on one of the “Big 3,” as they say. That has been so nice to just have a sense that Lifetime believes in us, Sony believes in us. They are willing to let their shows build with the audience. They are not yanking you off the air after three episodes because you didn’t get 13 million viewers. And that, I think, for the actors and for the crew and everyone involved with the production is so refreshing to feel supported, like your studio and your network are behind you. They believe in the show. That’s a very different feeling. And as an actor, you never really feel like you have job security. But this is kind of the most job security I’ve ever felt, which as an actor, and I think I can speak for the other actors and say that, it’s such a wonderful feeling to feel supported by Lifetime and Sony.

CE: What can fans expect for season 2, especially from your character, and the show in general?

KL: My character, right off the bat, has a new look. We gave Kim a kind of a little makeover this season, which I think everybody is very happy with. I’m certainly very happy with it. I think the producers are very happy with it. They hope that the audience will be too. That’s been really fun. I think it’s really helped define her character. Just because I get to pop off the screen a little bit more than I did. She’s not a blend-in kind of girl. So this is really helpful in terms of character definement and refinement. And I have a new love interest. We’ll see some of the fallout with her last relationship last season with Grayson, as well as she enters into a new relationship that creates some scandal. And that’s been really fun. That storyline for me has been just really cool. There will be more interesting, quirky court cases and great dream sequences with really exciting talent. So much talent. We are really lucky with the people that come to our show. We feel so blessed.

CE: The show certainly has attracted some killer guest stars, like Rosie O’Donnell, Paula Abdul, Liza Minelli — any Season 2 guest stars you can tell me about?

KL: Of course, Rosie comes back, Paula comes back. Faith Prince, a wonderful Broadway star comes back. Sharon Lawrence comes back. On top of that we have Cybill Shepherd. We have Leelee Sobieski. We have Chad Lowe. We have Natasha Henstridge. We have Candace Cane. We also have Robin Givens and Vivica Fox. We have a chimpanzee. We have so many amazing guests, I mean every week. I’m always shocked. I go into work, and in the wardrobe department they always have headshots of who’s coming in for the next episode, and a lot of times we are so busy we don’t even really know who’s playing which role for the next episode. So sometimes I’ll go into that wardrobe room and just be blown away by who is coming in the following week for the next episode. Then I have to make a call and be like well, Who am I working with? Which person do I get to act with?

Don't miss Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime Television, Sunday nights at 9 ET/PT.

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