Friday, March 16, 2012

Interview: Virginia Williams Loosens Up on Fairly Legal

The USA Network's hit legal drama "Fairly Legal" is finally back tonight for its second season with 13 all-new episodes. The show centers on the law firm of Reed and Reed, which was founded by Kate Reed's (Sarah Shahi) father, and is now being run by her stepmother, Lauren Reed, after her father's death. Lauren is sharp, shrewd, hard as nails, and is pretty much the same age as Kate ... so, you can see where a lot of the conflict lies.

I spoke with Virginia Williams, who plays Lauren, and she is anxious and energized for fans to finally get to see the show's new season. With almost a full year between seasons one and two, you can bet viewers are more than ready for a new offering of "Fairly Legal," which airs Fridays on USA at 9 p.m. EST.

Celebrity Extra: With such a long hiatus between the seasons, you must be excited to finally be premiering season two!

Virginia Williams: Yeah — and it’s fun to see how excited the fans are getting. I think a lot of people forgot about the show, understandably. What’s great about this season is, as good as last season was, I think this season is going to be just exponentially better. It’s tighter, it’s funnier, it’s wittier, and it’s lighter. It’s just a better show all around.

CE: What can you tell me about season two?

VW: I’m trying to figure out how to phrase it without giving too much away. I think it’s pretty obvious for us to even have a season 2 that Kate has to come back to work at Reed and Reed. With the relationship between the girls, we get to see them come together a lot more. They don’t have such an antagonistic relationship, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily going to see eye to eye. They still are extremely different characters. They’re the odd couple. They’re always going to look at the world through really different lenses. I think one thing that was missing in season 1 that we get to see in season 2 is how much they both respect what the other one does. They both get that they are each great at their jobs, they just do their jobs completely differently.

Its fun to watch them come together and then grow apart, and come together and then grow apart, but they’re these two women who are essentially two sides of the same coin. They both love justice and in doing the right thing, they just look at it in different ways. Lauren’s lens is always true in the eyes of the law. She truly fights for what she believes in, and she believes that the law is king. Kate believes that since humans made up the laws and humans are flawed, she works to do what she feels is the right thing despite what the law says.

CE: The character of Lauren could easily have been pretty one-dimensional, but with your portrayal of her and with the benefit of an excellent writing staff, you've really brought out her different facets and dimensions.

VW: Thank you. I’ve worked very hard as an actress to bring dimensionality to her. She absolutely could be played extremely one dimensionally, and on paper she can look like a trophy wife who’s money-grubbing and in it for the wrong reasons. I do feel that season 1 sometimes wrote to that, but a lot of the time, it was my own personal struggle when trying to bring that. The writers have written to her facets more, which is really great. We get to see Lauren at home for example. Everything still revolves around Reed and Reed — the show is about the law firm — but we do see glimpses of Lauren at home: coming back from a jog, going on a date, having a resemblance of a life outside of work. We get to see her with her hair down, literally and figuratively. Those are things I’m really excited about, and this next season we get to see some of the little colors of her.

The most fun characters to play as an actor are the ones who hold their cards really close to the vest, and we only get to see little glimmers of their fears and insecurities. That is really what I love about her. I was really drawn to this character because I thought, “How fun would it be to constantly pile on the layers?” Which is what I find I do with her. I just constantly try to pile on the layers, and if two or three of them come through and the audience sees them, great! Then you’ve done your job well. But I wanted to play someone who is very guarded, and can only show little bits and pieces. I think it’s a really fun thing to play. She’s like a volcano always ready to explode. At least through season 1 that was kind of how I played it, with all the pressure that was on her.

Through season 2, she’s still quite guarded and protective and exacting and stylish and brilliant and all these great things that I love about her, but she’s a lot more comfortable with her position. This allows me some flexibility as an actress and how I play her, which I’m really happy for. I think last season was about Lauren proving to everyone else that she was capable and that she wasn’t just a trophy wife — she could get the job done and could lead the firm. This season we see that she not only is extremely capable, but the firm ends up being better off than it was even before Teddy died. She comes into her own a bit, and the confidence that comes with that allows her to loosen up just a little bit.

CE: You shoot the series in Vancouver — how do you like it up there?

VW: I love shooting there in the summer. We shot the first season through the summer, and Vancouver became one of my top-three favorite cities in the world. Absolutely love it. But (laughs), as a Southern girl, I’m not so fond of shooting there in the winter.

CE: What else does this season have in store for Lauren?

VW: We get to see Lauren moving on from the death of her husband, which is nice. As early as episode three we see Lauren going on a date, and by the end of the season, we have a bit of a cliffhanger story line — a love story line. This season Justin and Lauren get to work together a lot, which is really fun. And there’s definitely a love-triangle story line with Kate and Justin and Ben.

CE: I read that Meatloaf is a guest star this season. How great is that?

VW: Yes! Unfortunately I didn’t have any scenes with him, so I didn’t actually get to work with him. I’ve been singing "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" for well over a month. We have some really, really great guest stars this year: Mark Margolis and Betsy Brandt, who are on "Breaking Bad," will be on the show. I get a lot of really good stuff with Mark Margolis. He’s just outstanding and mortifying and scary as hell, which is great to work with. I know all of production has been very pleased with who we’ve had and what they’ve brought to the table. Its going to be a great season!

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