While in Los Angeles recently I had the chance to screen the pilot “For The People” and interview the cast (Susannah Flood (Kate Littlejohn), Rege-Jean Page (Leonard Knox), Wesam Keesh (Jay Simmons) and Jasmin Savoy Brown (Allison Adams) along with Tom Verica Executive Producer of the pilot and Paul Davies Writer/Executive Producer. For The People has the same executive producers as Grey’s, Scandal, and HTGAWM, but premieres on Tuesday nights at 10|9c on ABC starting 3/13 (tonight).
Let’s dive into the interview highlights keep in mind no spoilers just things you should know and pure excitement.
How Did The Idea Of The Show Come About
“Shonda and I had been kind of playing around with two ideas for a while. One of them was a show set in the Southern District of New York the Mother Court, which in legal circles is kind of the as the judge says at the opening of the show, it’s the highest kind of most the highest profile most prestigious trial court in the United States.
I thought a show set in that court with the kinds of cases that come out of that court and the lawyers that work in that court could be interesting. I also wanted to do something that showed the perspective of both sides. In a formulaic way but just kind of in a richer sense of how the law works and how justice is made in America. I thought to have that dual perspective could be an interesting new way to approach a legal show. I brought those ideas to Shonda and we talked them through and ended up combining those two ideas into what has become this show. So that’s how it got started.” Paul William Davies
Fun Fact: Did you know Paul William Davies is still a Lawyer who doesn’t practice anymore?
“I’ve been to the Mother Court I was a lawyer. I still pay my bar dues, but I’m hoping to never have to use them again. But I was a practicing lawyer for years. I worked for a large law firm, I didn’t do the kind of noble work that these people do. I do have a background in the law and some of my friends I went to law school with are consultants on the show. I’ve been able to draw off both from my own experience and then people that I’ve worked with and went to law school with.” Paul William Davies
The Inside Scoop On Casting With Tom Verica
After seeing the pilot I had to know how the casting process went so went the questioned popped up I was glad Tom Verica was eager to spill the tea and tell it all.
As we jumped in the process, we never know who these voices are and how they’re going to line up and literally, we had a lot of different people who were terrific on certain things and I think that a first actually? Each of these actors came to us at different times in our process and we were very kind of specific. Suggestions from the studio and the network and ultimately it just came down to kind of Paul’s vision of who these characters were and each one of these guys really just jumped out. I think we had that feeling as they came in. I mean I remember Susannah’s tape, it was like it was just we saw her reading and it was just hands on I mean she was up against five- four other girls who read for this thing and it was just it wasn’t even a question. I think those voices and their abilities just really popped and that merge just happens.
You can’t always design that and say this person is definitely, this person that was on this hit show last year would be perfect for this. We really tried to stay authentic to these voices and these characters and finding people we didn’t look at did they have to have so many credits, it’s really who really popped in these particular roles.
Regé-Jean Page Talks Candidly About His Reflection On Cases Related To Big Headlines
Inquiring minds wanted to know how the cast felt when faced with big headline cases on the show Rege Jean Page quickly responded I truly enjoyed what he had to say.
Paul and his team have a gift for the kind of making sure that they touch on the personal cases dealing with very large themes. Certainly, one case that I dealt with where I kind of needed to detox my brain for a couple of days after because they threw me a real heavy curveball. That was again inspired, certainly drew some very close parallels to some real events. It reminded me that although we often keep it on a light tone, these are incredibly important things that we deal with. Sometimes the world is a little bit dark and you need protection from that and you need people to kind of be torch bearers in that world on both sides, in the prosecution and the defense. There are times when yeah the weight of the thing can get intense, but I also think that’s one of the gifts that this team has is in managing that tone and presenting the real world in its lightness and its darkness as a complete package that you can digest and take on and grow from.
Preparing For The Role
Three of the cast members prepared for their role, but what I thought was unique is the overall experience.
I actually did shadow a public defender at the L.A. courthouse and that was an amazing experience, just what the public defenders have to deal with within a few hours, from like a bicycle theft case to a sexual assault case to somebody showing up for their prison sentence, to a juvenile trying to not get jail time. So they have to deal with a lot and it was very eye-opening, there’s a lot of dark humor behind the scenes which plays into it. Wesam Keesh
I also have a public defender that I Skype with who’s in New York and that’s invaluable. Even just while we’re Skyping she got like five calls in half an hour and just understanding the nature of what that actually looks like and her critiquing the show, just from the trailer that’s not what it’s like, I’m like wait, you’ll see when you watch, I promise. Yeah, it’s really it’s been really good. Jasmin Savoy Brown
I got into contact with a couple of folks in this city and went to court in Compton, which is an experience. And I didn’t know before I started working this that everyone has the right to go and just watch justice be done like you can turn up and watch a case with very-very few exceptions which are incredible because it is so important for justice not just to be done but to be seen to be done. Regé-Jean Page
It’s always a pleasure to meet up and coming talent, especially on a new show. It’s an honor to work with folks like Tom Verica, Shonda Rhimes, and Paul William Davies we can only expect one amazing show to play out weekly with unexpected cliffhangers. The cast was extremely excited and down to earth during the interviews and when it was selfie time. Photo credit: ABC Studios and Louise Manning Bishop / MomStart.com
About The Show
Set in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (a.k.a. “The Mother Court”), the new Shondaland series follows six talented young lawyers
working on opposite sides of the law and handling the most high-profile and high-stakes federal cases in the country. These lawyers will be put to the test both personally and professionally as their lives intersect in and out of America’s most prestigious trial court, on “For The People.”
“For The People” stars Britt Robertson as Sandra Bell, Jasmin Savoy Brown as Allison Adams, Ben Rappaport as Seth Oliver, Susannah Flood as Kate Littlejohn, Wesam Keesh as Jay Simmons, Regé-Jean Page as Leonard Knox, Ben Shenkman as Roger Gunn, Hope Davis as Jill Carlan, Vondie Curtis-Hall as Judge Nicholas Byrne and Anna Deavere Smith as Tina Krissman. The series from ABC Studios is created by Shondaland’s Paul William Davies, who executive producers alongside Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers, and Tom Verica.