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Gina Torres Talks Suits, Scandals & The Impeccable Jessica Pearson
Suits is upping the ante this season with an explosive story arc that threatens not just Mike’s position in the firm, but the firm’s existence itself. On the front line is Jessica Pearson, co-founder of Pearson-Hardman, and now keeper of Mike’s biggest secret. Jessica is played with cool grace by Gina Torres of Firefly, Serenity and The Matrix movies fame. We sat down with Gina this week to talk Hardman’s motives, the firm’s fraud law suit, and Jessica’s unique and often fraught relationships with Gabriel Macht’s Harvey and Patrick J. Adams’ Mike.
Screen Spy: Jessica has her hands full this season. Hardman is back. Donna has been fired and the firm is being sued. Jessica has an outward, almost swan-like grace, but under the surface she must be paddling furiously. What’s her state of mind right now?
Gina Torres: She is dancing as fast as she can! And don’t forget there’s also this huge secret, which is the revelation that Mike is not a lawyer. If she thought for one second that it could come out then this house of cards would all come tumbling down. She’s got to put out the fires that are closest to home right now, and right now that fire is this fraud lawsuit. Tanner has it in for Harvey. He wants him gone. The enemy is at the gate. She does not trust that Hardman has reformed. She’s got to take care of her family.
SS: Jessica is the epitome of a strong female character. Is this notion something we shouldn’t have to remark about in this day and age or do you think women still have some way to go before we stop batting an eyelid at smart, capable powerful characters on TV who just happen to be women?
GT: [Laughing] Oh that’s such a big question Jennifer! How much time do we have? [Laughing] Alright, I’ll try to summarize what I think about this one. Television and film, by and large, deal with archetypes. It’s only if and when we get to spend more than a season or two with any group of characters that they start to fill in the blanks and begin to bleed into the grey. But we always start with an archetype – Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, whatever. Jessica is an archetype. She is the matriarch, for lack of a better word. She is the woman at the head of the family. There are certain things – and not to belittle TV, or belittle writers – but those archetypes, or jumping-off points in any characterization are necessary. As a viewer you want to be able to immediately identify with whoever you’re watching. You want characters that are familiar. So, if you can say ‘Ah, I know what that is,’ then you’re comforted.
There are whole levels that go beyond male/female. It’s cultural also. I come at it from another angle, which is are we ever going to stop questioning that people of color can be in positions of power? So, I think it’s very layered. All I can say is that some of these things are in place so that the greater population can feel comforted and have a jumping off point of familiarity.
Having said that, I think that from season one to season two there has been more opportunity to peel back those layers with Jessica – to peel the onion so to speak. As much as everyone loves Jessica’s impeccable righteousness I actually look forward to the chinks in the armor. I look forward to seeing her lose it a little bit. I wonder if when all of this is over are we going to see her take a big breath and say ‘Holy shit! That was a close one!’ Or even just ‘Where are we now? What’s missing?’ We saw her teeth last week. She wasn’t always so bright and shiny and fabulous and I loved that! I loved that there was this aspect to her that can come and bite you. She had to grow into the Jessica we see now. And you only grow in that way when life hands you your hat. You only find humility when you’ve been humiliated. So let’s get to that. I think there’s a lot of room. How did I do?
SS: Best answer ever!
GT: [laughing] Thank you very much!
SS: Do you think Hardman is going to show his hand any time soon, or might that be something the writers will keep the audience guessing at for some time to come this season?
GT: I think the smart thing to do is to keep us guessing. We set him up to be a smart man, and a smart man does not show his hand quickly. A smart man plays it till the very end. And it’s really up to us – Team Jessica [laughing] Team Harvey – to make him show it. To get up under that skirt. We’ll see what happens.
SS: How would you describe Jessica’s relationship with Harvey?
GT: It’s a brother/sister/priest/confessor/mother-superior/people-who-got-really-drunk-one-night-and-thought-better-of-it type of relationship. [laughing] I think it’s real. I think there are probably a few people in this world that have that sort of relationship that is oddly intimate and oddly distanced all at the same time. They’ve definitely drawn a line in the sand. They have a tremendous amount of respect for each other and they see each other very clearly for who and what they are. There’s a kind of trust, so that’s the intimacy of it, but it’s not a romantic intimacy. It’s more something that people who are very much alike share a commonality which brings them together.
SS: We’ve seen Jessica’s relationship with Harvey up close but events in season two have gotten in the way of Jessica having a meaningful discussion with Mike – although we did have this lovely scene in which she challenges his knowledge of the law without the use of a computer. When the law suit dust settles, will sparks fly between Jessica and Mike, or has she come to terms with the fact that Mike is now a permanent fixture at Pearson-Hardman?
GT: I’m glad you caught that! [laughing] So, as regards Mike, it’s a huge huge secret that could ultimately endanger the firm. That isn’t something that just goes away. But we have this distraction of this law suit. There’s a lot of dust that needs to be settled. I selfishly, as someone who adores Patrick and loves working with him, hope we get to flesh out that relationship a little bit more to see where we come to with all of that. I think Jessica and Mike share a similar mind. Their minds work in a very similar way and that unites them. I’m very interested to see how that plays out.
SS: I have a fan comment from Nikky in the UK who says Jessica’s clothes rock, and can she borrow a dress?
GT: [laughing] Thank you Nikky.
SS: Is your wardrobe from a particular designer?
GT: They’re not from a particular designer. We have our favorites but we’re pretty much all over the map and it’s a case of whatever works and whatever captures the moment at the time. I’m in fittings a lot. If something doesn’t make sense or I don’t like it the we don’t ever see it again. [laughing]
We don’t doubt it! Catch Gina Torres as the impeccable Jessica Pearson in Suits, Thursdays on USA.