Emmy Award–winning writer/producer David E. Kelley is the creative genius behind award winning legal dramedies “Boston Legal,” “The Practice,” “Picket Fences,” and “Ally McBeal,” the critically acclaimed dramatic series “Boston Public” and “Chicago Hope.” Kelly has penned a new drama series, Harry’s Law starring Academy Award winner Kathy Bates in the title role — about how people can embrace the unexpected and other curveballs that life can throw at them.
“Harry’s Law” premieres Monday, January 17th at 10pm on NBC.
David, can you talk about the writing of the show and how you worked it to play to Kathy’s strengths as an actress?
David Kelley: We had written it for a man and saw a lot of good actors but no one that truly embodied the role to our satisfaction. So we said okay well let’s think about a woman then. And as soon as we opened the field up to women, Kathy’s name came up first and fast. And everybody unanimously was on board with that.
What is it about the legal system that keeps you coming back as a setting for your TV series?
David Kelley: I think the imperfection of the law – our most in exact way of legislating society’s sense of morals and ethics. It’s extremely imperfect. It seems it’s like a natural springboard because we’re talking about ideas more times than not. It’s a springboard for exploring characters. And I love to explore our characters. I think that’s my favorite part of the job. This series will be a little different as it evolves. We’ve had many episodes that don’t even step into the court room at all. It becomes as much about the street and, alternative dispute resolution. Kathy referenced one episode where she really had to settle a beef between two gangs before violence would break out. We’re going into nooks and crannies that involve justice but not necessarily the legal system in this series. And that’s been a lot of fun for me as well.
What qualities did you see in Kathy Bates that had her jump to the forefront like that?
David Kelley: I guess first of all it was a persona that was very organic to Harry. Her skills are beyond reproach. She’s an Oscar winning actress with good reason. She is, a great dramatic actress and she can also be funny. It’s very hard to find people who have both those muscles. So it – I guess when you start a casting process you look for best actor who’s right for the role. Kathy was right for the role and she was certainly the best actor available and really best actor we could think of. Once her name came up, everybody lit up and said she’s perfect. But, you know, we should only be so lucky and turned out we got lucky.
David, you’ve done so many legal shows in the past. What do you feel that Harry’s Law brings to the genre that has not really been done so much in the past? What makes this show basically different from all the legal drama that you’ve done?
David Kelley: Mainly I think we’re going to be dealing with more of the Alternative Dispute Resolution than what we’ve seen in most cases. As the series evolves we are – it’s not conventional trials and court room cases. Harry’s scurrying maybe into court to get motions to get court orders to facilitate transplants. She’s got a case where she is settling gang disputes. She’s got a – you know, we see her tank a trial on purpose. I mean this is the anti-lawyer in so many ways. And yet at the root of it is her fundamental core of justice. And I think what the series really explores is how justice and law don’t always coincide. This case – this series is as much about the people and the street that they live on as it is about the courtroom. So it probably will feel a little grungier than past series but very, very character driven. Most of my series tend to be character driven but maybe this one even more so. I think the element of class warfare will be present throughout this series. The trick was getting Kathy. And we were lucky enough that she said – to get her to read the script and she signed on board. The adjustment of the character really was surprisingly very little. I mean the characters originally conceived was this card carrying curmudgeon brilliant lawyer but one who had become disillusioned with the law. And that truthfully could have been a woman just as easily as a man. So the adjustments were very, very small. The joy of having Kathy in the role as in any pilot obviously you want to cultivate an investment in your lead character. You want the audience to care about this person and welcome he or she into the living room week after week. And the joy with Kathy is we didn’t have to give her lines or scenes that sort of revealed her tender side or moments that were – would say to the audience see, I’m really a likable person after all. She oozes that naturally. So we could make her as tough and disgruntled as we wanted to and she would take care of the rest. We knew the – we felt confident that the audience would find an affection for her. And that’s always a luxury for a writer not to have to take those little timeouts from a story in order to demonstrate that your character’s redeeming after all. She just sort of exudes that.
“Harry’s Law” is produced by Bonanza Productions Inc. in association with David E. Kelley Productions and Warner Bros. Television. David E. Kelley (“Boston Legal,” “The Practice”) and Bill D’Elia (“Boston Legal,” “The Practice”) serve as executive producers. D’Elia also serves as director.
By: Daedrian McNaughton