After bending the New York legal world to her will on USA Network’s Suits, Gina Torres’ disbarred lawyer Jessica Pearson takes on the dirty realm of Chicago politics as the mayor’s right-hand woman on the spin-off Pearson. Below, EW chats with the star and co-executive producer about forging her own path on the new series.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You left Suits as a series regular in 2016. Why did you want to return for a spin-off?
GINA TORRES: When I stepped away from it, I started to miss her and I started wondering, “Well, where is she? What is she doing in Chicago?” And it was at that point that the 2016 election was reaching this fever pitch, and I thought, “What would she do? Who would she be in these circumstances?” I just started working the scenario in my head and kind of brought it up with my agent. And he said, “You know you have a show here?” And I thought, “Maybe I do.” And that’s how [Pearson] was born.
Jessica usually has it all under control. How’s she faring in Chicago?
You’ll see the Jessica that you know, but she’s definitely a fish out of water. She’s realizing her old tricks don’t necessarily work in Chicago.
How is it playing Jessica outside Harvey Specter’s orbit on Suits?
Liberating. Not that I didn’t love working with that cast and those story lines, but it’s just such a gift, as an actor, to explore these different aspects of a woman, a powerhouse, a boss, a lover, a niece. I’m finally getting to put flesh and blood on a fully realized human.
How does Pearson differ from Suits?
We’re much more interested in being reflective of what’s happening today and how it’s affecting society. Therefore, our background of Chicago is very important, because it’s a city — good, bad, and indifferent — representing all of that. So tonally, I would say it’s a little darker. Within all of that, there’s gallows humor.
Pearson premieres July 17 on USA.
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