In keeping: Actress 'Suits' character in a long line of strong women

Award-winning actress Gina Torres plays high-powered attorney Jessica Pearson in the hit TV legal drama “Suits.”

By Kurt Anthony Krug

Legal News

High-powered attorney Jessica Pearson is just the latest strong, empowered female award-winning actress Gina Torres has played in a long line of strong, empowered females.

“Jessica at the start of Season 5 is still very much large and in charge. As always in all seasons, there’s always someone who wants to knock her down. A new sparring partner is revealed, I will say,” said Torres whose character appears on the USA legal drama “Suits,” which had its fifth season premiere in late June. “The show in and of itself in its entirety was a great premise, an opportunity to see something we haven’t quite seen yet — and I watch a lot of stuff. Here was this woman who’s the ringmaster of all these varied and strong personalities — that was very appealing.”

A Harvard University Law School alumna, Jessica is one of the founders and a current managing partner of the prestigious, powerful law firm Pearson Specter Litt, located in New York City. She was mentored by founding partner Daniel Harman (David Costabile, who co-starred in “Low Winter Sun,” AMC’s 2013 crime drama that was filmed and set in Detroit).

Torres couldn’t say too much about what’s happening during the fifth season, which occurs several months after the end of the fourth season, where Jessica had broken up with her lover and fellow attorney Jeff Malone (D.B. Woodside). Torres and Woodside also played a couple on Fox’s espionage series “24.”

“We’ve jumped forward in time. A few months have passed, so it’s not fresh, not on front burner,” explained Torres. “It was nice to be reunited (with Woodside). He was a wonderful actor and we get along very well, so it was lovely to get to work with him all of last season.”

Torres credits the show’s longevity to creator Aaron Korsch and his team of writers.

“I believe (the creators) have done a great job of upping the stakes every season and keeping the audience surprised and intrigued, as well deepening these characters by revealing something more about them every season — another tragic flaw or how they survive some ridiculous situation they’ve been put in,” explained Torres, who added with a laugh: “The fashions don’t hurt either.”

Torres also has a recurring role on the NBC series “Hannibal,” a prequel to “The Silence of the Lambs” movies based on the best-selling novels by Thomas Harris. Torres and her husband Laurence Fishburne — best known for his role in “The Matrix” movies — play a married couple named Jack and Bella Crawford, which isn’t much of a stretch.

“Laurence had already been cast as Jack. He’s worked with one the producers before who was more than thrilled he was available and willing to come onto the show. I had done ‘Pushing Daisies’ with Bryan (Fuller). ‘Hannibal’ shoots in Toronto, ‘Suits’ shoots in Toronto, (the creators) figured while I’m in town, they asked, ‘How would you feel about this?’ I had a chat with Bryan about what it entails, who this character was, and it just worked out — it seemed to be perfect. A perfect fit. It was one of those circumstances where the stars aligned and everything worked out; it’s not always that way,” explained Torres.

Things aren’t boding well for Bella, who’s battling cancer.  

“She was pretty much coughing up a lung at the end of last season, so it’s not looking good,” said Torres. “It’s not looking good for Bella at all — I will say that.”

Torres has played plenty of memorable characters on such TV shows as “Cleopatra 2525,” “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys,” “Xena: Warrior Princess,” “The Guardian,” “Eli Stone,” “Alias,” “Angel,” “The Shield,” “Standoff,” “Revenge,” as well as the feature films “The Matrix Reloaded,” “The Matrix Revolutions,” and “I Think I Love My Wife.”

However, Torres stated she doesn’t choose her roles; her roles choose her.

“As an actor, you get what you can. You audition and hope for the best. Somewhere along the line — or as it would seem, all the way down the line — these fantastic, dynamic, powerful women have chosen me to be their vessel and I’m happy to oblige,” she said, laughing.

Her best known role is Zoe Washburne on Fox’s short-lived cult favorite series “Firefly.” Created by Joss Whedon (writer/director of “Avengers: Age of Ultron,”), “Firefly” was a western set in 2517 where Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion, “Castle”) commands the starship Serenity.

Torres recently filmed her role in “Con Man,” an upcoming web-series created by Tudyk, but wouldn’t get into specifics. “Con Man” reunites the majority of the “Firefly”/“Serenity” cast, including Torres, Tudyk, Fillion, Sean Maher, as well as other Whedon alumni Amy Acker, Seth Green, and Felicia Day.

It’s about a washed-up actor named Wray Nerely (Tudyk), whose 15 minutes of fame evaporated after the sci-fi series “Spectrum” — where he played pilot Cash Wayne — was cancelled. His co-star Jack Moore (Fillion), who played Captain Rakker on “Spectrum,” went on to mega-stardom — something Wray envies. The only way Wray makes his living is going to comic book and science-fiction conventions. “Spectrum” is an obvious nod to “Firefly.”

“Con Man” may indeed be the closest thing to these actors reuniting and reprising their “Firefly”/“Serenity” roles. As for an eagerly awaited continuation of the cult hit, Torres stated there’s currently no plans she’s aware of, but would definitely be up for playing Zoe again.

“I can’t say that (Joss) has reached out to us…We’re all game and how that realizes itself and how that ends up on screen, that’s all on his head,” said Torres. “I don’t know what’s going on in there — there’s so much going on in there; he is capable of doing so many things and telling so many stories. I can’t imagine him moving forward or backwards, depending on how you think of it, with a ‘Firefly’ reunion. I know this is something that’s dear to our hearts. If my phone rings, that would be great, but I can’t say whether it’s going to or not.”

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