Smart move-- Actress plays the district attorney 'you love to hate'

By Kurt Anthony Krug

Legal News

Emmy-winning actress Jean Smart always wanted to work with David E. Kelley, the former lawyer who eventually became the writer and creator of many beloved television series -- the majority of them legal dramas -- in the last 25 years, including ''L.A. Law,'' ''The Practice,'' ''Ally McBeal,'' and ''Boston Legal.''

So when Smart -- best known for her roles on ''Designing Women,'' ''Frasier,'' ''24,'' the new ''Hawaii 5-0,'' and ''Samantha Who?'' -- was offered the recurring role of district attorney Roseanna Remick on Kelley's latest series ''Harry's Law,'' which stars Oscar-winning actress Kathy Bates as lawyer Harry Korn, she jumped at the chance.

''I always wanted to speak his words. I was ecstatic about (this role),'' said Smart. ''I'm the district attorney you love to hate. She's so outrageously ruthless in a way that's almost kind of funny. She will obviously say and do just about anything to win, which is fascinating. She's the Richard III of modern district attorneys.''

According to Smart, she didn't have to do any research for this role.

''David used to be a lawyer; he's done all the research for me,'' said Smart, who is married to actor Richard Gilliland.

Together, they have two children: Connor, 21, and Bonnie, 3, who was adopted from China in 2009.

Smart pointed out that on television the lawyers people root for and sympathize with are the defense attorneys, whereas in real life people root for the prosecutors and think defense attorneys are ''scumbugs.''

''Roseanna would say, 'I don't understand this. I'm trying to put away the bad guys. What's the deal here?' Obviously, she does it in very unethical ways occasionally. She does have a rather twisted sense of humor, which I adore. She says to Harry at one point, 'I find it interesting that you've defended all these murderers and drug-dealers, and you save all of your disdain for me.' I think that's how she sees it,'' explained Smart. ''For whatever those reasons, I think she feels like she's on some kind of a crusade. She's enjoying it. She also sees it as a game -- it's a big game. Her attitude is a bit like athletes' attitudes are in a way -- you trash talk, you go out there and try to break each other's knees, then you go out and have a beer together.''

She continued, ''Harry doesn't quite see it (Roseanna's) way; she's a little bit purer. Kathy's character is an anti-hero in the sense that she's such a curmudgeon, she smokes dope, and she isn't always sympathetic -- which I think is fantastic for a lead character on a show like this -- but along comes Roseanna Remick (who) makes Harry look nicer. That's fun to have. I love the scene where they sat down in bar and had a drink together -- that was fun.''

In addition to working with Kelley, Smart also enjoys teaming up with Bates.

''Who doesn't love Kathy Bates? I've always admired her so much; we have mutual friends from the New York theater community. I'm crazy about her. I think she's fabulous and she has been unbelievably kind and supportive of me,'' Smart said. ''Every few days, I'd hug her and kiss her and tell her, 'This is from so-and-so' or 'So-and-so says hi.' We have a one degree of separation kind of relationship. We both starred in theater, so we have similar sensibilities about work.''

The actress earned critical praise and an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of mentally unstable First Lady Martha Logan on the fifth season of ''24.'' Her last appearance as Martha was in the sixth season when she stabbed her estranged husband, the evil President Charles Logan (Gregory Itzin). Although Martha's current whereabouts and activities after that incident were never revealed, subsequent episodes have hinted that things did not end well for her. Smart has her own theory about her character's fate.

''They made it sound like she jumped out a window or something,'' she said, laughing. ''I half-jokingly picture her with a shaved head in a rubber room somewhere, babbling in Russian. Who knows? Poor Martha.''

What wasn't ambiguous was the fate of Smart's recurring character, Gov. Pat Jameson, on the first season finale of the new ''Hawaii 5-0.''

''I went down in a mini-hail of bullets. I say that because it was two to three bullets,'' said Smart, who really enjoyed the role. ''You get to play the governor of Hawaii, you get to shoot in Hawaii, you get to be part of a remake of a classic TV show. I thought how fun could that be?''

Earlier this year, Smart jumped at the chance to portray Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, and wife of Prince Charles in the tele-film, ''William & Catherine: A Royal Romance,'' which chronicled the courtship of Prince William and Kate Middleton - now the Duchess of Cambridge - who were married earlier this year.

''I just couldn't say no. It was just one of those things that sounded like so much fun,'' she said. ''I was nervous because there is almost no video footage of her speaking. I Googled and YouTubed until I was blue in the face. My husband found an audiotape of her addressing a group of journalists. That helped me get down the quality of her voice -- she has a very posh accent and a very deep voice.''

She continued, ''I thought it was great fun. When I heard that Jane Alexander and Victor Garber were starring, I knew it would have wonderful acting in it. I read the script and thought it was really enchanted. I totally got sucked in by the love story -- it doesn't matter how much of it was fictionalized -- I found myself rooting for this young couple... It made me cry and I just loved it.''

Asked if she heard from the real Camilla, Smart laughed and responded, ''I doubt if she watched it. I'm sure their reaction was: 'Oh, please, another movie about this family? Really? Okay, fine, thank you.'''

Smart enjoyed filming ''Youth in Revolt'' in Michigan in 2009. She and her son drove through downtown Detroit and dined at the restaurant Coach Insignia, which is located on top of the Renaissance Center. The actress sang Motown's praises.

''Even though parts are depressed, you see those spectacularly beautiful old homes and cathedrals -- some of which, unfortunately, are boarded up. When you get downtown, you see parts of the city that have been revitalized. There was a street fair down on the water,'' recalled Smart. ''You can see driving through the city -- even the parts past their heyday a little bit -- you can see why Detroit has been called the Paris of the Midwest. You can see it -- the architecture is breathtaking.''

She continued, ''We ate at one of the best restaurants I have ever eaten -- bar none -- in my entire life. The food, the view, the service was phenomenal. It was amazing... Detroit has always been an incredible city: the history, the things Detroit gave to our culture. I wish Detroit the best.''

Published: Mon, Dec 12, 2011

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