The Outhouse's own Nightfly was invited to take part in a special Q&A conference call with Baron Vaughn and Virginia Williams, stars of USA's Fairly Legal.
Vaughn stars as Leonardo Price, also known as Leo, on the show, while Williams stars as Lauren Reed. The show airs on Thursdays at 10PM Eastern / 9PM Central.
Virginia Williams first talked about how they became involved in the series. She loved the script and found the character of Lauren fascinating, but was particularly enamored with one scene in the pilot episode. "She has a scene with a client who propositions her, and the way that she handles that situation I just thought was a really cool, and unique, and interesting way to present this character," Williams said. "She could have definitely been a very one-dimensional sort of antagonist that we're supposed to hate and doesn't have any heart. She could have been seen as a trophy wife." Vaughn added that his character changed a lot after his audition, becoming more like the actor himself.
Vaughn and Williams spoke about chemistry on the set. Of her chemistry with Sarah Shahi, Williams said, "We're quite good friends, and we have a really fun time playing with each other. I think we have a great rhythm with each other and a lot of fun, and we're both really willing to play and explore. So, we'll mess around with scenes when we're shooting and kind of get a feel for how we think it should go."
The next question addressed motivation, and Vaughn answered this one. "He is the consummate observer. So, he's just excited every day to go to work and see what everyone's going to get up to, because he gets to live his own reality show of everybody's insanities. Then, he gets to be around it. Then, on top of that, he takes everything that he sees and he's turning it into ultimately, I think, a graphic novel. So, he is observing life as it happens in this law firm and all the people and characters around them. And then one day, I will reiterate those things, except they're dragons and kings and castles."
As for Lauren's motivation, Williams offered some insight. "That's a pretty easy question for me, because I, from the pilot, from the get-go, I decided that Lauren's big motivation is to win. So, I try to approach every single scene with the overarching intention of winning. And, that can be done in a myriad of different ways."
Answering a question about similarities and differences with their characters, Vaughn said, "You know, I'm into a lot of the same things that Leonardo is into, just as a life-style thing. I hate saying this, but I'm a bit of a nerd. I'm not necessarily nerdy about the same things. I think that Leonardo knows more about graphic novels. I know more about musical theater. That's just different."
As for Williams and her character, Lauren? " We have our little tendencies. But, we're quite different. I actually aspire to be more like Lauren. She is incredibly prompt, and poised, and meticulous, and so put together. She handles, I think, every situation with such grace and elegance that I actually, I think in my own life, try in a lot a ways to be more like her."
Williams also remarked on how her character, who should be a role model, is instead viewed as a villain. "You know, I read a blog recently that cracked me up. I think it was called 'When Did Elegant Women Become Villains?' It was just sort of fabulous. It was a fabulous kind of treatise on since when are all of these wonderful qualities things we're not supposed to aspire to. I mean, we're supposed to delight in the person falling on her face who actually is poised and well put together and is a role model."
"You know, she's an underdog." Williams continued. "She's a woman in a man's world. So, she has to fight twice as hard, ten times as hard, to be respected and taken seriously in her position."
The next question lightened the tone, as Vaughn spoke about his interest in musical theater and his dream role. "You know, as absurd as Jesus Christ Superstar can be, the role of Judas is a fantastic role in terms of the singing," he said. "It's just, I'd say, three notes above my range. But, one day, I will be able to belt those. Every time I look at you I don't understand why you let the things you did get so out of hand.
Next up, our own Nightfly asked the stars which other USA show they would like their characters to crossover with. Willaims answered first, saying, "Well, I have a huge crush on Mark Feuerstein. So, I would love to go on Royal Pains. I actually tested for the role of Jill before I got this. I guess it was a year before, and I really liked that script."
"I thought it was a really good show. I think it all worked out for the best. I think I'm absolutely meant to play Lauren, and I love what I think I can specifically bring to her, so things happen for a reason. But, I think that's a really fun show and everyone on it is just adorable. I guess that would be one I'd love to be a part of."
"I am a big Dulé fan, too, though. So, I'd love to have Lauren go over to Psych and maybe help them with some legal case they may be in. That would be lots of fun, too. I think that that's actually probably what I'm really thirsty for right now is doing more comedy. I love comedy. I feel very much like comedy is a forte of mine, and Lauren doesn't get a lot of opportunities to be funny."
Next, Williams talked about the preperation and research that goes into her role. "I was given a really unique opportunity to speak with the top mergers and acquisitions attorney in the nation. I sat in her office for about half an hour and she was so gracious to sit down and talk to me."
But it's not the legal knowledge that Williams focused on, but instead the daily tasks of her character. "I found this one woman particularly intriguing and interesting in just looking around her office and hearing about her day to day. She said she answers over 400 e-mails a day. That immediately gave me so much to work with as a character. If you're someone who's that important in answering 400 e-mails a day, you are never not busy and you do not have time for tardiness."
Vaughn, on the other hand, has real life experience working in a law office. "I actually lived Leonardo's life," he explained. "I worked at a law firm for two years in New York. It was a corporate law firm and I wasn't an assistant, such as it was, but I was in charge of every piece of physical documentation in the office.
"And, I think well, they liked me," said Vaughn. "They kept me around because I was funny, you know. That was the contradiction of it. They were very entertained by me, but every now and then, I'd get a talk for like, oh, I don't really want you to be all that funny. But, I don't know if you could be less funny today." There's important people coming in. They don't like humor."
On Richard Dean Anderson, both stars were in agreement. "I think he's a delight to work with," replied Williams first. "I think he's just incredibly kind and giving as an actor and as a person. I used to be a tap dancer and his daughter taps. So, we have lots of conversations about tap dancing and about his family. I just think he was so much fun. Some of my favorite days were days that he worked and we'd have time when if we weren't shooting a particular scene and we'd go out and hang out by the trailers and chat some. I think he's just gracious.
Vaughn didn't get to spend as much time working with him, but appreciated working with Anderson because he's an icon. "You know, I went to Europe and I was telling people about this show. And I was like, oh, yes, we were just shooting with Richard Dean Anderson, but I don't know whether you know that's McGyver. What? McGyver. People freaked out. And, if it's not that, then it's Stargate. People know who he is and it was just really cool to watch him work. And, he's a seasoned professional. So, just from the little I did get to work with him, I did feel like I learned a lot."
Asked about a dream guest star, Williams immediately answered: Meryl Streep. "I just think she's the most incredible actress of our generation.," she said. "And, I'm clearly in the same boat with everyone else, but, still, every single thing I watch her in.
"I think in my work, I try really hard to pick very different roles, she continued. "I don't just keep playing myself over and over. In fact, I rarely play someone similar to me, Ginger – Virginia – it's my nickname. I so often play different types of characters that are quite different from who I really am. And, I think she's done the best job of anyone, male or female, of really transforming herself every time she performs. So, I'd kill to work with her, period, in any capacity."
Changing gears, Vaughn discussed the ammount of input he has into his character and dialog. "I think I have as much input as anybody else, and I feel like we all get quite a bit of input in who we're talking to and what we're saying," he answered. "Every now and then, since I'm also a writer and, you know, write shows and stuff like that, the writers like my input in terms of, like, the rhythm of a scene or the rhythm of a joke or cleaning up the language. And then there are a lot of times where I've gotten the improv. Like there was on the last couple episodes ago, 'Bo Me Once,' which was about a woman that had a barbeque recipe, was running from her father. There was a scene in which I give Kate some paper work, and I make a few jokes that are, kind of like, about cooking, and there was one where I give her some paperwork and she says something like, 'Well, this is interesting,' and I'm like, 'Yes, only in occasions that are rare,' and that was improvised."
Vaugh talked about what he believed would be the ultimate accomplishment for Leo, saying, "I think this is a similarity between us. He wants the respect of his peers. So I think for him to get some sort of indy cred where he's written some sort of really cool graphic novel or he has conquered some video game in the way that somebody hasn't. Where it's like he's recognized in a national level on something that a very specific group of people love. That he would be like, "Yes. I have this comic book I wrote that has taken off, and somebody wants to make it into a movie. That's awesome." I think that would be like his ultimate dream is to continue to do that."
"I'm hoping to get to open up Leo a little bit more," Vaughn went on. "I feel like on the show he's pretty reserved, but there's another level, and I'm interested in showing the audience the other level. Maybe a little bit more of the personal life of Leonardo, and maybe some things that he struggles with in terms of his family or his friends or just his issues in general that start to affect his, I guess, his performance or he starts to take it to work. I'm interested in exploring the view of Leo and making him— solidifying his three dimensionality."
Williams talked about Lauren's relationship with Kate, Sarah Shahi's character on the show. "Well, I don't know that I can summarize it in a one sentence little quip right now, but I can just speak to their relationship and how I think Lauren feels about it. I don't think that Lauren hates Kate the way that Kate hates Lauren. Meaning I don't think that Lauren agrees with or respects the way that Kate handles her business or her personal life, and I think it drives Lauren a little crazy because they're just such different people."
"But I think there's a very special and unique relationship that someone has when their parents remarries period, but certainly when they remarry someone that's their age. I, luckily, don't have personal experience in that. My parents are happily married, but if my father and my mother split and my father were with someone my age, boy I'd tell you what, I would not be very happy about it. I would hope I would be evolved and mature enough to be happy for them if that was what made both parties happy, and that was the best thing for my dad, but it would absolutely, it would totally kill me. And so you understand Kate's distaste for Lauren because that would be really, really hard. That would be very hard."
Asked about a possible appearance at San Diego Comic Con, Vaughn expressed interest in going, and already has a costume in mind. "I would come dressed as two different things," he suggested. "Like the top half would be Captain Jack Sparrow and the bottom half would be Tron. Everybody would say, 'What are you?' and I would say, 'Confused. Hello!'"
Williams discussed some of the challenges her character will face in the future. "I think that's a struggle that Lauren deals with daily. Even in the pilot episode I have a conversation, Lauren has a conversation, with Kate where she tells her all of the people who have already jumped ship, and as soon as Teddy died the people that were near and dear friends to them have already gone to other law firms. So she constantly has to fight and constantly has to prove to everyone that though she may be young and inexperienced, she is still capable. That's why she works so hard."
"So I think that she constantly is dealing with that old school mentality," continued Williams. "She certainly married someone much, much older, and she knows full well that a lot of people viewed her as a trophy wife or something like that, but she knows that she really did love him and she knows that they had a unique and special bond. I think that they really got each other and they loved each other. So she's always dealing with these older men, and not just older men, younger men. I mean, geesh, look even in the pilot someone who—he's probably still quite a bit older than Lauren, but the man that propositions her at the dinner table."
The call concluded with a question about the expectations of renewal after the first season of the show. "I don't think there's any calm, my friend. I wish there was," responded Vaughn. "You never know what's going to happen, and you never really know why it happens so often. It is true, they do have a perfect score, and USA is a phenomenal network to be a part of and one of the reasons, I'm sure, all of us in the cast chose to be a part of this show, and we're honored to be a part of it, is because of the great track record. You're probably going to get a much better shot of having multiple seasons on here when you do something for USA then you are for another network, be it cable or not."
"USA is very—they're very picky with what they develop in the first place. So for them to go forward with the show at all is already a tremendous vote of confidence. Of course, I'm hoping and wishing and praying, as that song goes, that we will have a few seasons."
Williams finished, "I think we're all quite confidant that the show's doing well. People are responding to it. It has a great lead-in in Royal Pains. I think it's a wonderful pairing, these two shows together, and the response has been pretty incredible. I think I heard somewhere it was the best-reviewed USA show ever before it launched. So hopefully the audience will continue to find it and to keep watching, but I think we're all pretty darn confident it will be renewed."
Be sure to tune into new episodes of Fairly Legal, airing every Thursday at 10PM Eastern, 9PM Central.
Written or Contributed by: Jude Terror