Everything about Family Law, eh?

Family Law’s Jewel Staite: “In the beginning, I was concerned that she wouldn’t be likable”

The folks at Family Law are in a pretty sweet position. With Episode 7 set to air this Friday at 9 p.m. ET on Global, a second season has already been filmed and in the can; we’re just waiting to find out when they’ll be broadcast. Having a second season already completed is rare in television and led to some nerves for Jewel Staite.

Staite—who has starred on Canadian projects like The Detectives, Motive and Stargate: Atlantis and U.S. projects like Blindspot, The Magicians, The Killing, Wonderfalls and, of course, Firefly—was nervous about how viewers would take to the show and her character, Abby.

When we first meet Abby, she is at her lowest point. A recovering alcoholic, Abby has moved out of her family’s house and moved back in with her mother. As a condition of her probation to return to her legal duties, Abby works at the firm owned by her estranged father, Harry (Victor Garber), alongside half-brother Daniel (Zach Smadu) and half-sister Lucy (Genelle Williams), leading to plenty of drama and laughs.

We spoke to Jewel Staite about filming Family Law and crafting a complicated character like Abby.

We’re getting near the end of Season 1 of Family Law, and a second season has already been shot and in the can. That’s a pretty unique position to be in. How does it feel?
Jewel Staite: It’s pretty amazing. It shows that the network has a lot of faith in the show and is very behind it. We have felt supported, and the writers have felt supported by them and it’s great. Now, obviously, because it’s now on the air, things are a little bit more real. [Laughs.] We are open to public opinion now and it’s not just a show that we made in secret for us. Now, all we really want is a Season 3.

Are comedic performances in your background? From the eye rolls to physical comedy, your performance is a joy to watch.
JS: Thanks, I appreciate that. I don’t get to do a ton of comedy, so when I do I like to have a lot of fun with it. Luckily, the people around me on the show, including [creator] Susin Nielsen, really like the idea of going for the humour in scenes.

In the audition process, I tried to stand out by making it funny and making Abby a little quirky in how she was written. I’m grateful that they appreciated that and agreed with me that that was the route to go with her. Some of her behaviour is a little unlikable, and I thought, ‘How can I make this person more acceptable to the audience in her actions and the things that she says?’

Making a lead character tough to cheer for is a tall order.
JS: Exactly. I think, in the beginning, I was concerned that she wouldn’t be likable. I remember having this conversation with my husband where I said, ‘I just hope people like her.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but if you go that route, you’re never going to approach it with honesty.’ I thought, ‘That’s completely right.’ It shouldn’t matter, and I should stick to making her as honest as possible, even if it means that, sometimes, she’s unlikeable and her behaviour is a little ugly.

Comedic moments aside, Family Law doesn’t shy away from tough conversations and scenes. When we meet Abby, her daughter, Sofia, is so embarrassed by her mother’s behaviour, and the larger themes of the show are dysfunctional relationships.
JS: Yeah, it is. And it’s real. It’s an entertaining show in that there are a lot of fun, shocking moments and some laughs, but the reality is these people are going through hard times, especially Abby. It’s a heartbreaking time for her; she misses her kids a lot, she has screwed up her life and sometimes feels like she’s never going to get it back on track. She is so desperate to get her family back. There are a lot of sad moments.

And then the cases that we deal with are really sad. There is a lot of tough subject matter in these episodes, but it’s a great juxtaposition. The goal was to make the audience laugh and cry in every episode. [Laughs.] It’s beautifully written and tugs at the heartstrings.

The dialogue and conversations these characters have are very believable. Susin Nielsen chalked a lot of that up to the relationship between the writers and the cast.
JS: As an actor, it’s so much easier to prepare and to remember the lines when it feels naturally conversational. Our writers are very gifted in that respect because we’re not improv-ing any of that stuff; everything is on the page and it flows beautifully. The characters surprise you with the things that they do and the things that they say but, at the same time, the way the characters are written and fleshed out, you feel like you are getting to know them very quickly.

The chemistry on this show was there from the very beginning. I don’t know if that was because the casting director [Maureen Webb] is amazing—because she is—or if it was just luck because we all just get each other. We’re on the same page and we have the same work ethic. We don’t rehearse a ton—we move very fast when we are shooting this show—and it keeps us on our toes and the day interesting. My favourite scenes are with the family because it feels so natural.

Family Law airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global.

Images courtesy of Corus.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Family Law’s Eden Summer Gilmore: “It’s fun to play a smart and manipulative character”

Eden Summer Gilmore first cut her acting teeth as a baby in a Gerber baby food commercial. But it wasn’t until she stepped onto the set of Riverdale, playing little Betty, when she was bitten by the acting bug.

“It was my first-ever speaking role, so I didn’t really know what to expect when I got onto the set,” Gilmore says. “I just remember the crew being so incredibly nice and it was the first time I was on-set, playing with my scene partner… getting to tap into the character made me realize that I wanted to tap into other characters too.”

Gilmore’s latest character is Sofia Bianchi, daughter to Abby (Jewel Staite) in Global’s Friday night legal drama Family Law. When viewers first meet Sofia, they witnessed a teen daughter who is not happy with her mother’s recent life choices—recovering alcoholic Abby very publicly threw up in a courtroom and has been separated from her husband, daughter and son as part of her probation, in addition to working in her father’s law office alongside her half-brother and half-sister—and is downright hostile at times.

That’s totally understandable, Gilmore says, because no part of Sofia’s life is a refuge.

“Going to school could be an escape from being at her house,” Gilmore explains. “But that’s not the case, and home isn’t safe either. Dealing with what she is, specifically, just makes it 10 times harder.”

Gilmore immediately connected with the character as soon as she read the first script, both because she and Sofia are almost the same age, and related to her so much.

“I also clicked with her because, if I saw Sofia on-screen, I would have fallen in love with her too,” she explains. “I want to be that for other girls. And it’s fun to play a smart and manipulative character.”

Family Law airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global.

Image courtesy of Noah Asanias.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Links: Family Law, Season 1

From Dana Gee of the Vancouver Sun:

Link: Complicated family bound together by the law in new Vancouver-shot show
Global TV is so certain the public will like the new series Family Law that it has ordered a second season without viewers even seeing a single episode from the first. Continue reading.

From Bill Brioux of Brioux.tv:

Link: Jewel Staite feels right at home on Global’s Family Law
The hour-long legal drama stars Jewel Staite as lawyer Abigail Bianchi who barely holds onto her briefs after a disastrous court appearance. Suffice to say one should never show up late to defend a client after a boozy all-nighter. Continue reading.

From Debra Yeo of the Toronto Star:

Link: Victor Garber found ‘the miracle of chemistry’ with his three TV kids in ‘Family Law’
It seems fitting that on a show in which he plays a somewhat indifferent father to three adult children, Victor Garber didn’t get to interact with his co-stars until filming had already begun. Continue reading.

From Scott Campbell of Inside Ottawa Valley:

Link: “So excited”: Victor Garber and Jewel Staite on brand-new series ‘Family Law’
Global’s new series ‘Family Law’ will have a second season. This was the news even before a single episode had aired on television. Continue reading.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Family Law’s Susin Nielsen: “I know a lot about family function and dysfunction”

The old adage “write what you know,” certainly applies to Susin Nielsen’s latest creation, Family Law. She admits that she didn’t know anything about the law, but knew plenty about family. In fact, what happens to her lead character happened to Nielsen.

Debuting Friday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global (with a special preview of the premiere episode on Thursday at 10 p.m. ET/PT), Family Law stars Jewel Staite as Vancouver lawyer—and recovering alcoholic—”Abigail “Abby” Bianchi. As a condition of her probation to return to her legal duties, Abby must work at the firm owned by her estranged father, Harry (Victor Garber), alongside her half-brother Daniel (Zach Smadu) and half-sister Lucy (Genelle Williams). Throw in Abby’s husband Frank (Luke Camilleri), mother Joanne (Lauren Holly), daughter Sofia (Eden Summer Gilmore) and son Nico (Brenden Sunderland), and there is plenty to mine for drama and laughs.

With legal dramas a popular genre, what truly sets Family Law apart is sharp writing and stunning performances by the cast, led by Staite.

We spoke to Susin Nielsen about about the road to making Family Law, which has already shot its second season.

How did Family Law come to be?
Susin Nielsen: I actually first came up with this idea about a decade ago, and brought it to SEVEN24 — they’ve always been my partners with it — and we got it into development at another network, but they didn’t move forward with it. And then flash forward I guess about, five years and Jordy Randall at SEVEN24 called and he said, ‘We’ve never stopped thinking about Family Law and we see another opportunity to pitch it.’

So I went to [the] Banff [World Media Festival] and I pitched it to Susan Alexander and Rachel Nelson at Corus in 2018, and I think it was a lot of serendipity, it was right time, right place. I think I had made the idea stronger and better as well, and they put us into development and then they gave us more development, and then eventually they green-lit us.

In terms of the creative origins, when I first came up with the idea, there was a part of me that was trying to be shrewd. I’m not usually very shrewd when it comes to my writing, but it seemed like what was selling were procedurals, and I knew that for me and my sensibilities, I was probably never going to do a cop show. A hospital show just felt so out of my area of expertise. And certainly, I also really know nothing about law, but I knew a lot about family. I know a lot about family function and dysfunction, and my own family background somewhat mirrors Abby’s in that I didn’t meet my father until I was a teenager. At which point, I also met my half-brother and my half-sister.

I think that’s kind of always informed, probably, a lot of my writing. It just felt like a premise that I got really excited about. What if there was this woman who had been estranged from her father for all of these years, carried a huge chip on her shoulder, is almost disbarred because of her alcoholism and the only lawyer in town who will take her on is her dad? What I really loved about it was that I could explore family on three levels. I could explore the cases. I could explore Abby having to work with these people who she’s really just getting to know, and at the same time she’s trying to salvage her marriage and her relationship with her children.

The cast that you’ve got is incredible. Victor Garber, Jewel Staite, Zach Smadu, Genelle Williams, Lauren Holly. You must be pinching yourself every day that you got to work with these folks.
SN: Thank you for bringing all of them up. I do pinch myself. What’s interesting is that not only are they obviously exceptional actors, they’re also incredibly lovely people and Jewel really sets the tone on set for all of our actors coming in. They all hang out all the time during the season, like every single weekend they were doing things together, doing dinners, it was hilarious. They don’t have to do that, they could just say, nice to see you, see you on Monday.

What was so interesting about Jewel was that she could just elevate whatever was in a scene. She could take a comedic scene and just — with a look — make it that much funnier. And a heartfelt scene, again, just with a look, and make you tear up even more. The three siblings, they got their rhythm together so fast and the looks that passed between Abby and Daniel all the time, they all just add all sorts of layers that are obviously not there on the page.

And then Victor. I, in a million years, never ever thought we’d get Victor Garber. Like he was like my dream Harry, but I just thought, ‘Well, that’s fantasy, but you’re never going to get Victor Garber.’ And it’s just been such a pleasure working with him, he’s just a consummate professional. I think he’s had two questions for me about script. He just comes in and he delivers.

Let’s switch over to the writer’s room. In addition to you, we’ve got Corey Liu, Damon Vignale, Sarah Dodd, Ken Craw and Sonja Bennett. What’s your writing process with the team?
SN: I knew I wanted, if I could, a 100 per cent a Vancouver-based room because we have a lot of really talented writers here. Everybody in that room had a story of their own, and certainly when we were developing Season 1, there was no such thing as a worldwide pandemic yet, so we were able to do all of it in person.

We would meet at Lark Productions, which is our producer here on the ground in Vancouver. We would just meet in this big, open boardroom and start hammering out ideas. First, we would talk about character arcs for the season and I had initial documents with things that I had been thinking about and case ideas that I had had since 2011, and the writers brought their own ideas to the room. Then we just started talking about case ideas and what excited us, and how could a case relate back to the family?

What do you look for in a writer?
SN: You’re looking for a group that are going to compliment each other for sure, and different people bringing different strengths to the table. The one commonality I was looking for were people who could write believable, compelling dialogue, people who could do both drama and comedy, comedy coming out of character. I felt very blessed to get Sarah Dodd because Sarah has, frankly, a lot more experience than I do, particularly with procedural. She’s done a lot of procedural. So it was fabulous to have her there just to make sure that we were structurally sound as well. Sarah is all those other things as well, but she brought oodles of procedural experience.

Sonja Bennett is so funny and she can make it look effortless with her lightness of touch with her dialogue; her dialogue’s fabulous. And then Cory Liu … I have a real soft spot for Corey. Seeing him grow over the last two seasons has just been exceptional. He is so talented and he will rule the world one day, I am sure. It’s been such a pleasure to watch him grow into his own confidence, because I don’t think he understood just quite how talented he was.

Family Law airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Global.

Images courtesy of Corus.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail

Family Law debuting Friday, Sept. 17, on Global

From a media release:

Today, Global announced premiere dates for a fall 2021-22 primetime season that will take viewers on an incredible, emotional TV journey around the world. All from the comfort of home, Global audiences will travel from Vancouver ( Family Law Sept. 16/17) to Europe ( FBI: International Sept. 21), Fiji ( Survivor Sept. 22), Hawai’i ( NCIS: Hawai’i Sept. 26/27), Las Vegas ( CSI: Las Vegas Oct. 6) and beyond ( Ghosts Oct. 7). Featuring 17.5 hours of simulcast with four out of seven days entirely simulcast in primetime, viewers will laugh with Global’s comedies, feel the heart-wrenching moments and thrills of its scripted dramas, and experience the high stakes of its reality competition TV action.

Continue reading below for more about Global’s fall 2021 primetime lineup.

SCRIPTED DRAMAS
As previously announced, this fall Global adds four new scripted dramas to its schedule. First up, the much-anticipated new Global Original series Family Law starring Jewel Staite, Victor Garber, Zach Smadu and Genelle Williams, a 10-episode, one hour legal drama premiering Friday, Sept. 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Viewers will get a special preview of the premiere episode on Thursday, Sept. 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Then on Tuesday, Sept. 21, Emmy® Award-winning executive producer Dick Wolf brings viewers a three-hour FBI franchise event capping off the night with the series premiere of FBI: International at 10 p.m. ET/PT (moves to 9 p.m. ET/PT Sept. 28). Then, in a two-night premiere event, NCIS: Hawai’i starring Vanessa Lachey, as the first female lead in the long-running franchise, premieres Sunday, Sept. 26 at 9 p.m. ET/PT with episode two airing Monday, Sept. 27 at 10 p.m. ET/PT in the show’s regular timeslot as part of Global’s Monday night lineup. Lastly, the sequel to the international hit CSI: Crime Scene Investigation begins a brand-new chapter with CSI: Vegas premiering Wednesday, Oct. 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Global’s returning scripted dramas premiering this fall include: this past spring’s #1 drama 9-1-1 starring Angela Bassett (Monday, Sept. 20 at 8 p.m. ET); the landmark 19th season of NCIS (Monday, Sept. 20 at 9 p.m. ET); fan favourite New Amsterdam (Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 7 p.m. ET/PT then moves to 10 p.m. ET/PT Sept. 28); top 20 hits FBI (Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT) and FBI: Most Wanted (Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 9 p.m. ET/PT then moves to 7 p.m. ET/PT Sept. 28); S.W.A.T. starring Shemar Moore (Friday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT); hit series Bull (Thursday, Oct. 7 at 10 p.m. ET/PT); the #1 new broadcast drama last spring The Equalizer starring Queen Latifah (Sunday, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. ET/PT); NCIS: Los Angeles starring Chris O’Donnell and LL COOL J (Sunday, Oct. 10 at 9 p.m. ET/PT); SEAL Team starring David Boreanaz (Sunday, Oct. 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT); and The Blacklist on a new day and time (Thursday, Oct. 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT).

COMEDY
For Global’s comedy slate, the network welcomes the previously announced Ghosts, a new single-camera comedy based on the breakthrough British comedy of the same name, premiering Thursday, Oct. 7 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, followed by the sophomore season of Chuck Lorre comedy United States of Al also on Thursday, Oct. 7 at 9:30 p.m. ET/PT. Also, The Neighborhood starring Cedric the Entertainer returns on Monday, Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

COMPETITION REALITY SERIES
Castaways rejoice! It’s once again time to don your buffs and head back to tribal council with the return of Survivor, back for an epic 41st season premiering with a special two-hour episode Wednesday, Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Then, a new season of fan-favourite reality series Tough As Nails premieres Wednesday, Oct. 6 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

ENTERTAINMENT NEWS
Beginning its 17th season Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET/ 7 p.m. PT, ET Canada returns this fall to deliver the latest in entertainment news and bring viewers exclusive interviews and specials with the biggest celebrities in Hollywood. Plus, ET Canada’s Fall TV Preview airs Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT and offers viewers an exclusive look into some of the most highly anticipated new shows premiering this fall. Then, premiering on Saturday, Sept. 18, ET Canada is expanding with the newly greenlit hour-long weekend edition of the show, ET Canada Weekend . Hosted by Sangita Patel, ET Canada Weekend will air Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. ET/ PT on Global.

FACTUAL AND TRUE CRIME
Global’s news and true crime content kicks off with Emmy® Award-winning newsmagazine 60 Minutes beginning its 54th season Sunday, Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT (regular timeslot is 7:00 p.m. ET/PT following the premiere) with a poignant hour from Scott Pelley commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The New York Fire Department’s top officers relive their personal experiences at Ground Zero when they lost 343 of New York’s Bravest. Then, a new season of 48 Hours premieres Saturday, Sept. 18 at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Lastly, Global’s Canadian true crime series Crime Beat begins a new season Friday, Oct. 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Facebooktwitterredditlinkedinmail