The Suitsalum reunites with Firefly producer Tim Minear, co-creator on the 9-1-1 spinoff, on season 2 of Fox's first responder drama as Paramedic Captain Tommy Vega, who returns to the field eight years after stepping away to raise her twin daughters. When COVID-19 causes her husband's restaurant to close, Tommy returns to Austin, Texas, and re-enters the workforce to help support her family. But is she built the same as before she hung up the uniform? Only time will tell.
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"Tommy Vega is an incredible character and an avatar for a lot of women in the workplace who find themselves back in the workplace during this world pandemic that we're in," Torres tells ET. Adds star and executive producer Rob Lowe, "I love having Gina on the show. There's nobody I'd rather be strung upside down 200 feet off of high-tension wires with than her."
Ahead of Monday's premiere, ET spoke with Torres about joining 9-1-1: Lone Star, playing a woman who was once at the top of her game and the outrageous emergency calls in the first episode alone.
Gina Torres: The show has been nothing but a blessing for me -- the appearance of this opportunity to be a part of this show at a time when a lot of people are not working, Including a lot of actors trying to figure out how the industry is going to reimagine itself and being in a position where I get to be a part of that is incredible. It also happens to be a really great show that's tackling all of these important and relevant issues that we're going through today. Tommy Vega is an incredible character and an avatar for a lot of women in the workplace who find themselves back in the workplace during this world pandemic that we're in.
Tommy and her family are directly affected by COVID, with her husband losing his restaurant and having to relocate to Austin. What were you personally interested in exploring with the obstacles that face her as she reacclimates to going back to work in the middle of an uncertain time?
My goal has always been the same, in terms of being an actor. And that is to be as accurate and a thought-provoking mirror for our humanity. One of the things that Lone Star does so beautifully is in the middle of this epic action show, you have real, up-close and personal relationships with the characters that are involved and they never cease to be human. They are very, very human with an extraordinary and important, essential skillset. In terms of Tommy, you have this woman who is just that. She's incredibly human. She's torn. She is vulnerable in this point in her life. She knows that there's a pandemic. She knows the seriousness of it because it's from a world that she understands. She's a paramedic captain. She was at the height of her game when she decided to leave suddenly.
Now she has to leave this beautiful family and go back to work because of the pandemic. That is something that is going on across the nation, across the world. I love that that was our entry point for this character because when you enter a show for the first time, especially when you're running to catch up onto a moving train, you really hope that it happens seamlessly and that people aren't watching you with their arms crossed telling you, "Prove it. Why are you here?" Especially in the wake of a very beloved character [Michelle Blake, played by former series regular Liv Tyler] leaving. What's so wonderful about Tommy's point of entry is that she's completely relatable. She's not taking anyone's jobs, she's not taking over. She's just trying to figure it out and finds herself in a place that she used to love being in, but does she still love it as much? Can she still be as effective as she was before she left? Those are all questions that I think a lot of people are asking themselves these days.
Let's talk about working with Rob Lowe. At one point in the first episode, Owen turns to Tommy and says, "We're going to have some fun." Can you speak to the Tommy and Owen dynamic this season? (Watch ET's exclusive clip of Owen welcoming Tommy to the 126 below.)
They find mutual admiration and space for each other. They realized very quickly that they're equals. Not only are they equals in terms of the kind of work that they do, but also in how they do it. They're kind of these mavericks. Both are these cowboy mavericks, and they recognize that in each other. That they're willing to take chances for the greater good but not only do they take the chance, they also understand and recognize in the other that they are more than capable of pulling it off. So I think that is something that unites them and brings them together. And just on a human level, on a personal level, they see that there's a lot to play and there's a lot there. There's a lot to have a lot to have fun with. And yeah, we get to watch that. We get to watch that growth.
There are also like seeds planted with Tommy's past friendship with Judd and his wife, Grace. What might surface from their years-long friendship that might be surprising?
Again, I think it's a beautiful thing. It was a beautiful gift that [executive producer] Tim [Minear] gave me when he wrote a previous relationship between Judd, Grace and Tommy. It's just another level of, "She's one of us. You'll see, she's one of us. I love this woman." I think that also helped bring the audience along into accepting Tommy and you see it right away. It's not something that we're hiding or saving for another time. You see it right away. Jud is there for her. I'm looking forward to game nights and family secrets being told. I'm also really looking forward to Grace and I just getting drunk and telling tales.
The 9-1-1 franchise is known for its outrageous emergencies. Were there any that stunned you when you read the scripts?
How are they going to pull this off? Every day.
Yeah. The human pile-up at the roller derby rink stood out to me, as it's also the first time Tommy shows off her skills.
Episode one, right there, you have "Oh! Roller derby. Oh, wow! Oh, OK." Then they sort of drop it that Marjan also used to do roller derby. I'm like, "Oh, there's a little backstory. I wonder if we're going to get to that." Then you go from everything that happens in episode one, climbing a cell tower and then it ends with lava. I'm not giving anything away. It's pretty clear because we've been teasing a volcano, but yeah. I mean, it's kind of insane. It's all a good time though.
Watch an exclusive clip from the season 2 premiere, only at ET, below.