Shondaland's courtroom legal drama kicks off its sophomore season on Thursday, with New York's crop of promising young lawyers, led by Britt Robertson's Sandra Bell, taking on the most high-profile and high-stakes cases in the country as their personal lives intersect. In the first three episodes of the season, the teams in both the public defender and the U.S. District Attorney offices face off in high-profile cases involving swatting, a prominent New York criminal defense attorney accused of murder and an emotional story about an undocumented father separated from his son by ICE agents after appearing in court as a witness.
Ahead of the show's return, ET jumped on the phone with Robertson for a chat about the upcoming season, the ripped-from-the-headlines cases the team will be tackling next, possible romantic sparks between Sandra and Ted 2.0 (new cast member Charles Michael Davis, watch ET's exclusive sneak peek above of his intro) and the heartbreaking storyline that made her cry at the table read.
ET: Can you set the scene for the show's return?
Britt Robertson: You'll get a reintroduction to the characters, but at this point they're more settled into their positions. My character is taking more risks than ever and really asserting herself in her role at her job. A lot of the cases that we're covering are not totally ripped from the headlines, but they're definitely topical. You see both sides to many arguments that are plaguing the nation right now and I think it's a great show to share with all kinds of people in your life, because no matter what your different opinion may be, there's a side to support each argument on our show. And so I think it really brings a lot of people together in that way.
You mentioned that the early episodes this season touch on topical issues that are in the news right now. Is there a specific case that was particularly poignant for you?
The case that we cover in the first episode, we're sort of dealing with an online gamer and how far they can take it and what kind of trouble they can get themselves into without really realizing it. Me personally, I started playing a little bit of Fortnite and it's interesting because I'd never really played any of those games. I'd only played baseball games on Xbox or something. Very quickly I realized how crazy some kids can get online and how parents have to be very protective over what's going on because one thing leads to another and you end up in the Southern District of New York for murder. It's like, What is going on? That one I found particularly interesting just because it related to me sort of indirectly in my own life.
The second episode, which centers on a case involving ICE and immigration, was also incredibly moving. Can you speak to that episode?
I remember being at the table read for that episode and bawling my eyes out. I haven't seen the episode, but I just know what it read like and what we shot. It humanizes the issue. You hear about the news and you'll read articles about certain stories that are happening, but when you really see a little kid and what happens to him when he's separated from his family and how he was separated from his family. That part of it is so heartbreaking and anyone would be able to understand the circumstances and how difficult this topic might be for our country and our nation. But the little boy was breaking our hearts at the table read because it is such a painful story. I think they did a really nice job with the way that they handled it in the show.
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You've been with this character now for two seasons now. Do you feel comfortable in her skin?
I do feel comfortable with her and making choices on behalf of her, but it's tricky. Sometimes the writers will throw something in there and you're like, "Wait a second. This isn't the girl I thought she was," and you kind of have to make justifications for that. So you're always getting to know your character as the story progresses, but I will say, it was much easier to settle into her in the second season.
Will we see more of Sandra's personal life this year?
I think so. At some point we get to Sandra's personal life and we sort of see her struggling with this idea that she might be tempted by this idea of having a life outside of work and maybe there's lesson to be learned there about just because you have, you know, personal interests outside of your professional work it doesn't make you nay less of a good lawyer. So she struggles with that a bit and you'll get to see more sides to this ever-changing workhorse.
The friendship between Sandra and Allison Adams (Jasmin Savoy Brown) really is a key component to what makes the show tick. What can you preview about what the two pals will go through this season?
What I love about the relationship between Sandra and Allison is it really represents a true female friendship, at least from what I've experienced. It's 99 percent of the time supportive of one another, helping each other, lifting each other up, covering for one another, making each other laugh, knowing when you need to like have a relax time or a chill break, really understanding who the other person is and trying to be a good supportive person in your friend's life. That's my experience with my female friendships. Occasionally [there will be fallout], especially because the two of them live together and they have differences in opinion. But for the most part they are a strong supportive team and you'll get to see that in the second season for sure.
You're also welcoming Charles Michael Davis to the cast as the new investigator, Ted. What has he brought to the dynamic of the group that has stood out to you?
I love Charles. I'm so happy that they brought him on for the second season. He's so talented and he's a really nice guy. For us personally behind the scenes, he created a really good opportunity to haze because he's one of our first new cast members that came on all 13 episodes, so we just gave him crap 24/7. We would make fun of all his Instagram photos; like, he loves pretty models, so we would always make fun of his love for models. He's going to kill me for saying this, but yeah he's a funny guy. I think he brings a real charisma to the public defender's office.
What does his Ted add to the team onscreen?
He brings a lot of hoodies, I'll tell you that much. He's in a hoodie every scene. And I'm like, We're in suits. Why does this guy get to wear hoodies around the office 24/7?! Ted is able to bring people out of their shell a little bit. Whenever he ends up with Sandra outside the office or Allison outside the office or even Jay, he ends up shedding a new light on what we do, which I think is useful for the job, the roles that we play in the system.
I may be reading too much into this, but could there be some sort of romantic thing happening between your characters?
Ah... (Pauses.) It's possible. Anything's possible. You'll have to stay tuned. It's a really good assumption that you've made.
Since you play a lawyer on the show, what are your favorite legal portrayals that you've seen onscreen in film and TV, like Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar for instance or Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde? What has influenced your performance?
Hilarious! Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar. No, but there are some moments in court where I'll feel very Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde and I'll be like, "Habeas corpus!" or my little Valley Girl accent will come out and I'll be like, "Oh my god, is this far too Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde?" One of my favorite performances is Sam Waterston in Law & Order. He's great with the legal storylines where you just go, Whoa, what an actor.
Who from the cast would you call if you were in a bind and needed a lawyer to represent you?
It would probably be Susannah [Flood]. She's very smart and does so much research and understands a lot of stuff, so I'd probably hire her.