Gina Torres Previews What to Expect in 'Suits' Spinoff 'Pearson' (Exclusive)
By Philiana Ng
Eddy Chen/USA Network
Jessica Pearson is back.
More than a year after last gracing the small screen, Gina Torres returns as the stylishly fierce former hotshot power attorney in the Suits spinoff, Pearson. Debuting Wednesday, the new series follows Jessica as she says goodbye to the high life of New York City law and hello to the dirty world of Chicago politics. Brought on by Mayor Bobby Novak (Morgan Spector) as his fixer, Jessica quickly finds herself embroiled in a crooked new world where every action has far-reaching consequences that often pit her desire to win against doing the right thing.
Ahead of Wednesday's debut, ET sat down with Torres at the start of this year to preview the Suits spinoff, why it took her a while to return as Jessica Pearson and whether she'll be back on the original series for its farewell season.
ET: You left Suits as a series regular in the middle of season six and more than three years later, you're revisiting that same character, Jessica Pearson, as the lead of your very own spinoff, Pearson. Were you waiting for a TV show you felt was worth your investment and time?
Gina Torres: This isn't the easiest business in the world. There's always that period in your life as a young actor where you'll just do anything just so that you're working. Then, if you're lucky enough to continue to work and build on a career, you get more opportunities. If you get a good reputation for knowing what you're doing or being a certain kind of character, then you just keep building and building and building. It's extraordinary to me to be able to look back, because you don't get the luxury of looking back very often as an actor, because you're always looking forward, What's the next job? It's really quite extraordinary to look back and see what I have been able to accomplish and the kinds of characters I've been blessed to do.
Also what happens is, as the years go by, you go, "You know what, this is cool. This is good. I'm making a fantastic living. I'm respected in the industry. I'm raising my family. I get to do what I love to do." I don't want to say you put away the dream... [but] you're not actively pursuing it thinking in those terms. I always wanted to evolve into producing and be a producer. I stopped thinking in terms of what am I going to do next and really started thinking in terms of what stories do I want to see out there. This whole Pearson evolution was very much that; [it] was born out of wanting to tell her story. I find myself talking in these terms when I'm talking to my other producers. It's almost like it's not even Gina Torres. It's not a Gina Torres vehicle. It's Jessica's story. So, it's been lovely and very quite organic in how my first foray into producing is in telling the story of a character that I've always been incredibly curious about and that I love and respect.
One thing that has remained constant with Jessica is her savvy fashion sense.
When we did start talking about her clothing, not necessarily her budget because it's really none of my business, it was another part of telling her story. It was another aspect of who this woman is. It's not just that she's an attorney in New York and she has a lot of money, but it's part of her armor. She's at the top of the food chain. She answers to no one, and so therefore she need not dress for anyone but herself. That is how the look of Jessica Pearson evolved. What does she want to wear? Who is she when she walks in the room? What does she want you to know? That's been a great deal of fun.
On Suits, Jessica was very much calling the shots. On Pearson, she has to report to to the mayor of Chicago as his fixer. There's an obvious struggle for her to shift her mentality to "This is what I'm going to do, but I also have to balance this with what the mayor wants her to do." How does Jessica toe that line?
It's been an incredibly difficult process for Jessica, as people will see. It's been a long time since she's had to ask anybody for anything, both professionally and personally, and we get to see both of those things. I have to say that's something that I'm most excited about is really now going into her personal life and how there's a parallel here between knowing what she wanted to do, steamrolling over whoever she needed to steamroll for what she always believed to be the greater good and for the benefit of her firm. She has a very specific skill set. She knows what she's good at. How does she apply it now to virtual strangers? She was dealing with monsters of her own creation before. Now it's a different caged beast that Jessica is dealing with, and she has to learn them. She has to learn who they are, where their weaknesses are, where their strengths are. Will she be able to?
What have you discovered about Jessica in seeing her operate in a new environment and forced to navigate uncharted territory?
We're so used to the pull of Jessica in the corporate world. You knew she was smart. She's a master chess player. She sees the moves much further ahead than everybody else. That is still the case, but now you get to see a scrappier side. Now you get to see how she got to where she is. We're so used to having seen her where she is that now, because she's forced to start fresh, and it's actually part of the tagline: How far is she willing to go? What is she willing to do? She's growing, and she's evolving into a different Jessica and a vulnerable Jessica. She's got to be down; she's got to be at the bottom and at the end of the rope to grow that extra pair of whatever. That's what it takes for any of us. When we're down, how are you going to get back up? If the way that you're used to getting back up is no longer working, then how do you figure it out?
When Jessica enters the Chicago political world, they have a certain perception of who she is based on what happened to her law career in Manhattan. Is she fighting an uphill battle all season long? Is it important to Jessica how she's perceived?
She wants to be respected. She wants her place at the table. She wants power and she wants to do good. That's really what it is. When we first started talking about the show, we wanted her to fight for things that were important. We wanted the show to reflect our world in real time as it's going on, and not just the 5 percent, but the rest of the world, the 95 percent, and how the choices that are made up here affect everyone else that's living down here. We want her in that world. We want her coming down from all that rarefied air and really getting a feel for how much more she can do. That's essential, and that's important. She will be fighting, because she doesn't know all the tricks yet. She doesn't know the ground that she's standing on. She'll win some, she'll lose some, but it's going to be a lot of fun seeing how she does that, gets around.
Since you left Suits, you've come back for an appearance here or there. Should we expect an appearance in the final season?
That has not been discussed.
Would you like to go back for the farewell season?
Sure, and pat it on the back, and wish it well into the sunset. Of course, if [Suits] creator Aaron [Korsh] writes it, I'll come and play.
In the backdoor pilot that aired in April 2018, Gabriel Macht paid a visit as Harvey Specter. What's the likelihood that we'll see other Suits cast members hopping on a plane for the Windy City?
It's likely. It's the same universe. They're eclipses. We may or may not pass through at any given point, but yeah, we do. We know from whence I come. To pretend that those seven years didn't happen, that I'm not in the world with those people, that would be silly. But I can't say how, when if and how often.
Pearsondebuts Wednesday, July 17 at 10 p.m. ET/PT following the final season premiere of Suitson USA Network.
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