What Brought Juliette Lewis to TV?


Juliette Lewis has been a force on the big screen for more than three decades, but for the first time in more than 20 years she's headed to the small screen with NBC's The Firm. She's also been making waves on the smallest of screens with the viral internet series, S*** Girls Say.

The TV reimagining of John Grisham's novel takes place 10 years after the events of the film, starring Tom Cruise, and find out what happens when Mitch (played by Josh Lucas), his wife Abby (Molly Parker) and his loyal paralegal Tammy (Juliette Lewis) finally emerge from witness protection.

Needless to say, it might have been smarter and safer to stay hidden - for them. For audiences, their reappearance leads to a cat-and-mouse thriller that will leave you on the edge of your seat. Juliette Lewis sat down with ETonline at NBC's Televisions Critics Assocition to reveal why she decided to accept a TV role, what you can expect from her scene-stealing character and how she got involved with the year's most popular web series.

ETonline: What made you sign on to The Firm?

Juliette Lewis: Several things -- timing as well as the project itself were the biggest factors. I never wanted to do a series. The last one I did was in 1989, which I just love saying [laughs]. But this came my way and it's got the John Grisham brand on it -- we hope to bring any portion of that kind of thriller to TV. But the pilot script read pretty riveting. I also love the role of Tammy. I love what Holly Hunter [who played Tammy in the film] did; I feel like she's a distant cousin to me in the acting family tree - that's the metaphor I like to go with. Ultimately though we're doing a different thing. It's our interpretation of that character. Then, Josh Lucas was a draw too. It had all these cinematic elements, which make it rich.

ETonline: I absolutely adore the character of Tammy. I'd actually watch an entire series about her. What went into creating her for you?

Lewis: I like to bring the craft to anything I play and the fact I don't know what's going to happen next, is interesting. It makes acting challenging again in a whole new way. I see Tammy as the light in the room. She's this off-color character within this rigid environment. I love that she's in her own head all the time. I'm not in the pilot that much, but in future episodes, I go undercover and get involved much more. There are full episodes devoted to her journey in the future.

ETonline: During the TCA panel, you described Tammy as a "survivalist" - what did you mean by that?

Lewis: I see Tammy as this kind of person who could set up shop in any town, get a job, find a lover, find great bar, go dancing [laughs]. You know what I mean? I also think she's the kind of woman who finds a great love but is not down-trodden by anybody. So when I said that, I meant that she was crafty. I don't know that she was cut out for one type of job. She's incredibly intituitive. It's almost like she becomes a paralegal by default because of prior circumstances. She uses those aspects of ingenuity to create and help Mitch solve cases. She flirts with the guy at the courthouse to get files and he doesn't know it. She's a people person. There's elements of that I relate to having been on the road with my band. There's no circumstance I feel that I wouldn't be able to live through and find the joy in.

ETonline: If that's how you're similar, how are you and Tammy different?

Lewis: She never leaves the house without high heels on or her hair done [laughs]. I love that. And I have never played a girl like that.

ETonline: On that tap, I always loved to ask actors which role from their past they'd like to revisit in order to play chapter two in that character's journey.

Lewis: There's some movies I'd like to try again to do what I didn't the first time. Like deepen the performance. But I would have to say Adele from Kalifornia. I loved her. She dies at the end, and that always made me sad. Maybe we could give her a new ending. I wanted her to live so much. She was tragedy incarnate, wrapped in this little bow. I always saw her as having the mentality of a nine year old who lived through tragic circumstances. I'm always attracted to that kind of dichotomy.

ETonline: You recently appeared in the much-copied S*** Girls Say video series. How did you get involved?

Lewsi: [laughs] The creator is this funny guy who lives in Toronto who I had some mutual friends with. He asked if I wanted to do a part in it and am so glad I said yes. I had no idea that it would get so big. Honestly, who expected that to go crazy viral. I mean, I kind of thought people would like it because I follow him on Twitter. By the way, I love that medium - especially as an independent musician. I'm in the third one too, which wasn't as good as the first according to all the commenters [laughs]. But I am loving finding new oppoortunities within this business where I can have fun.

The Firm premieres tonight at 9 p.m. on NBC.