For season two of Fairly Legal [USA Network, Fridays, 9/8C], series star Sarah Shahi took part in a conference call with a group of journalists/bloggers to talk about the show’s new romantic triangle and making her character, Kate, ‘uncomfortable.’
Hi, Sarah. Hi. Thanks for talking to us today.
Sarah Shahi: Yes, sure.
Can you just talk about what we can expect this season in general? And I really liked the premiere, by the way. I wanted to add that.
Shahi: Oh, thank you.
Yes, you know, this year the goal kind of was to make Kate uncomfortable actually. It was – we’re going to take away her security blankets. The things that she thought that she could rely on the most. You know, like Justin for example. We – something kind of big is going to happen there. We’re going to find a pretty big – there’s a big reveal in the – I guess it’s the first episode which you saw.
Shahi: And that kind of color – it kind of colors the rest of the season for their relationship. And you know – and then her boat blows up – Kate’s boat blows up, and you know, that’s – she ends up moving in with Lauren. And so there’s room for all – for defiantly you know, more funny situations.
But the overall goal is to kind of you know push this character who part of her charm is really in not growing up and not wanting responsibility and being kind of child-like. And to push her hand at you know, possibly being an adult, having to grow up, having you know consequences for some of the things that go wrong at work — which they will this year — and to see how she does. And you know, if I know Kate Reed, she’s not going to do too well at it.
But yes – but that’s the difference – the main difference between this year and last year. And also you know, we’re building to this really nice little love triangle between Kate, Justin, and Ben.
Yes, I really like that new character. He’s funny.
What have you found most challenging out of this year? Is there something different that you know continues to challenge you?
Shahi: Well you know, I think the hardest part of the show for me, it’s the hours. You know, it’s about 16 hours every day, and that’s the challenging part. You know, it’s a marathon and it’s – everyone – Tony Shalhoub once told me that you know you just kind of – you’re like a hamster in a cage. You kind of – you put your head down and you don’t really come up for air.
Every once in a while you get to come up for air, but then you know you can’t get too used to it. You just put your head down and you just keep going. So yes, it’s the hours really that are the most challenging for me.
So, let me ask you now that we’re a season into your series, what about the role keeps you challenged?
Shahi: That’s a good question. You know, I think – actually a really good question. It’s how do you define – you know, the thing about her, it’s – what I love about here too, why I wanted to be this girl so badly is I love her flaws, right. And I love that she’s a character that is incredibly unapologetic about everything too. And she’s a very strong female voice.
Now the trick with that comes in – because you know the nature of the show is procedural, but in my opinion that’s not the heart of the show. So the challenge kind of comes in finding the different levels of emotion within everything.
If I had my pick, I think I’d probably play Kate to the highest dramatical sense in every scene. You know, everything would be life and death, which isn’t necessarily always right. So I guess, you know, that’s the thing about her is finding the emotional level that is at stake within everything.
That makes sense. And let me ask you, is there anything the viewers should know about your character that hasn’t been apparent so far?
Shahi: No. No, not necessarily. You know, with – you know, the other beauty about this girl is what you see is what you get. She’s pretty up front. You know, there is no holds barred and she’s not hiding anything. You’re going to know what she thinks about you at any given situation. So no, there’s – she’s not hiding anything.
How does this show differ from all the other legal shows on television?
Shahi: Oh, because it’s better. Come on. You know the answer to that. Yes. No, it’s – you know, at the – again, you know like I said, I don’t feel like the heart of the show is that it’s a law show. I mean, I actually am not a fan of procedurals myself. And if anything, you know, I fight tooth and nail every day to keep this from being a procedural show.
And you know, maybe that’s the one thing. You know, I – honestly, other than the procedural that I was on before this, I’ve never really seen another procedural show. So – because the things that keep me invested are – is the heart stuff, you know, and that’s what I continue to play. So if anything, I hope this show is different because it comes across as so much more than a procedural.
I have to say since you brought up Life, I recently found out it’s streaming on Netflix, and so I’ve been rewatching that. That made me very happy.
Shahi: Well good. Good. Good. Good.
And so this season we have Ben, and he’s… he’s interesting. What would you say he brings to the show aside from annoying basically everyone?
Shahi: Yes. Well yes, he’s very quickly become you know a thorn in everyone’s side, but with his character comes more comedy, which is always nice. And he is going to spark, you know, something in Kate. So there – so something between Kate and Ben is going to be sparked, you know, between them. And you know again, we are building to that lovely little triangle. And – but that’s the stuff that I love. You know, it’s like I’m really glad that they brought this character in because I’m interested – that’s the stuff that I want to see when I watch TV is I want to see what the romantic interests are and what people’s emotions are doing, and how that’s coloring how they work.
And you know what’s so great about his character is he’s definitely coloring Kate’s heart in a different way. Kind of unbeknownst to herself in the beginning. And you know, he’s definitely coming in and he’s stirring everything up, which is just changing everyone’s emotions. So it’s nice. There’s a lot of payoffs that comes with his character.
Yes, I don’t know if it’s in the second episode or something, but I mean (unintelligible) bothers everyone. There’s – he bothers Leo, like – among others. He’s very amusing.
Shahi: Well you know, he’s a very – he’s a different character than everyone else. It’s, you know, his goal – you know, Kate has a very moral objective and she just wants what’s right, and he just wants money. And he’s very up-front about it, just like how Kate is very up-front about the things that she wants to get. And you know in the beginning, it is kind of – well not in the beginning, all the way through she finds him kind of repulsive for that, because if anything, you know, that’s the last thing that she’s concerned with.
Yes, she has to deal with Justin and then there’s him with his money.
And I have to say – you know, as the first episode kind of sets up that’s she not in a very – Kate’s never in a great place, but she used to be in a really bad place at the beginning. You know, with her boat and with Justin. Is she ever going to get somewhat happier towards the end of the season, or is she still in her little rut, as I think she calls it with Leo?
Shahi: Yes. Well, you know, I think it’s – with her this season, it’s really the goal was to kind of show a character that you know goes two steps forward and then three steps back. And then one step forward and then one step. And then she’s at zero. And then she’s going half a step forward and a full step back. So it’s – you know, to keep her kind of dancing and to keep her on her toes.
And it’s – she is going to have happy, yes. I mean you know Kate by nature is a very – is definitely a funny character, you know, within those moments of solitude that things go wrong with her. But you know, she wants to be happy and she’ll find it. But again, you know, it does come – it’s not consistent. It’s going to be very up and down this year.
Do you think that one of the show’s biggest appeals is how so many women can relate to Kate?
Shahi: Absolutely. I – you know, I’ve always thought that she was a very, very personal and relatable character. I mean, you know, who doesn’t have issues with their parents? Who doesn’t have issues with their boss? You know, who doesn’t have that relationship that they’re in, but then they shouldn’t be in? You know, the guy or the girl is oh, so good, but they’re oh, so wrong.
And you know – and she’s a modern day girl with very relatable problems and that was definitely my goal in playing her is playing her as a woman who, you know, comes across as kind of you know ordinary as possible. Somebody who comes across very simply in their agenda and what they want. And yes, I mean I – that’s what I want and I hope that’s what comes across.
Are we going to see more development between Kate and Lauren’s relationship, and how’s that going to play out?
Shahi: Yes. There is going to be more development between them. You know, and that’s another one where we’re going to take a couple steps forward and then take you know, gigantic leaps back. You know, they do end up – Kate ends up moving in with Lauren and they – they are very different people. You know, it’s like at the end of the day, Kate I don’t think has the maturity yet to accept that this woman did not cause the death of her father, which is the whole reason why Kate doesn’t like her.
You know, she blames the initial separation of – or the distancing of Dad and Kate – she blames that on Lauren, you know, because she and her father were very close and here comes the other woman, takes Daddy away. No Dad’s dead. You know, and I – at this point in the stage, I don’t think Kate has the emotional maturity to understand that that’s not Lauren’s fault. So she’s going to pin everything on Lauren still. You know, still enjoy watching Lauren writhe every time she calls her step-mom.
And – but when it comes to the work, when it comes to work, there are few times where Kate and Lauren both come to each other’s aid. And you know, Kate is a big enough person in those moments to recognize that – okay, she needs help and I’m going to help her. Because at the end of the day, even if they are very different people, you know Lauren is very pristine and neat, and Kate just kind of comes in and makes a mess of Lauren’s place.
At the end of the day, they would you know give the shirt off of their backs to help the other person, because they are family. And you know, if there is one thing that keeps them together, it is the firm and it is Teddy. So – and I think in honor of their father – of Kate’s father, she would never do anything that would put Lauren out.
But yes, again, you know it’s going to quite a while before we see full change in their relationship – a full evolvement in their relationship. But there are some situations this year in which they have to come together and help each other. But then the kind of is back to square one, you know.
I also was a big fan of Life, so cheers to you for that.
Shahi: Oh, cool. No, thank you.
You talked about been – having Ben on as a new character. I was wondering if you could talk about having Ryan as a cast member and the addition of him behind the scenes.
Shahi: Ryan [Johnson] – you know, we went through a big audition process. Months long before we finally found him, and I had a great deal to do with his being on the show. It kind of felt like you know Mae West in a way, just going through a lineup of men and going, ‘You, come with me,’ you know. So it was kind of like that. And you know, I just – right off the bat I recognized he had a very comedic sensibility and he was funny and had that kind of randomness that Ben – that Ben has. And he’s been great.
He – you know look, I’m not going to lie. At the end of – when you spend 16 hours a day with somebody, it doesn’t matter who they are, they’re going to get on your nerves. So there’s a lot of – you know, we are a dysfunctional family at its best. The cast. And the dynamics that you see – what’s been so fortunate about the show is there hasn’t been real acting involved. Everything that’s happening is very organic – what you see.
And you know, Ryan and I a lot of times we do spat like an old married couple. But then again that’s – I do that with Justin. I do that with Leo. I mean let’s – you know, what’s there in the dynamic is very much brother/sister. We’re constantly pulling on each other’s pigtails. So you know, with Lauren, you know, it’s the same. You know, it’s all there as well.
And – but you know – yes, Ryan fits right in honestly. He’s – the cast is very jokey with each other. We dish it out left and right. We’re not nice to each other at times and Ryan and his Aussie sensibility – the dingo – I call him the dingo, he just kind of – he fits right in with everything. So it was a very easy fit and he brings so much – he brings a very light, comedic you know sensibility, just like his character does to the cast.
I love that you’re so honest about that answer, about even the dark side so to speak.
Shahi: I don’t like pretending. I don’t like pretending, you know. It’s like – you know, that’s why I think the role of Kate – Kate – I can very – you know, slip into Kate’s skin kind of easily because she doesn’t like to kind of pretend either. It’s like – you know, I – it’s just natural. It doesn’t mean we don’t like each other. But then again, you know, what you’re seeing on screen is kind of how it is. And I love that. I love that there’s no – there’s – I don’t have to work that hard to create those relationships with those people, you know.
And – so yes. And then again – but it’s just natural. I mean you could spend 16 hours with Jesus and find him annoying, you know what I mean? So it’s like nobody’s perfect. We’re all different. We’re all forced in a very intimate setting for a long period of time. And then you know, people are going to start rubbing you the wrong way. And I’m sure just as annoying as they can be; that I am if not more to them, so it’s just – it’s just keeping it real.
Okay, so going off of that similarity with Kate, how have you – how has playing her either helped you – I don’t know how you were before, but has it helped you become a better negotiator or peace maker in your personal life, in your real life at all?
Shahi: Well, no. You would think it would’ve, but no. I’m not that smart. No, it’s – here’s what I’ve gotten from her. You know, Kate is a woman – and again, this is part of her – it’s part of her charm and its part of her flaw. She’s incredibly in the moment and she’s very spontaneous. And if anything, that’s the thing that I’ve personally from her. You know, being a wife, being a new mom, you know you feel like you have everything planned out, or at least you try to have everything planned out.
And then you know, there’s nothing like a two year old to show you that you’re wrong. And you know, so the thing that I’ve really gotten from her is to really just kind of have no expectations and to just – to just go after what my heart wants and to just – to be spontaneous and to be a little unpredictable. And you know – and I’ve become more like that, which I have to say I really like. But it just – yes, that’s the stuff that I’ve gotten from her. I can’t say I use her negotiating tactics as much.
Shahi: I’m trying to with my two year old, but again it’s like he doesn’t care.
Well, two year olds are tough I think.
Shahi: He doesn’t care.
I’m a little bit curious how your relationships on the show are going to be changing this season? It seems like in the first episode back there’s a lot of conflict. But will there be – like you were trying to describe more bonding and more levity as well.
Shahi: I’m sorry, the relationship with who? With Ben?
With all the relationships with the core characters.
Shahi: Oh, all the relationships. Yes, you know, it’s – we’re definitely going to – we’re definitely using the main cast more this year than we were able to last year. And so we are going to see more interaction between everyone. And it’s – you know, it is – it’s more of those dynamics that were established last year, but then better because again, we’re spending more time with them. And yes, it’s all that stuff. You know, with Lauren it’s a very – it’s a love/hate relationship with more of the – you know, with more of the hate apparent than the love, though it is there. You know, with Michael it’s – or with Justin, it’s very up and down. You know, we get divorced but then we’re back together, and then it’s not going to work out. But then we’re going to give it another shot and then maybe it doesn’t work out.
And then – but wait a minute, there’s a guy named Ben, and you know it’s that with Ben it’s – you know, he gets under Kate’s skin very quickly and then becomes to find out that she’s got feelings for him. And you know, – and he obviously has liked her from the beginning.
With Leo – you know, Leo is being pulled in a bunch of different directions. You know since the firm is losing money and cutting back, he’s having to be Kate’s assistant, Ben’s assistant, Lauren’s assistant. And so it kind of makes his head spin a little bit. And so if anything, you know, he has a little bit different dynamic to play because he’s being torn in different directions.
Then as a follow-up, kind of just as a playful thing. In that one scene in the very first episode, Ben comes in after seeing Kate for the second time when he goes (unintelligible).
How hard or funny was that to film?
Shahi: How funny was that to film?
Shahi: That was – it was good. It was more – it was more surprising than funny, you know, because Kate is so thrown when she sees the guy from the bar. But you know, it wasn’t really necessarily funny per se. I guess it’s probably funnier to watch than it is to film.
But yes, it was very – it was – it definitely – it threw Kate off. It was you know more surprising and kind of knocked her back on her feet than it was funny.
As an actor, was that hard to stay in character for that moment, or were you just able to roll with it?
Shahi: No. That one was fine. I was able to roll with that. The one moment in the first episode that I had a hard time filming because we just could not hold a straight face is when we – when Ben and Kate are in the car together and we pull up to Ben’s bus ad, or his – that moment. I don’t know if you remember that moment where Kate and Ben are in the car and then he’s like, ‘Huh-huh-huh? Look at that.’ And that moment for me was – I just could not keep a straight face and I just broke take after take after take. And then eventually, I think the cut of me that they had to use was me breaking because they just don’t have me – one of me reacting the way the character should be. I just – I couldn’t help it. It was too funny.
I was wondering, in the show each – Kate, Ben, and Justin each kind of have their own idea of what is morally right. How throughout the season will they or will or will they not kind of rub off on each other and kind of have the characters maybe see other perspectives and even take other perspectives with the cases?
Shahi: Yes. I think they do. They are able to see the other person’s perspective. Yes. But then again, you know, that’s what’s so great about the show is every character is so unique and distinct in what they believe, and so they’re not you know very easily swayed. So even for, you know, Justin to see Ben’s side, or for me to see – Kate never sees Ben’s side. If anything, Ben starts coming more around to Kate’s objectives. And you know, Lauren’s goal at this point is just to keep the lights on.
It’s – you know, when a character does become persuaded by another, there’s a lot of work involved. It doesn’t happen easily. If anything, that just becomes the main objective of that character’s story line. But yes, you know, the ideas do start to rub off on each other. But I will say, you know, nobody is coloring Kate’s mind. You know, Kate’s objective is the show. It’s the heart of the show. So Kate never will go over and see Ben’s perspective or Justin’s or Lauren’s. Though, she will you know help them out in a moment. There’s a situation that Lauren gets under – Lauren is – she’s being investigated for misconduct in one episode, and you know she has her reasons for doing it and Kate kind of goes along with it just to help her.
But then afterwards, she definitely you know puts it to her and tells her how wrong and how, you know, inappropriate she was for doing this and how she did put everyone at stake for the decision that she made. So again, you know, it’s like other characters will be colored by Kate’s point of view, but I don’t think Kate ever really becomes persuaded by anybody else’s.
And I noticed when we were in (unintelligible), you know in Season 1, Leo has a lot of fun stuff on his desk.
But this season, at least in this most – you know, the most recent episodes that you were filming, Kate actually has some fun stuff on her desk.
You know, the gumball machine and that…
Shahi: Oh, you noticed. Thank God.
Is there something that brings that about?
Shahi: You know. again, it was trying to find the randomness in the character and trying to portray a picture of somebody who is in this corporate world but is so not of this corporate world. You know, so I have a record player there too which we end up using in some of the later episodes. Kate’s listening to her records. So it was – you know, it was all done in a way to portray that this is again, you know, a character who’s in this very black and white world but she is nothing of that.
You know, we just filmed something yesterday at Lauren’s house, and you know Kate’s boat blows up. She ends up moving in with Lauren. And I had them put up the sign in the window that Kate wrote saying, ‘Help me. I’m homeless.’ So you know again, it’s just the little things like that to try to color that this is – it may look like a procedural show, but it’s definitely not.
Now at the close of Season 1, the – after producers announced that there’d be a bit of retooling of the show, I think you were reported as saying something like you had some ideas. Now, did you in fact write any ideas as they worked on the Season 2 changes? And what were they?
Shahi: Well, the changes for Season 2 were – you know, it was the change in the show runner. That was the big change. And you know, I had an idea that things were moving in that direction.
You know, I mean being the lead of the show – being the face of the show, there’s very little creative decisions that can be made without me knowing them. So you know, I did have a clue in what they were; it was that we were changing show runners, which then by its nature brings a very different element to the show in itself.
How would you describe that? I mean, when I watched the premier, I thought that the tone was somewhat more adult in some way. How do you describe it?
Shahi: Yes, it – you know, it was. It’s – I think the first seasons of any show more or less are kind of a trial period. And the fact that we were – we got brought back to do a second season was great because then we were able to take all the things from the first season that didn’t work and change them.
And one of the things that didn’t work is the show sometimes last year felt a little silly. Sometimes the mediations felt a little silly and it just – you know, we needed to ground it a little bit more. So that’s what this season has been about. And you know – and Kate’s objective – the – Kate’s stance this year is, you know, is she going to grow up? You know, she’s constantly surrounded by – she’s in this adult world, very corporate world, and she’s just struggling tooth and nail to not be a part of that.
You talked about maturity, you know, and that being a constant struggle for Kate. How do you balance the need for Kate to grow in her story line and grow up a bit and maintain sort of the naïve charm she uses to be so good at what she does?
Shahi: Yes, can you say that again? Sorry, we got cut off for a second.
Okay. How do you balance the need for Kate to sort of grow and grow up along with maintaining the naïve charm she needs to be good at what she does?
Shahi: That’s a good question. I – hmm, let me think about that for a second.
You know, because – I mean, in her heart this is a character that’s very playful by nature. She has a very – she’s a very kind of – she’s a very spirited person, so it’s going to – they haven’t really – well here’s the thing. It’s kind of an easy answer in a way. They haven’t really written anything. We haven’t really earned Kate growing up.
You know, it’s like we’re only in the second season in, so if we’re going to make some really big changes to her personality in that respect, I think it has to be earned and we’ve got to be a few seasons in. So we can’t force our hand and you know join the stuffy adults too soon.
Actually, I was going to ask about the change of show runners, but… since you already answered that question, does Michael Sardo still remain as a writer, or is he…
Shahi: No. He remains as a check collector.
A what collector?
Shahi: He’s a check collector.
Shahi: No. You know, he – you know, it still is his show, so he gets… He does get (unintelligible). Yes.
Okay. So, I think the first season, you know, not to be – I agree with you know, most of the things that you’ve said, but I think she’s always been very adult as far as her work is concerned.
So she has to grow up in her personal life.
Shahi: Yes. There – you know, the thing is it’s not necessarily that she’s adult about it because Kate is constantly breaking the rules. She’s constant breaking the rules in her professional life. She really doesn’t care about roles so much. She just – she – you know, she has a case and you know her heart kind of draws her to what is the right thing to do, regardless of what the law says, regardless of what two people want.
You know, she has the ability to prod, and prod, and prod until, you know, they really reveal what they want from each other, even if it’s not what they initially thought going into the mediation. And if anything, that’s what drives her. It’s not necessarily that, you know, she is an adult in this professional world but she’s not in her personal life; it’s the fact that she’s just so passionate, and you know she’s very defiant in what she believe and how she feels, and that’s what she goes after.
And again, it’s kind of the same in her personal life, except at the moment it’s kind of murky what she feels. So if anything, you know, that’s what drives her in that professional life. It’s that passionate heart. But – and again – and she gets into trouble. You know, you’ll see in some of the season – in the season she will be, you know, held in contempt. She gets clients into deeper waters than they initially started. And she’s got to work harder to get them out. She’s not always able to fix everyone, you know, so yes – it does – it’s a pendulum. It does go in both worlds.
Okay. But I just wanted to tell you that this series is – this season – Season 2 Premier felt like, ‘Oh, my God. She – her world is…’ I thought that Season 1 her world was crumbling. And now it’s like, ‘Okay. She did it again.’
Everything’s – you know, so it seems like it’s – almost feels like a new show.
Shahi: Yes. Yes. You know…
I really appreciate that.
Shahi: Okay, good. Good. Good. Good.
Yes, because I don’t want the dust to settle. And a lot of shows that they come out with the really strong character that nobody likes, and then the second season everybody’s like – like her – I mean, you know, like her.
And everything goes well. And it’s like, ‘No. No. You can’t do that.’ So I really appreciate this direction you’re going.
Shahi: Well good. Good. You know, and the thing that’s so great about her – you know, I kind of play her with no vanity. And so I’m not afraid of having a character that’s a little bitchy at times. A character that is sometimes just mean to Lauren. A character who, you know, does get a little too flirty with somebody else and right in front of Ben. You know, a character who may not be exactly likable at all times, because I just think that’s human. You know, and that’s just going back to the other question about, you know, do I think she’s relatable? I think it’s just real. No one is perfect and I don’t like when characters on TV are, you know, portrayed as – you know, just constantly likable all the time.
Hey, could you talk to me a little bit about the real Sarah Shahi and the character you play. Can you compare and contrast?
Shahi: Yes. You know, the reason which we’re the same – well, that’s a – you know, here’s the thing. At the end of the day, it’s a lot Kate is a big part of me. And it’s nice to be able to play something that is so closely related to myself – that is a part of myself that I can kind of slip into without, you know, any vanity as I said. But the ways in which we’re similar, we’re both very, very feisty, very passionate, and you know love life kind of people and take charge of life. You know, we’re flirty and love clothes.
The ways in which we’re different, you know, Kate is kind of irresponsible and she is a bit you know childish and immature, whereas I’m a wife and a mother, and I just don’t have that much room for immaturity in my life, though I would love to have more. But you know, it’s – you know, everyone knows that it is kind of the woman that holds the family together in a way, and so it’s – I do feel that responsibility.
I love the character that Kate Reed is progressing from – when the show started of course with Episode 1 and who’s she become now. They’re giving her a lot more depth and she’s very relatable.
Could you go into a little bit more detail, as much as you can, about what’s going to happen between you and Michael Trucco’s character? Because I love that connection you guys have. It’s a great dynamic.
Shahi: Yes, and it just gets even better between us. And there’s just so much natural chemistry that it’s just so – it’s so fun to watch. We are going to – we’re going to go through it. You know, it’s – you know, he’s going to you know drop the hammer on me in the first episode on how he behaved during our marriage, and then from that we’re just going to – it’s the roller coaster. It’s the – we get divorced. Kate becomes a little cold towards him. She starts being a flirtier towards other people, and then they get back together and they’re going to try being together. But they’re just sleeping together, but they’re not really dating. And then he kind of comes to her and he’s like, ‘Okay, well why don’t we start dating?’ And she’s like, ‘Okay, why not. Let’s just start dating.’
And then there’s Ben, and then Kate starts looking at Ben a little – you know, more and starts holding his gaze a little too long. And you know, she goes back and just isn’t sure about Justin anymore. And you know – and then – so yes, so we’re just going to keep going round and round and round until the season finale.
I really enjoyed meeting Ryan Johnson in person. He was fantastic.
Shahi: Oh, good.
And thanks for giving me all that heads-up information. Tell me a little bit about Leonardo and what we’re – are going to get to see more of him and Kate’s relationship?
Shahi: Yes. Yes, we do. You know, we get to see Kate’s relationship more with everyone this year, which is nice. But yes, we do. But you know, Leo is – Leo and Kate are kind of unflappable in a way, but they’re not going to really – they’re brother and sister, you know. He knows her better than she knows herself. He knows what she’s going to do before she even does it, and so it’s more of that.
Their dynamic really doesn’t change too much this year. You know, the only difference is Leo is having to serve as everyone that sits in the office, and you know Kate doesn’t really like that too much. But – and he has to come to my defense at time with some of the other characters. But other than that, Kate and Leo are you know, true and true.
Everybody’s been talking about the change in the whole dynamic of the presentation of the show, and you’ve obviously got a lot on your plate between the show and being a mom, and how do you juggle all that?
Shahi: Well, my favorite thing to say about that is I have a brain and a uterus and I use them both. But it is a juggle. You know, it’s a juggle and it’s a juggle that I constantly feel like I’m failing at, because I want to be with my son 100% of the time. But then again, you know, this is how I make my living. This is how I pay the bills. So it’s – I can’t.
And I just try to bring him with me everywhere I go, and he comes to set often and I make the AD’s baby-sit. And yes, you just – you know, you try to make it work the best that you can, and – but I don’t know. I just – you know, I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that because I don’t feel like I’ve gotten it down. Because – you know again like I said, I constantly feel like I’m not doing a good enough job.
Well as a person who’s done that and felt the same way, it – you always feel that way, but you actually turn out realizing that you did a better job than you thought you did.
Shahi: Oh, well thank you.
And then what do you do for yourself in terms of – because you are doing so much, that you give yourself some space and time of – you know, I don’t want to say hobbies because that’s not it. Just… me time.
Shahi: Well, yes – me time. There’s none of that. There’s none of that right now. I – if I have extra time, I sleep. That’s just what I do. And I’ve gotten really good at it. I can now sleep standing up. I can even sleep with my eyes open, that’s how badly my body needs sleep. But that’s – yes, anything extra goes to just sleeping honestly. And you know, and to kind of keep myself sane on set and not constantly have my nose buried in the script, I did take up knitting.
So yes – so sleeping and knitting.
Knitting? What do you – is there anything in particular that you have completed that you really like?
Shahi: No. I’m working on a hat though. I’m working on a beanie. I’ve been working it for awhile. We’ll see how long it takes me to finish.
We talked about with the change in your show and everything that you’re kind of aware of what’s going on on the set. But do you get to give input a lot? Like with character development and maybe with some of your lines, or do they – you just…
Shahi: Yes, I do. It’s – you know, it’s become a – you know, as far as the writing staff goes, I’m – I was the only – you know, not that I’m a writer, but I’m just saying I would – the cast was kind of the only returning members from you know the change in regime. So in the beginning, you know, Peter did rely very heavily on me and the dynamics that were written between the characters, and we did spend a lot of time in pre-production finding the voice and the dynamics. And no, it’s not because Peter is such a great writer, such a confident writer that he has no problems with me coming in and changing things or suggesting to change things; he’s always taken my ideas and you know, it’s a very good, open, collaborative relationship.
Is there some specific – I know you said you’re not a writer, but is there something that kind of you would just love to see happen with Kate? Whether it could happen or not, just kind of out your own mind.
Shahi: I would love for Kate to somehow mediate something between Russell Crow and Slash and have to make out with both of them. I would both of them. I would love for that to happen.
Speaking of actors, is there any guest stars you could talk about that are coming this season?
Shahi: Yes. Well, you know, the biggest has been Meat Loaf. Meat Loaf comes by, and he prefers to be called Meat, and he was wonderful. We get into a – Kate and him kind of go head to head and get into a screaming match, which is kind of fun. I almost matched him in decibels, which I was proud of.
But yes, he comes by and he plays a union worker. There’s a – the union is going to go on strike because the agency that’s funding them is – wants to cut their wages, and Kate kind of gets in the middle and finds out that there’s – you know, there’s more underneath the surface than what it appears to be. And – so yes. So he comes by and he was wonderful.
I’ve seen a couple of the episodes for the second season, and I see that Katie is still coming across as pretty much fearless, like when she faces down the FBI for example. And you’ve said that the major point of this season seems to be to make her as uncomfortable as possible. So, what I’m wondering is will we see her thrown off balance to the point where she ever actually loses that fearlessness for any reason?
And would she be – really? And is she someone who would bounce back from that quickly, or would it really shake her?
Shahi: Well, the situation that she is in is a – that she is not as fearless as she says she is becomes a personal – it becomes an impersonal – it’s a personal thing. You know, Kate – when it comes to her work especially, she’s the kind of person – she sees the fire and she walks into it. She’s just drawn to it. She cannot help it. But when it comes to her personal life, again she’s a little bit more unclear and there is more fear with that that she’d like to believe.
So the situation that she does kind of get really thrown off her feet, and it happens to be a personal one with Ben where he kind of challenges her in a way that she challenged him in the beginning. And, she’s not able to – she doesn’t act. And she doesn’t recover well from that. But as far as – you know, as far as her work goes, and this is a – you know, this is a character that we have created so far that she’s drawn to conflict. You know, she has to have it. She loves it. She lives it. She breathes it. And so when it comes to her work stuff, she’s going to keep remaining fearless, but – you know, but again, that’s – the thing that drives her is her heart.
So it’s not to say that she doesn’t go into a circumstance, you know, without any kind of fear or you know doubting things, but it’s the fact that she does it. She doesn’t back away from anything when it comes to her work. But when it comes to her personal life this year, she does.
I noticed that Ben and Katie have a very David and Maddie type chemistry, but the show seems to be trying to avoid the Moonlighting thing where it’s strictly will they or won’t they, or when they, or, rather when will they. But because of the triangle, you can’t really be sure of anything with any combination. And I’m just wondering, what’s it like to play that?
Shahi: Well it’s – you know, I – after awhile, all the scripts kind of start getting very confusing in my head and I do kind of forget where I left off with what was the last dynamic with, you know, Ben or with Justin. So I have to be very certain of what the – what – how the relationship has evolved. And because we do shoot out of order, that’s something that, you know, takes a little bit of (unintelligible) going back in and remembering where we last stood.
And also knowing what we’re building to, you know, is kind of how we strategically are playing the scenes. And you know, it’s like you know placing the pieces of the puzzle to build to this really nice picture in the end. So yes – so it’s a dance. It’s a definite dance. But then again, that’s the stuff that I love playing. That’s what I feel like I’m actually good at. So we’ll see if everyone else agrees.
Well, the show’s a little more complex this year, and I’m finding that I like it a lot more than I did the first season, so I really appreciate the way it’s going. And thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us.
Shahi: Oh, sure. No problem. Thanks for listening to me.
So you mentioned – well you see Lauren and Kate move in, and so do we get to see more of them, like I guess out of work?
Shahi: Yes. Yes. There’s actually an entire episode that they spend together because they’re on a case together. So there is going to be – there’s going to be more interaction with Lauren. More interaction with everyone.
Yes, when I was watching it, you know, I love that they have such a great banter, even when they’re not, you know, arguing. Like they’re slightly arguing. And so sometimes that even more fun to see than, you know, when they’re yelling at each other.
Shahi: Yes, absolutely.
And my favorite was when she saw – when Kate sees Lauren about to go on a date and all the comments about her hair, that she actually has it, which is… It’s just a great moment.
And do we get to see anyone else more outside of the office? (Let me know) that we get to see more of Justin with is campaign a little bit more?
Shahi: Yes. Justin and the campaign, that comes along and – from the later episodes. And actually, we see every character in their home a few times throughout the season.
All right, that sounds interesting.
Because last season, it was mostly you know in the offices or off mediating. We didn’t get to see much branch out.
Shahi: Yes. No. No. We go to Justin’s, we go to Ben’s, we go to Leo’s. (Unintelligible).
Interesting. And if you had to say whose house reminds you most of that character? I can imagine Leo’s is just crazy.
Shahi: Well, yes. I mean, they’ve done a really good job of the set dec on the show is great, so they do a really good job of putting the character’s personalities into their homes. So it’s – you know, yes. Leo’s is kind of crazy and sporadic, and a lot of gadgets and you know like antiques and – I mean, which is actually more my kind of personal taste.
But – and then Justin’s is very kind of – it’s warm. It’s masculine. It’s minimal. There’s – you know, it’s a bit traditional looking. And then you know Lauren’s is a little bit colder, more minimal. And you know, not so warm.
And then Ben’s – I’m trying to think if I’ve been to Ben’s. I haven’t been to Ben’s yet, but I’m going to, and it’s the ultimate bachelor pad. You know, it’s Ryan Gosling’s place in Crazy, Stupid, Love.
When I read on the database it says you have some other upcoming projects coming up.
Can you talk a bit about that?
Shahi: Yes. Well, the things I have that are – that haven’t been released yet are – there’s this movie that I did in India called Static with Milo Ventimiglia, who was, you know, on Heroes and that’s kind of like The Strangers meets The Others. It’s a psychological thriller movie. And I play this woman who has lost her son, her three year old son, and basically my husband and I – Milo and I, we’re ghosts and we’ve lost our son, but we don’t realize that we’re ghosts. And a series of things happen to kind of shake us into realizing what we are and helping us go into the next world to be with our son. So that’s that. You know, a simple little romantic comedy.
And then the other thing that I did was a Sylvester Stallone movie directed by Walter Hill called Bullet to the Head, which I play Sly’s daughter in the film. And I’m a tattoo artist. It takes place in gritty New Orleans, and he plays – Stallone is a hit man and his partner gets killed and he’s out for – to avenge his partner’s death.
And he and I don’t have a very good relationship, but we’re all family that the other one has. And I get involved in the mix and try to help him out and get taken hostage. And you know, he has to save me. It’s a very testosterone driven – it’s exactly what you would expect from going to see a Stallone movie.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t acting?
Shahi: I’d be a midwife.
Shahi: I know. It’s an answer much – most people are surprised at. But yes, you know, I did a home birth myself, and I feel like I have a very – I have a talent for it. I think I’m – I – it’s just something – and I – actually, I’d helped deliver my manager’s baby, and I was – my heart was so overjoyed at that moment when the baby came out. And this was not mine. This is watching somebody else that I had a – you know, I had a big part in the birth, that I really thought about quitting acting and I felt like I’d found my calling. It was to be a midwife. And I remember I called my husband when I was coming back from the hospital and I said, ‘I think I’m in the wrong field. I really think I need to be a midwife.’
And – but yes. So I just – I think I have an uncanny understanding of all of that and the way it works and our bodies. And if I weren’t an actress, I would love to go to school and be a midwife.
Okay, great. Well, thank you so much.
Shahi: Great. Well, guys I just wanted to say thank you so much. I’m sorry I couldn’t be there that day. I was incredibly sick. And you know, I hope you like this next season. And I hope you write the best (frakking) interviews you could possibly write on me. So there you go.
Photos by Andrew Eccles and Alan Zenuk/courtesy of USA Network