Jessica. Natalie. Bella.
While we love seeing Gina Torres hold down the fort (or try to) on Suits Season 4 as Jessica Pearson, the only thing better than is seeing her pop up elsewhere on the dial in very different roles on very different shows.
Besides her part on the USA legal hit, Torres has also started guesting on several episodes of Revenge Season 4, playing socialite Natalie West, who seems to be destined to butt heads with Victoria Grayson.
And, last but certainly not least, let’s not forget the star shares the screen with her real-life husband, Laurence Fishburne, as Bella in NBC’s Hannibal Season 3, which returns this summer.
That gave us plenty to talk about in the following exclusive interview...
TV Fanatic: You’re a busy lady these days!
Gina Torres: I am. I’m a very busy lady these days.
TVF: As we’ve been seeing, Louis has had everybody kind of between a rock and a hard place. I’m really curious, do you think Jessica’s purely on safety mode to protect the firm or does she kind of admire him in a way?
GT: Oh God, admiration? I don’t think she can see past the threat to admire him at all. I think Jessica’s exhausted, quite frankly. I think this is taking its toll in some ways. It is what she’s cut out for. In a lot of ways it is what she’s best at. Negotiating and handling and at times manipulating these personalities.
What makes Louis so tricky is he’s so highly emotional. You can predict that he’s going to lose his mind. That’s the shape it’s going to take because he’s so reactionary and he has a tendency to lash out so quickly. That’s what makes him so volatile, that’s what makes him so tricky. I think Jessica certainly has her work cut out for her at this point.
TVF: Is this whole conflict a little different though because it is kind of a member of the family? More personal?
GT: Well, it’s certainly personal to Louis. There’s a really wonderful scene between Donna and Louis where she really sort of challenges what his idea of family is. He’s taking it so personally. He’s taking it as such an affront to his person. It really isn’t that. I mean when you think of the journey that we’ve all taken as a cast since Mike came into our lives, I often say there’s always the fire that’s burning and you have to determine which one’s burning closest to the house. How do we get out of it and not sell anybody out? How do we remain intact?
So, our family is the firm. It’s no small thing. I think it’s easy to sort of detach because we refer to it as the firm and I’ve worked so hard for this firm but a firm is not just the building. It’s all the people in it. It’s all the people that make it what it is. Part of this secret and part of what makes this secret so dire and dangerous is that it puts everybody in danger. Everyone is on the line. So, at the risk of making her sound falsely altruistic, she really has to determine…it’s the quandary with Jeff Malone. If she lets him in then she also puts him in jeopardy. It’s not easy. It’s not just protecting her hard work. It’s protecting everybody that’s involved.
TVF: Speaking of Jeff, what would you say is the main thing that makes Jessica and Jeff work? I know the first couple seasons I was always asking you ‘when does she get in a relationship?’ Now she has one and it really has been great to watch.
GT: Oh, well I think they’re equally matched just in terms of ambition and intelligence, although no one is smarter than Jessica.
TVF: This is true.
GT: Yes. But you know, he’s not below her in any way. I feel when I answer these questions I’m answering them for a lot of women out there who are in the workplace. I think Jessica is really quite comfortable with the life decisions that she’s made thus far. Jeff challenges her to perhaps reevaluate how she wants to move forward. Is how she’s been living her life the way she wants to continue to live her life? Or is it perhaps time to reshuffle the deck and what does that mean? I don’t think he wants to change her. I think he’s just asking her to look at her priorities and how she’s set it up and if there’s room for improvement. He loves her. He clearly loves her and he wants to make sure that there’s room for him in his life.
TVF: Let’s shift to Revenge and Ms. Natalie Waters, who I love already. What do you make of Natalie? From what we’ve seen so far, she seems a worthy adversary for Victoria.
GT: Absolutely. Absolutely. Victoria and Natalie do go toe to toe, nose to nose. The next episode coming up is big fun. Like good, old fashioned just bitch banter. It’s just great fun.
TVF: Do we find out in the next episode what Natalie’s goals are? I figure there’s a reason why she’s popped up at this particular time.
GT: Absolutely. All is revealed. It’s a good one.
TVF: How has it been working with Madeleine?
GT: I have the best time working with Madeleine. She’s a hoot. She’s so talented. Sometimes I sort of catch myself watching her because she’s so good. She’s got this character down. We just play. We just play. We’re like two kids in a sandbox. I would crack her up and she would crack me up and we had a good time.
TVF: Jessica is a very particular kind of woman in the business world whereas Natalie is more high society. How has it been as an actor shifting between the different roles?
GT: Look, they’re both very high maintenance in a lot of ways. On both shows I’m lucky enough to be able to look great and wear great clothes. But you do come at these two characters from very different place. Where Natalie is a climber and really has no problem doing whatever she has to do. I mean from a rogue place. Jessica’s far more educated and much more intellectual about her choices to take over the world.
TVF: In a hypothetical world do you think Jessica and Natalie would be friends or they’d be more frenemies…?
GT: You know, I think that Jessica would see Natalie coming a mile away and just kind of sit back and watch her set fire to her own house.
TVF: Is there anything to talk about with Hannibal? It was quite a season finale and we’re left waiting for summer for it to return.
GT: You know, I will say that quite a few survived. I can tell you my husband (Laurence Fishburne) survived and Hugh Dancy survived that blood bath. Bella does make an appearance in season three. Again, as an actor it’s a complete departure from the stuff that I’ve been doing and incredibly fulfilling. Bryan [Fuller, creator] has written me the most beautiful arc with Bella and I’m so grateful.
Suits Season 4 airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on USA. Revenge Season 4 returns March 8 on ABC. And Hannibal Season 3 is set to return this summer on NBC.
Jim Halterman is the West Coast Editor of TV Fanatic and the owner of JimHalterman.com. Follow him on Twitter.