Interview with Victor Garber, Jewel Staite, Zach Smadu, Genelle Williams, Jory Randall and Susin Nielson of “Family Law” on The CW by Suzanne 9/29/22
I really love this cast, but I’m worried that the show’s writing is not as good as it should be. I believe they’ve made Jewel’s character too unlikable. We’ll see, I guess. This is a Canadian show, renewed for a third season, so it must already be popular up there.
It was a very fun panel with a lot of joking around. I really enjoyed it. I love Victor Garber from “Alias,” “The Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow,” and Jewel Staite from “Firefly” and “Stargate: Atlantis.”
THE CW NETWORK
Jewel Staite “Abigail Bianchi,” Victor Garber “Harry Svensson,”
Zach Smadu “’Daniel Svensson,” Genelle Williams, “Lucy Svensson,”
Jory Randall (Executive Producer), Susin Nielsen (Creator/Showrunner)
HOST: Hello, and welcome to the virtual press panel for the CW’S new drama series, Family Law. We are excited to have Jewel Staite, Victor Garber, Zach Smadu, Genelle Williams, creator and showrunner season, Susin Nielsen and executive producer Jody Randall participating on the panel today. Family Law follows lawyer and recovering alcoholic Abigail Bianchi, struggling to put her career and family back together after hitting rock bottom. As a condition of her probation, Abby is forced to work at her estranged father, Harry’s firm, Svensson & Associates, and practice in family law for the first time, while figuring new relationships with half-brother, Daniel and half-sister, Lucy, whom she’s never met. The result is a dysfunctional family law firm operating to help other families with their own dysfunctions. Premiering Sunday, October 2nd at 8:00 PM, this is Family Law.
HOST: Please welcome the cast and executive producers of Family Law. And as a reminder to press, if you’d like to ask a question, please click the “raise your hand” button and we will put you in the queue and call on you when it’s your turn. Um, on deck we have Jamie Ruby, and first up, we have Suzanne Lanoue.
SUZANNE: Hi. Thanks for talking to us today. You guys are great. I love the show. My question is for Victor and Jewel. Uh, can you tell us about your character’s father-daughter relationship and what it’s been like for you to play that?
VICTOR GARBER: Well, Jewel can’t talk, so you, do you wanna, do you wanna give them a clue as to why, why I said that?
JEWEL STAITE: Yeah. I, I have a really bad cold, but I sound worse than I feel.
VICTOR GARBER: That’s good. Cause you sound terrible.
JEWEL STAITE: I know. Really bad [OVERLAPPING] Do you want me to talk, do you want me to talk first? [OVERLAPPING]
VICTOR GARBER: Uh, hi. Nice of you to all be here. I can’t see you all, but I’m, I’m, I’m very excited that the show’s premiering on The CW. Um, I think it’s a great show that, the, the relationship between, Abigail and Harry is, is fraught, it’s fractured. And this is an attempt on, on both their parts to try to mend it. Um, and it’s, it’s, of course like all relationships, it takes more than you realize. And, and that is the thrust of the first… that is, that that’s the beginning, and it continues throughout the, the season. Uh, and it’s you know, it’s, it’s family law and in, in, in so many different ways. And they’re trying, they’re trying to find common ground, and they’re, they’re just not quite making it.
JEWEL STAITE: Which is interesting because Abby and Harry are very similar [LAUGHS]. They’re both really stubborn. They both like to win the argument. They both love to argue. So the dynamic is, is fraught, but it’s also really interesting to play because there are so many similarities between the two them that they haven’t noticed yet, of course.
VICTOR GARBER: They, they don’t notice that for quite some time. [LAUGHS]
SUZANNE: All right, thank you. And you don’t sound so bad, Jewel.
JEWEL STAITE: Aw. Thanks. See guys?
JORDY RANDALL: She’s being polite.
HOST: Okay. So, on deck we have Terrell Roister, and up now we have Karen Moul.
KAREN: Hi. thank you so much everybody, for speaking with us today. Jewel, I hate to make you talk, but I have a question about Abby. Uh, as the, as the series opens in that first episode, I think on paper, Abby is, she’s abrasive, she’s in denial about her mistakes. She’s, on paper, she’s maybe a little hard to like, and yet she hits the screen and I’m instantly rooting for her. And I hope you could talk a little bit about what audiences will see in Abby in these early episodes.
JEWEL STAITE: Um, first of all, that makes me feel so good. Because, initially when I started playing this role, I had this silly, you know, worry that she wouldn’t be likable. And then I realized in order to make her as authentic as possible, I had to throw that out the window. And it didn’t matter if she wasn’t likable or, you know, she just had to be as authentic as possible. Um, but she, she uses all of these coping mechanisms – the abrasiveness, the haughtiness, the overconfidence, her sense of humor to hide all of this hurt and this pain that she just simply doesn’t feel like dealing with. That is not something she’s interested in facing for a really, really long time. So it takes her quite a journey to admit any sort of mistake. And, and she’s only willing to do it, to get her family back and get her children back, really, that’s, that’s her sole priority. And unfortunately, her addiction gets in the way of that priority. Um, but she’s, she’s a person in a lot of pain. And it’s incredibly hard for her to be vulnerable to show them.
KAREN: Thank you.
JEWEL STAITE: Thank you.
HOST: On deck we have Mike Hughes and now we have Terrell Roister.
TERRELL: Oh, I guess is my turn. Hey guys, how you doing? Hey Terrell, Big Ol’ Bell Media, question for Jewel, Victor, Zach and Genelle. Uh, you know, watching, watching the episode and seeing you guys work as a family is super tense on the show. Very, very uncomfortable at times, cause you know, you guys don’t know each other. Um, what, what was the kind of like, what got you in the mindset to get you to, “Oh yeah, we’re, we’re all a family,” or to feel like a family on set? Or at least say, I guess a broken family, if I wanted to say [LAUGHS]?
JEWEL STAITE: You wanna go first?
ZACH SMADU: Yeah, I mean that, that, that is the fun of the, the dynamic between all of us as, as Victor and Jewel has kind of have touched on, the fact that we’re somewhat combative and, and private people who are all kind of forced together, both within the family life and also within the law firm. And how was that to play? I mean, to be honest, that’s, that’s not so easy, cause we actually genuinely really get along. But maybe that’s probably why it’s, it’s, it’s easy to kind of step into that in the acting world, cause we, we trust each other, we love being around each other on set, going to work. And, you know, there’s no egos, there’s no, no, no problems, interpersonal problems, it’s just fun. And so, you know, whatever the scene requires, it kind of, kind of came second nature to us. We were able to find that dynamic between all the siblings and, and with our, our father figure Harry as well, I think.
JEWEL STAITE: Yeah. I think, you know, we, we shot this show at the beginning of COVID. So we, we shot for two weeks and then we took this big long break, the whole world took a break. And in that break we had a lot of time to text each other and to really bond in this weird way. So, when we did start filming again in July to finish out the season, we were really, really close. And then, because we had to be in this safety bubble to make sure no one got COVID we, we became even closer. And, and, I don’t know about you guys, but like, I trust you so much that it, it makes the job so much easier. Because I know that whatever I kind of throw at you, you’ll riff on that and throw back at me, and vice versa. So it, it makes these interactions really fun. You know, we love playing combative because, you know, in real life we’re all just like sickeningly in love with each other.
GENELLE WILLIAMS: Not in “real life,” in real life. [LAUGHS]
JORDY RANDALL: But I what I want to know is how did the sibling relationships on the show play in real life. That’s the question, Jewel [INAUDIBLE]
GENELLE WILLIAMS: Yeah, because you stole my point, just like a big sister would. She literally said what I was gonna say. So yeah. [LAUGHS]
JEWEL STAITE: I would say, like Zach is more like the big brother. You know, like Genelle and I we, we’re, Zach is very good at kind of calming everyone down. (We’re crazy, that’s what she wants…) He’s the voice of voice of reason and he’s like, he’s a calming presence. So when Zach is around you, I, you just automatically feel, like my shoulders drop and, and he’s just got that kind of presence. So I would say if anybody, you know, in the sibling relationship is like the older, sage, more wise sibling, it would be Zach.
ZACH SMADU: Enough with the sage.
SUSIN NIELSEN: What do you think of that, Zach?
VICTOR GARBER: I find him confrontational. And kinda, it’s, it’s difficult some, some days, but I have overcome that. And now we’re, we’re doing, we’re doing much better.
JORDY RANDALL: Zach, you’re the father figure to Victor it sounds like.
ZACH SMADU: I guess, it sounds like that. It really plays into the Daniel/Harry story.
VICTOR GARBER: I will just say, I, I will just say they take care of me, 100%. I am, I am so in, I, I can’t really do anything without their help. And I mean, anything, order cereal on the, on… Ask Genelle how much money she’s forked out to get me the proper granola. It’s just, I rely on them for everything. And now that I’m home, I think, “Where, Oh, they’re not here.”
GENELLE WILLIAMS: If they ship to America, I literally thought, “Oh, I have to get Victor some cereal.” [LAUGHS]
HOST: We have actually a question for Susin and Jordy. Uh, what was the inspiration in creating the show? How near and dear to you is this project? And how did you get this amazing cast together?
JORDY RANDALL: Susin, you do have to speak. I told you.
SUSIN NIELSEN: Uh, yes. Alrighty. Well, um yeah, I, the, the, the idea is very near and dear to me. Um, my own [LAUGHS] my own family background isn’t as dramatic as the show, or these four. But, but certainly the nubbin of the idea came from a lot of my own family history. Um, I didn’t grow up with my dad, I grew up with my mother. I didn’t meet my father until I was a teenager, at which point I also met my half-brother and my half-sister. Now my father only had one subsequent relationship, not two. Um, but I think that I, in a lot of my work, you know, a lot of our, I think we’re, we’re all informed by our families. And so that was where the idea started to percolate. And I love working in the realm of drama and comedy. And so it just felt like the world of Family Law was a perfect place for this very dysfunctional family to be operating, and attempting to help other dysfunctional families, you know, while Abby is also trying to win back her husband and children as well. Um, so that was kind of the inception of the idea. And then in terms of the cast, Victor Garber, when somebody mentioned Victor Garber, I thought, well, yes, that would, that would be amazing. [LAUGHS] That will never happen. But that would be so amazing. So [LAUGHS]
VICTOR GARBER: Thank you, Susin. Your check is in the mail.
SUSIN NIELSEN: Um, and then when we were auditioning Abby, I just remember when, when we saw Jewel, I believe it was her callback audition. And you know, I just tell the story of just getting a jolt of electricity up my spine and just realizing, this is Abby, this, this is her. And it was such an exciting feeling. And then, of course we, and then we got Jewel together with some callbacks for the siblings. And again, it was just so obvious that it was Genelle and that it was Zach. And I was so excited because Zach actually rides a road bike [LAUGHS], so you didn’t have to fudge any of that.
ZACH SMADU: Yeah, that was one of the questions you asked as we were walking out the rooms. “Do you actually ride a bike?” I’m like, “I do. Got it. I got it.”
JORDY RANDALL: I think it’s one of those great stories where we look now and like, there’s nobody else who could have played these four parts other than these four people. Like, this is, what Susin visualized in this series is only possible with these four people, so we’re incredibly lucky. And I think when we look back at the development of the show, you ask if we’re passionate about it, I think we first talked about doing the show 10 years ago. I think we first had the idea, we started to develop it. And it’s been a journey and a labor of love. One of those things that you knew was gonna be a show. You knew it was gonna be a great show, but you kind of had to wait for the opportunity to rise, wait for the world to change and for it to open up. And I think we were lucky. We waited and we found that right moment where we got to finally do the show with the right people. So we’ve waited a long time to do this, so we, every day we’re thankful that we’re, we’re here and doing the show.
SUSIN NIELSEN: Well, and that’s kudos to you, Jordy for sure, that you kept believing in it as well. So, yeah.
JORDY RANDALL: But we’re right where we need to be now. So you can see the passion, you know, all of you watching these squares here, you can tell these, everyone here loves it.
HOST: I love it. So on deck, we have Abby Bernstein, and right now we have Mike Hughes.
MIKE HUGHES: This is for Susin and Jordy, and it kind of follows up on what Susin was saying before. We used to have quite a few shows like this, ones that had some comedy, some drama, and managed to solve a case at the end of each week. It kind of disappeared from American TV, but they’re making a comeback this year, “So Help Me, Todd, Rookie’s Fed and this one are three shows in that format. So, first of all, is Canada always consistent? We had these kind of comedy drama combinations throughout the years. And second of all, what is it that you really like about doing a show that has all of these things together and solves a case?
JORDY RANDALL: Well, I’ll answer the first part cause I think Susin will be best suited to answer the second part. I think for us, no, this is not a type of show that’s prevalent in Canada more than the United States. I think, as, you know, producers, we looked at this and, and said, this is the kind of show the world needs right now. You know, there’s a lot of darkness, there’s a lot of controversy over the last few years. Like, it felt like the world doesn’t need another dark serial killer show. What they need is something where you care about family and you laugh and you cry a little bit and you solve the case. Like we wanted the audience to feel something, go on a journey where they actually have a pleasant experience and have fun. Um, so no, I think that was a conscious choice that’s turning out to yes, be the trend now, but I think it felt like what the market needed.
MIKE HUGHES: And Susin, you mentioned…
SUSIN NIELSEN: You, I mentioned what?
MIKE HUGHES: That you like both comedy and drama and you like to combine them. So tell us about why you like that.
SUSIN NIELSEN: Yeah, I, I, you know, it’s funny. I think it’s just always been my sensibility. Um, uh, I also write young adult novels, and they’re always in that vein of, of comedy and drama. Um, for me I don’t know, for me that’s life, right? You laugh, you cry. And I tend, it tends to be my own viewing tastes as well. I love watching shows that can both kind of punch me in the gut emotionally and, and make me laugh. Um, you know, my favorite writers do that as well. Um, I, and I think on, you know, I actually think it’s, it’s really hard to do to, to have that blend of, of, of comedy and drama and know what the right balance is.
SUSIN NIELSEN: And certainly what’s so wonderful about our cast is that they get both of those avenues so well. So, you know, within the course of a few scenes, um… well, Episode 1, I mean, I’m, I’m feeling so bad for Abby when she’s talking to Nico on the phone and you realize that she’s separated from her children for the first time in the episode. And then she goes to AA and we realize, okay, she’s in AA and then she calls herself a shmalcoholic, and suddenly the tone changes again. And I just, I love playing with that kind of emotional journey.
JORDY RANDALL: And I think that’s one of, that’s, well that’s, that’s like a Susin Nielsen superpower, honestly. Is like, you can call this a light procedural, but it’s a comedic procedural with heart. Cause every single episode, you’re gonna feel something. And I think that’s the beauty of the show.
SUSIN NIELSEN: Well, and I do like to think of myself as the, as an optimist. It, sometimes it’s hard. But yeah, I like, you know, I’ll, I’ll be honest, like, I like writing a show that’s very hopeful. And we all have really effed up families, right? So I think we can also [OVERLAPPING]
VICTOR GARBER: What do you mean, Susin? What do you mean?
JORDY RANDALL: I thought we weren’t gonna talk about that.
SUSIN NIELSEN: And our, and most of our families make us crazy, but they also make us laugh sometimes too, hopefully.
HOST: Um, on deck we have Rick Bentley, and up now we have Abby Bernstein.
ABBY: Hi. Thank you all for doing this. Um, for anybody and everybody who’d like to discuss this, was there anything you had to learn in order to either write or play a legal procedural, comedic or dramatic in terms of how lawyers present themselves, or in terms of what the law is, or in terms of how to say the jargon?
ZACH SMADU: Uh, well, I will, I will say, I know Abby and well… Jewel and myself, continually have to learn and check with each other and check with Susin and the writers going, “Sorry, how do you say that word? And what does that mean again? What does that exactly mean?” Cause I, I can speak for myself, I didn’t know too much about the law in detail, let alone pretending to be a lawyer and, and make that realistic and make that, you know… There’s, there’s, it’s like any other procedural, if it’s a medical or, or a police procedural, there’s certain terms and, and lingo and ways in which that, there’s a turn of phrase that people use that if, if you don’t understand, and if you, if you’re not with what it actually means and how it’s used, it can fall very flat.
ZACH SMADU: And so I know, at least for myself, it’s been a challenge and something that I really wanted to make sure that I was always on, because, you know, you can, when you see it on television and it doesn’t ring true, well, it affects the show deeply. So, I’ve been studying law, I’m halfway through getting my diploma.
VICTOR GARBER: Oh, stop it.
JORDY RANDALL: It isn’t what it’s called.
ZACH SMADU: It’s a law degree? No, it has, it has a challenge.
VICTOR GARBER: Mythical law degree.
JEWEL STAITE: Um, Zach and I have talked a lot about the, the courtroom… bravado that you have to have as a lawyer. So it’s like, it’s like being an actor when you’re on stage, right? So when you’re doing your thing and you’re up there and you’re questioning the witness, what, what does this person do with their body? How do they exude confidence? What’s their walk in the courtroom? Um, and, and we both have our little tricks and things. And [LAUGHS] remember Zach, I was watching him question a witness, remember? And he, and he came out, he like, he like did this really good thing where he sort of like leaned on the witness box, in this like, casual way as he was just sort of tearing this person apart. And after that take, I was like, “I like the lean, buddy. I like the lean.” And he’s like, “Thanks.” And I’m like, “I’m gonna steal that.” And he’s like, “Don’t you dare.”
ZACH SMADU: Don’t you dare, that’s mine! [LAUGHS]
JEWEL STAITE: But you know, each character has to have their way of kind of taking control of the courtroom. So, that was interesting to learn. And, and I think, you know, I can speak for Zach as well as myself in saying that the courtroom days are the hardest. And it takes a lot of prep to learn the dialogue, to make it sound like it’s second nature, and to choreograph your moves. What line are you walking on when you have to hand over a prop, an envelope, a thing to the judge, to the, to the other lawyer, you know, the opposing council? There’s so many things to remember, that it’s literally, it’s like a dance. And, and we work on those for weeks [LAUGHS] before we actually shoot.
ZACH SMADU: Well, and it’s really important, because there’s so many little details in a single court scene that, you know, there’s one line or there’s one piece of information that the audience needs to understand. And if, you know, you don’t build to that part, and it is a dance, or it’s like a song, right? If you don’t actually hit the melody at the right time and make it clear and make it obvious and, and let that scene sing, then it’s not gonna work. And so it can fall flat.
SUSIN NIELSEN: Yeah. And I guess I would say from the, you know, from the writing point of view, I too know very little about family law. But I know more now than when I started. Um, and we have wonderful consultants who, who really help us out. And so we’ll often start with, you know, we’ll, we read copious articles and books and we have all sorts of ideas for cases. Some are torn from the headlines, some are…. there’s a beautiful episode in, in Season 1 where some of it takes place in a memory care home, a woman who has early onset Alzheimer’s. And that came from reading an article in, in the New Yorker.
SUSIN NIELSEN: And we figured out a way to build it into a court case. And so, often what we’ll do is we’ll come up with the idea and we’ll come up with the things that we’d like to have happen, and then we run it by our consultant. [LAUGHS] And, and she’s great because she actually helps us figure out how to make it work within, mostly the realm of the law. We call it TV law. Um, you know, some of our law is maybe a little more Canadian, some of it’s more American. It’s TV law.
ABBY: Thank you.
HOST: We have a question actually for Genelle. What similarities are there between you and your character, and what are the differences, and how do you relate to your character?
GENELLE WILLIAMS: Similarities? Um, I, I actually don’t, I, I get asked this question often, and I could be wrong. Maybe Jewel or Zach or Victor might say something different. Um, but I don’t find myself that similar to Lucy other than her being, you know, very empathetic and caring and loving. I guess that’s a lot of things, huh?
VICTOR GARBER: Yeah, that’s a lot. You’re, you’re exactly like her.
GENELLE WILLIAMS: I think she’s way smarter than I am, cause she really genuinely is. She’s an incredibly intellectual young woman. Um, I’m smart, but not that smart. Um, I, I thoroughly enjoy playing Lucy for those reasons, I think just because she is very strong. She’s wise beyond her years. Um, and as much as she’s very self-aware of herself, she’s also, like I said, very sympathetic and very loving. And she’ll see, you know, both sides of things. Where I sometimes, especially with Abby and Daniel, where they can be very, by-the-book or extreme one way or the other, she tends to kind of be able to give this middle ground, which is nice. Which I guess again, is similar to me. So, ignore what I said in the beginning about me.
VICTOR GARBER: Yeah, exactly. She’s exactly like you.
GENELLE WILLIAMS: I’m, I’m more like Lucy than I think.
VICTOR GARBER: I’m so glad you worked that out. I’m so glad you worked it out.
GENELLE WILLIAMS: I didn’t know!
JEWEL STAITE: You’re more fun. (Pardon?) You’re fun and silly and like, I don’t know, you’re just like a very warm, kind of radiating, like a, you know, you’re, you’re just like a super friendly kind of person and…
ZACH SMADU: Yeah, you don’t take yourself too seriously. (More guarded) But yeah, I would say, I would say Lucy is way more guarded.
GENELLE WILLIAMS: Lucy is much more guarded.
ZACH SMADU: But you have the same superpower that Lucy has. You can see it in the, in the scenes when she’s doing therapy sessions or whatever. You have the same, in real life of being able to instantaneously connect with people. Right? You know, we’re out for dinner and you, you know everybody’s, every, every server, every person, every, the host, all their names and their backstory. Like, we’ve been here for five minutes. Like, how, how do you know? How do you know what? But she just said she, you have the, the exact same [OVERLAPPING]
VICTOR GARBER: Genelle, Genelle is the personification of joy that’s just… (Oh, guys) Every time she walks in a room, there’s like, “Oh, why is, Oh, I feel, oh, this is… [INAUDIBLE].”
JEWEL STAITE: That’s true.
GENELLE WILLIAMS: I love you all. Thank you. Thank you. Well, you made me cry.
VICTOR GARBER: That’s the point, yeah.
ZACH SMADU: Something that Lucy also does, yes.
GENELLE WILLIAMS: Lucy, Lucy definitely, Lucy can be emotional. I just, the other day, wasn’t I, Susin told the other day, to not be so emotional. I remember this clearly. Lucy, Lucy, sometimes yeah, could be a little emotional. [LAUGHS]
HOST: Genelle, we need to be friends. Um, so on deck, we have Bruce Miller and up now we have Rick Bentley.
RICK: Thank you very much. Victor, I have a two part question for you.
VICTOR GARBER: Oh now, can’t do two parts.
RICK: Then we’ll do it as A and B. (Okay) Could you talk a little bit about play, the, the differences between playing Harry, the father and Harry, the legal eagle? And then on the, the second question is, do you look at yourself as sort of the personification of authority figures? Cause I think going all the way back to Godspell, you have by characters who are, who are in charge, people who lead. And I’m just wondering, are those the roles that attract you or, or do they see you, casting people see you in those roles?
VICTOR GARBER: You know, I honestly don’t know how casting people see me. But I know when I read something, if it’s something I feel compelled to do. And this, this role, I, I was, this, this came out of the blue, this, this, this script. And I said, Oh, this is really good. Um, and I want to, to do this. And I, you know, I, I think I, I do have a need to… I, I think I’d be a terrible lawyer because I would be on both sides all the time. And I, that’s, that’s, I, I do find that I, it’s hard for me to, you know, I, I know what I think is right and um, but I also have compassion for people who don’t… know what’s right. And I think that’s why it’s a good fit for me. I think this role is… and as a father, that’s, that’s the, the joy of playing this role because it’s so, it’s, it’s always, it’s always changing, you know?
VICTOR GARBER: And, and Harry’s problem or, or relationship with Abigail is, is so compelling. And it, and it, it’s shifted for those reasons. That he, he, he wants to be paternal, she won’t let him. And then he real and then, and then she’s, she’s so adversarial and he won’t, and he can’t, he can’t not fight. So there as, as, as, as Joel was saying, they are so similar. And that was really one of, that’s the joy of playing this role. It’s so multidimensional. Uh, and it, it’s challenging for me, which is really all I asked for in a role.
VICTOR: Did I answer the second part? (Yes, sure) Okay. Do you wanna know what I had for breakfast?
ZACH SMADU: Was it cereal?
VICTOR GARBER: It was cereal.
HOST: On deck we have Laura Novak, and up now we have Bruce Miller.
BRUCE: This is for Victor, too. I, I was just curious, how many lawyers have you played?
VICTOR GARBER: You know what, you have to read the resume, cause I don’t remember. Not that many. I mean, I know, not that many. Um, I’m sure I have… Oh, I was, oh, in Legally Blonde, I was a really terrible lawyer. (Bad one) Um, that’s the most, I think that’s, I, but I’m sure I’ve played more. But, I really don’t remember. I, I, I sometimes wonder how I’ve gotten this far because I don’t remember how I got here.
BRUCE: So nothing carries over then from one lawyer to another?
VICTOR GARBER: Well, of course, I mean, I, I, I mean, on some level, but not consciously. Because, you know, you can only do what the script is giving you to do. You know, and all scripts are different, and some are better than others. The, the, these scripts are better than other scripts I’ve, I’ve… been involved with. And, and so it’s, it’s really, it’s a gift really for an actor. It’s always on the page, always starts on the page. And that’s what, that’s what I always am completely taken with. Um, and I made decisions, for other reasons and I was wrong because the script wasn’t, I knew the script wasn’t right for me, and I shouldn’t, I, I think, oh, well, like, sorry I did that. I’m not, I’m not gonna give you the names of those things.
SUSIN NIELSEN: Later Victor, over drinks.
VICTOR GARBER: Yeah. Oh, you know.
HOST: I wanted to do a quick last call for questions. Um, on deck we have Lou Ann Lee, and up next we have Laura Nokak.
LAURA: Hi this question is for Jewel. I’d also like to hear from Zach and Genelle. Uh, how did you feel about inheriting half siblings you’ve never met and then having to work with them daily?
JEWEL STAITE: Well, I mean, that’s a pretty wild concept, to begin with. I cannot imagine having to do something like that, especially in the position that Abby’s in where her tail is between her legs, and she is so ashamed and is, you know, living at her mom’s, and her life is falling apart and she’s gotta strut into that office acting like she already owns the place. And I think deep down she’s probably pretty terrified. Um, so it takes her a long, long time to figure out what her relationships are with these two people. I think Lucy comes on pretty strong, wants to be buddies, wants to be sisters.
JEWEL STAITE: And Abby, by nature is just not super into that, and doesn’t have very many friends. Abby is not the type of person to have a best friend. Um, and so that’s just completely foreign to her. And Lucy, you know, is often quite affectionate and tries to link arms with her and give her hugs. And it’s like, you know, there’s like one moment where Lucy’s really despondent and sad and at a loss, and Abby sits next to her and doesn’t know what to do. Um, and just sort of like puts like a really awkward, like quick hand on her lap, cause she really is just so clueless.
JEWEL STAITE: Um, and then with Daniel, you know, I think Abby really respects Daniel when she sees what he can do in the courtroom, she, she thinks he’s a pretty great lawyer. And they’ve got this weird relationship where she slams into his face, but talks really nice about him behind his back. [LAUGHS] And, and it, sort of does this, like this sisterly thing where, you know, she comes to Harry and says, “you gotta give him more credit. He’s really good at this. And the way you treat him is not okay.” You know, and, and essentially stands up for her brother, but Daniel never knows, He never knows about that. And it’s really interesting that Abby’s not willing to give that away.
GENELLE WILLIAMS: I think the beautiful thing is that, it’s not in, in this situation, especially for, for all three of us, it’s not that we didn’t know each other existed. So, yeah, you know, Lucy’s always known that she’s had this sister and she’s always wanted to have a relationship with her. It wasn’t a surprise that she existed. So, I, I think this longing to have her, as Abby said, she comes on strong because all she’s ever wanted was to have this sisterly bond. She’s always been close with Daniel, of course. Daniel and Lucy have had a relationship from the very beginning. But unfortunately with Abby, she hasn’t. So she does try every single tactic to try and get Abby to love her, and she does, in her own sort of messed-up way.
JEWEL STAITE: That’s true. [INAUDIBLE]
GENELLE WILLIAMS: Yeah. I mean she, she does, she does love her. She plays hard to get. But I think, based off of your question, it’s, it’s a, it’s a nice thing because it’s something that Lucy has always wanted. And she’s always known that she’s been there. And this is a day that she’s been waiting for. So there isn’t this big surprise. So, to play it was fabulous. I mean, I wanted her to like me even in the, in the casting, in the audition process, I wanted…
JEWEL STAITE: And I love you.
GENELLE WILLIAMS: And I don’t whether she, she took to my love very well the very first time I met her. But [LAUGHS] other than that, I mean…
JEWEL STAITE: She was overly friendly in the audition room, and I was so stressed because, hey, guess what, I was auditioning. And Genelle [OVERLAPPING]
GENELLE WILLIAMS: I could have wrapped her in my arms, I could’ve.
JEWEL STAITE: It was so annoying. She was like, “I love your shoes. Where are you from? Have you been in this restaurant?” And I was like, Oh my God, I’m trying to memorize this monologue. Like, I wanna get this job, girl. [OVERLAPPING]
ZACH SMADU: Well, in, in big contrast to, to Lucy, I think for Daniel it’s quite the opposite. I think Abby showing up is kind of the worst thing, both for his professional world and also the family dynamic that he has. He’s, he’s, it’s literally changes the pecking order in the family, you know, as Genelle and, and Jewel have said that we’ve known about each other, but we’ve never had any interaction. So when Abby shows up, Daniel goes from being, you know, the, the older son in his own mind, to being the middle child, to also being, you know, a partnered lawyer with his stepsister that he doesn’t know, who is quite competent and quite good, despite all the, the shame and the, the backstory that she comes into.
ZACH SMADU: So it’s really a challenge for him to find where he lands within the family with, within Harry’s eyes. And also how he, Daniel is quite competitive in, in nature. So Abby is, is quite the foil for him constantly. And I think Daniel’s also very protective of the relationship, the, the one relationship he has with, with Lucy. So even Lucy’s, you know, eyes and arms, you know, reaching out to, to welcome Abby is, is kind of threatening to Daniel. So it provides a lot of, a lot of a lot of conflict for, for him especially. Well, I mean, I think it still does as the seasons have gone on. So it’s, it’s very fun to play.
HOST: Okay. So last question is with Lou Ann Lee.
LOU ANN: Yeah. Victor, you’ve played everything from Jesus to the devil. Actors tell us that villains are much easier to play than the good guy, but you are so good at the good guy. What are the secrets of playing that kind of character?
VICTOR GARBER: I have no secrets. I, I don’t know. I, I all, all I can tell you is that everyone is complex. Everyone has, you know aspects of their personality that they can rely on. And, and some, and they’re lost in, in other situations that they don’t know how to respond. And it’s, honestly, I don’t really think of them as evil or good. I just think of them as people. Do they have a problem? Do they, is there a challenge? Is there, you know, and I use this word “objective.” But it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s really, really dependent on what the writing is, and who you’re acting with.
VICTOR GARBER: You know, you, I mean, Jewel and I have had scenes where things have come up at where, where we’re having a confrontation or something, where something comes up and sort of… and because we’re both in the moment, it hits us in a completely, an undiscovered way. Cause you can’t plan anything as an actor. I mean, you can plan certain things, of course, but I mean, in terms, if you start planning how you’re going to respond to people, you might as well just stop acting, because that’s just not okay.
VICTOR GARBER: And, and so really honestly, it’s about being in the moment. And, you know, it’s, if it’s in the script that you do something that is, that is not okay, you, you have to somehow believe that you’re, it is in your, in your own way. And so really, it’s really acting and, and I’m just so grateful that the three actors, that your other three actors are on this panel, are just, I, I cannot tell you how impressed I am by their level of professionalism, of talent, of support, of empathy, of and humor.
VICTOR GARBER: We, we, that’s the secret, to me, of why this show is working as well as it is, aside from the incredible writing. It’s, it’s this chemistry, and it’s a magical thing, and it’s indescribable and it doesn’t always happen.
LOU ANN: Thank you.
HOST: Perfect way to end the panel. Um, thank you for joining us today. Thank you to everyone for your participation. As a reminder, Family Law premiers Sunday, October 2nd on The CW. I hope everyone has an awesome day.
MORE INFO: Trailer
Sins of the Father
SERIES PREMIERE – Abigail (Jewel Staite) begins her probationary period at Svensson and Associates, forced to work with her estranged father Harry (Victor Garber) and her half-siblings Daniel (Zach Smadu) and Lucy (Genelle Williams). She immediately oversteps her low-level position by helping Jeanette, a woman who found her sperm donor via Craigslist, track down the father of her now 13-year-old daughter and sue him for retroactive child support. But when Abigail sees the toll this case is taking on her client’s daughter (who simply wants a relationship with her dad) she fears her intervention might tear this family apart; mirroring her own family situation. Meanwhile, Abby is still stung by her separation from her husband Frank (guest star Luke Camilleri) and misses her kids terribly. Lastly, Daniel, is dealing with a custody battle of his own…an arbitration over a pug called Craig. Lauren Holly also stars. The episode was written by Susin Nielsen and directed by Jordan Canning (#101). Original airdate 10/2/2022.
PARENTHOOD – Abigail (Jewel Staite) and Daniel (Zach Smadu) represent a couple with Down syndrome who must prove to authorities they are fit to raise their unborn child. Social services has threatened to take the baby away unless Ellie and Levi can prove they are capable parents. Abigail and Daniel agree to represent them and try creative ways to come up with a workable parenting plan, but obstacles – including Harry (Victor Garber) – litter their path. Meanwhile, Lucy (Genelle Williams) prefers to avoid the whole topic of parenthood altogether, which proves difficult when her wife Maggie (guest star Ali Liebert) ups the pressure to start a family. And when Abigail discovers Nico (guest star Brenden Sunderland) is being bullied at school, she confronts his tormentor but takes it too far. Lauren Holly also stars. The episode was written by Susin Nielsen and directed by Jordan Canning (#102). Original airdate 10/9/2022.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda