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While Kate Reed (Sarah Shahi) is thrust into the frustrating world of lawyers and court cases, she prefers mediating to actually practising law in Universal Channel’s Fairly Legal. Debashine Thangevelo enjoyed an exclusive interview with Shahi, who spoke about her character bouncing back from the pits of despair, after being unemployed and homeless, in the second season...
BORN to an Iranian father and Mexican mother, Sarah Shahi’s exotic appearance makes her truly arresting to watch on the small screen.
The 32-year-old actress, probably best known for her roles as Carmen de la Pica Morales in The L Word and Detective Dani Reese in Life, couldn’t be more chuffed at bagging the lead in the absorbing drama Fairly Legal.
Two seasons in, I asked her how life has changed for her character, Kate Reed.
“In terms of the heels, they got higher. That wasn’t the direction I was planning on going,” she says with a laugh.
She continues: “In season one, Kate got to be a bit careless. The goal for her this year was a bit unkind; from the writers’ point of view it was to show her some tough love. This season started from her getting fired. She is going to be told by Lauren (her stepmother), Justin Patrick (her ex-husband) and Ben Grogan (partner and nemesis at Reed & Reed), to grow up a little. By the end, she does make a pretty good leap into ‘adulthood’. I think that is going to shock the audience.”
Taking a more in-depth perspective, the actress says: “Initially, Kate had a lot of animosity to deal with. She was always daddy’s little girl until five years prior when Lauren came along. It was always her dad and her after her mother died and Lauren takes him away from her and the next thing you know, he dies. She holds Lauren responsible.
“While petty towards Lauren then, Kate now realises that the one thing that binds them is their love for her father and keeping the law firm afloat.”
Ironically, Shahi confesses to not being a big fan of procedural shows.
“The most interesting storylines, for me, are the heartfelt romantic ones. And those that have anything to do with Justin or Lauren.
“I feel everything with Kate is personal and it is one of the reasons I am able to do this show. As an actress, it is helpful, and I can deliver everything from an emotional point of view,” she shares.
Now for the interesting twist – her muddled love life.
“Her romantic situation is as clouded and dynamic and layered and complicated as ever. This season, Ben was introduced. And there is a very fine line between love and hate. He tried to pick her up at a bar and she told him to eff off, only to go to the office the next day trying to get her job and bumping into ‘the new guy’,” she recalls.
Given her on-again, off-again relationship with Justin, this puts Kate in a catch-22 situation.
Shahi hints: “She does make a decision between Justin and Ben! There is something else, though, that kind of happens first.”
And Kate gets a crash course in humility that puts things into perspective.
“Lauren finds a romantic interest. Leo is going to serve as everyone’s assistant – that makes for a lot of comedy. There is a lot of debauchery and evil that comes out of some of the storylines,” she lets slip.
With the second season concluded and hopefully a third announced soon, Shahi has a few offers she has yet to consider while also looking forward to her big screen releases.
“I have a movie called Static coming out. Milo Ventimiglia and I play a married couple trying to get over the loss of their three-year-old son. There are a lot of supernatural elements that come into play.
“Then there is Bullet to the Head, where I play Sylvester Stallone’s daughter. He is a hit man out to avenge his partner’s death,” she reveals.
Interestingly, Shahi has also turned producer for the indie offering Road to Paloma, centred on a son who seeks revenge on those who raped and killed his mother.
On wearing a different hat – and the demands that accompany it – Shahi says: “I was like a car salesman for a while, driving around pitching for funding for this movie. You really feel like you are dancing for your dollars in a way. It is always such a blow when it does not work out. I had a lot to do in the pre- and post-production. We will soon be promoting the movie.”
Wanting to hone her producing skills further, Shahi explains: “If we (Fairly Legal) get picked up for a third season, I get to be a producer on the show.”
When beauty is underscored by a wealth of talent, nothing is impossible, as Shahi is fast discovering while working her way up the ranks in the TV and film industries.
• Fairly Legal airs on Universal Channel (DStv channel 108) on Tuesday at 8pm.