Britt Robertson lays down the law in 'For the People'
By RICK BENTLEY | Tribune News Service | Published: March 13, 2018
The job of an actor is to take on a character and emotionally navigate through the twists and turns writers create. In the case of the new ABC drama "For the People," the world includes everything from ethical dilemmas to dealing with politics that will unfold in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The latest offering from Shonda Rhimes' Shondaland collection of TV shows follows six talented young lawyers working on opposite sides of the law and handling the most high-profile and high-stakes federal cases in the country. Series star Britt Robertson plays Sandra Bell, who with her best friend Allison Adams (Jasmin Savoy Brown), serve as public defenders.
Robertson looks like she's not old enough to be outside juvenile court but the North Carolina native started acting when she was 13 and has rolled up numerous TV and film credits including "Scream 4" and "Under the Dome." She attacked this role like all others, but working on the legal show gave her a new perspective.
"I do think before becoming a part of this show, I had a very different point of view. I just always assumed if a guy's being prosecuted, I'm sure he did something wrong," Robertson says. "What I'm learning about this show, specifically through my character, Sandra, because she's such an advocate for people, and it's sort of a big part of her passion, is finding out whoever she's defending and their story and why they've been put in this position, and that's kind of at the core of what drives her, finding unique and creative ways to defend these people in a situation, and when the odds are stacked against her.
"I think being a public defender would definitely be my preference, I would say, but that's also just because I found such a love for it through this show."
She will deal with the law alongside Jay Simmons (Wesam Keesh) and their boss, Federal Public Defender Jill Carlan (Hope Davis). On the other side of the courtroom are prosecutors Seth Oliver (Ben Rappaport), Leonard Knox (Rege-Jean Page), Kate Littlejohn (Susannah Flood) and their supervisor, chief of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney's Office, Roger Gunn (Ben Shenkman).
Robertson found it easy to connect with her character because she believes that there's a little bit of an actor in every trial lawyer. Just like she must make an audience believe what she is saying and doing is true, a lawyer faces that same test with a jury. It's all about the moment.
"I believe acting is storytelling and you have to be as honest as you can. I think that is closer to what being a lawyer would be like," Robertson says. "I think if they believe in their case and they have done enough research then it is not necessarily acting."
A lot of her theories about lawyers come from the script and some research material because Robertson didn't have a lot of time to prepare for the role. She was cast three weeks before production began and to make up time, Robertson hired a researcher. She jokes that the hire was because she was lazy, but under oath she would say that it was to help her understand the role. If the series continues, Robertson would like to shadow a lawyer if for no other reason than to satisfy her own curiosity about what it is like in the real legal world.
There will be plenty of cases based on real-world events for the young lawyers to deal with in TV legal drama. In the pilot, there is a storyline on the issue of entrapment, while there is an entire episode midway through the season about mandatory minimums in sentencing.
This is a big role for Robertson because of the maturity of the character and the stories being told. Robertson, 27, jokes that the word in Hollywood is that once a woman gets older, they are not allowed to act anymore.
"For the People" is giving her the chance to take on a more mature role. And that role will unfold in a world where no prisoners are taken.
"I really think it is a cutthroat world," Robertson says. "I think for my character in particular, for the type of person she is, she's someone who wants to get ahead. And by putting herself in a position that is not totally comfortable or in her wheel house, she's able to show her boss that's she's in the right place and has been hired for the right reason.
"Obviously, there are going to be times when she is a little lost and scared and afraid that she isn't doing the right thing. But, I believe she is the right kind of person to handle that pressure."
'FOR THE PEOPLE'
March 14, AFN-Pulse
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