Read our interview with Kathy Bates and David Kelley from the new series “Harry’s Law” from NBC.

Kathy on coming to TV and her role: “The role that really attracted me I got my – got the script from my manager sometime last spring and was immediately attracted to this wonderful character who’s rumpled and disillusioned and confused about her life and dissatisfied with things. And I understand the role was originally written for a man. And I – at one point they changed the name to Harriet. And I said no, no, no, you can’t change it to Harriet. It has to be Harry. It still has to be that. I wanted it to be still this woman who’s very forceful and eccentric and loveable at the same time. She has a hard time showing her love to people. And she doesn’t quite understand people who are bright and sunny as Jenna is and Malcolm. But she loves being with them and begins to love her new digs in the shoe store when

David on the writing the show and working it to play to Kathy’s strengths as an actress: “IT was – well first as Kathy said, we had written it for a man and saw alot of good actors but no one that truly embodied the role to our satisfaction. So we said okay well let’s think about a woman then. And as soon as we opened the field up to women, Kathy’s name came up first and fast. And everybody unanimously was on board with that. The trick was getting Kathy. And we were lucky enough that she said – to get her to read the script and she signed on board. The adjustment of the character really was surprisingly very little. I mean the characters originally conceived was this card carrying curmudgeon brilliant lawyer but one who had become disillusioned with the law. And that truthfully could have been a woman just as easily as a man. So the adjustments were very, very small.

The joy of having Kathy in the role as you – in any pilot obviously you want to cultivate an investment in your lead character. You want the audience to care about this person and welcome he or she into the living room week after week. And the joy with Kathy is we didn’t have to give her lines or scenes that sort of revealed her tender side or moments that were – would say to the audience see, I’m really a likable person after all. She oozes that naturally. So we could make her as tough and disgruntled as we wanted to and she would take care of the rest. We knew the – we felt confident that the audience would find an affection for her. And that’s always a luxury for a writer not to have to take those little timeouts from a story in order to demonstrate that your character’s redeeming after all. She just sort of exudes that.

On the pilot: Kathy Bates: Thank you. Yes, for both of you, do you think that this show and this character and her particular style could really connect with viewers, can be timely and relevant in a populist way because there’s a general feeling in this country that our legal system is ineffective and even broken in many ways?

David Kelley: Well I think that Harry would share that feeling. And in fact, you know, in future episodes she confronts that very issue. She faces disbarment for taking on the legal system. In terms of the audience connecting with it, you never know. I mean you just never know. You cross your fingers at the end of the day and you hope. I do feel that the one thing that maybe is very timely is you’ve got – the show at its core is about a 60-year-old woman starting life over, getting fired from her job and having to start life over. And that – in a very, very difficult economy where there are a lot of people young and old struggling to make a living and a life. This isn’t a show about a righteous lawyer who leaves the big firm to go fight for the little guy. It’s a show about a woman who’s been basically bounced out of her office and she has to find a way now to make a living. As I said, she’s a bit of a card carrying curmudgeon. She has no more affection for the little guy than she does the big ones. But she has to make a living, opens up a store and as luck good or bad would have it, the only people walking through that – those – her door are people very down on their luck. So I hope that the audience can connect with that struggle and the idea of this woman having to begin her life anew at the age of 60.

Kathy on studying for the role: I’m addicted to shows like 48 Hours, Mystery and Dateline, you know, for ID and all of those shows. And I love watching the lawyers there because I keep thinking well they have a lectern. You know, why don’t we have a lectern on our show? I’d like to have that and seeing how they – how emotional they are with the jury and how they – it’s interesting to watch and especially in some murder cases. So that’s been my little bit of backyard research.

Harry’s Law debuts tonight on NBC at 10 p.m. Eastern

By Gabrielle Compolongo

Kathy Bates in Harrys Law
Kathy Bates in Harrys Law

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