Legal Dramas are nothing new to TVs around the world. It is a formula we all know, even if we can’t place what show is our favourite. A new homegrown show set in Vancouver, Family Law takes the formula and reinvests it with an amazing cast, smart writing and a rarely seen setting. With rarely seen takes on the legal system and some great family dynamics, this is a show that should make fans of the genre take notice.
CGMagazine recently had the pleasure of talking to both Jewel Staite (Firefly) and Victor Garber (Titanic). Both these iconic actors bring a level of talent and skill to the roles they play. Both Canadian-born actors, they not only bring a wealth of knowledge to the roles, but also have chemistry that makes them feel like family. Tackling everything from the opportunity to be a part of Family Law, to why Family Law is different and exciting, both these titans of acting give a candid take on what this show offers new viewers and why it matters in the landscape of legal shows.
CGMagazine: Let’s get started just by what drew both of you to Family Law?
Jewel Staite: For me, I love the fact that it’s shot in Vancouver, which is where I’m from. I’m born and raised here. It was a show that was going to celebrate Vancouver in all its glory, and it didn’t have to pretend to be another city. I also loved the script. I thought it was funny, kind of shocking and heartbreaking, it made me laugh and maybe cry. I felt like whoever gets this role is so very lucky, so I really campaigned for it, and I’m just so fortunate that they chose me.
Victor Garber: I was sent the script out of the blue from an agent in Toronto, Perry Zimel, who said they were interested in me to play this role and, really, I knew nothing. But I just arrived, and I was blown away by the writing. Also, at this point in my life I was looking for something that wouldn’t kill me shooting at my age. The last series I did in Vancouver, I worked nights and too many hours in the rain, in the winter, and that was a deal-breaker for me. This was a law show that didn’t shoot in the winter, and I said “okay I’m in”. The script was what always attracts me initially, so I fell into it, and I was very fortunate that that happened.
CGMagazine: Now I want to just touch on the fact that you did mention that this is filmed over in Vancouver, with the city playing itself. That’s actually very unique for a lot of shows and movies. How was it like being in Canada and actually having Canada show itself off?
Jewel Staite: It’s great for me. I love Vancouver, and I’m always telling people how amazing it is to live here. So, to have it be shown in all its glory in the summertime–which is our best time of year here–is like a love letter to Vancouver. When you watch the show [Family Law], there are all of these beautiful aerial shots and drone shots that we’ve got of the city, the parks, the beaches, and the mountains, and you really get to see it for all that it is. It was moving for me as a local, it made me feel like the city was just so very beautiful, and I felt lucky to live here all over again.
Victor Garber: I also think it adds to the authenticity of the show because this is where they live. It’s part of the character in the show, and they do what people in Vancouver do. We named restaurants that are there, we sit in restaurants that actually are restaurants. Also, the views in Vancouver are unlike anywhere that I’ve been in Canada. I think it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Canada.
CGMagazine: I wanted to touch on the unique take on Family Law, you have a very diverse cast, very touching stories. I’ve watched the first two episodes, and you tackle some very heavy things but do it in a very accessible way. How did you tackle these very complex issues, and how did you, as actors, manage to meet that tone of compassion while still having that light-hearted tone to Family Law?
Jewel Staite: Well, I think it’s just all about telling the truth. In any scene that I’m doing, I just approach it with honesty. How can I make this as honest as possible? Whether it’s a really funny comedic scene, or whether it’s something heavy and dramatic? What’s the most honest take on this because if I’m being honest about it, if I’m coming from a place of honesty, then the audience is going to believe it a little more. It’s a lot of fun as an actor because we kind of get to hit every facet.
We get to tackle these crazy comedic moments, and then we get to tackle a subject matter that’s not only really important to tell, but also really emotional. Each episode brings a little bit of both. As an actor, isn’t that all you really want Victor, to be able to do it all in a series? I feel like it’s so rare that it hits every button, and we’re lucky to get to do that every day.
Victor Garber: I think it’s the miracle of chemistry in this show because you’re never sure when you enter into anything if it’s going to work. And this was an immediate connection for all the family, which is the central part of the show. It was kind of spooky how we all fit. It was a perfect fit, and it’s remained that way. We’ve done two seasons, and we adore each other, and we can’t wait to hopefully do season three.
Jewel Staite: Yeah, that’s a big testament to how it’s going on the show is the fact that we did two seasons of it and just wrapped last week and still miss each other and can’t wait to do it again, and it’s rare in this business. Doing television is difficult, it’s long, and it’s a lot of work during the day. So, to say that I already miss being on set with these people is pretty amazing. I mean I’m just really very lucky, and appreciative.
Victor Garber: I’m very happy to be where I am, however, it’s something that I actually want to do more of, and that’s rare for me that I really do want to go back. Because for me, it’s leaving home and that’s always challenging, but it’s like going to actually a second home, Jewel’s house basically.
CGMagazine: You both come from very diverse, filmic careers, like Jewel has done a lot of genre films, a lot of different things, and Victor has done a lot of movies and a lot of shows. How was this in comparison to just doing something that as he mentioned is Canadian, is very much representing a genre that is often not done in Canada, representing itself. So how was it, coming from such diverse filmic backgrounds to tackle this (Family Law) and tackle the genre that is normally not done in Canada and represent Canada in this way to the world?
Jewel Staite: Well, I’ve never played a lawyer so for me, I thought it would be rather challenging to get to know the law lingo and get used to these courtroom scenes, which are big scenes to do and take a lot of time, and a lot of preparation. But my favourite thing has always been telling a story about a family. With Firefly, it was a show about a family, it happened to take place on a spaceship, but it was mostly about a reluctant group of people that became a family, and this feels very similar in that way. Yes, it’s a show about law, we tackle pieces every week, but it’s not procedural in that way.
There’s so much going on with these characters and so much going on with this family every single episode. There’s a lot of discovery, there’s a lot of searching within themselves trying to figure out how to tackle the relationships that they’re making, and it’s always interesting. It’s always changing, and relationships are always in flux, and so for that reason, it just doesn’t feel like a law show to me. It just feels so much more about humanity than anything else.
Victor Garber: I think going back to what Jewel was saying at the very beginning, it’s about truth. I was on the sort of show that kind of changed my life essentially, it was Alias, and that was a family show, it was about a family of spies. And what made it work was that there was an authenticity and a truth about what they were going through, and they happen to be dealing with this world. And not that it’s like Alias, but it is not dissimilar in terms of a family of lawyers who have issues like every family does.
I think that’s why these shows appeal to a broad audience. They can relate, they all have issues with their parents and their siblings, and the bottom line is, the writing of this show, Susan Nielsen, who created it, and her staff of people she’s assembled, are remarkable. So, I’m just blown away by the consistency of the writing, and for me, that’s one of the main reasons I want to be on the show.
CGMagazine: I just want to wrap up quickly, just for people that might have seen this show or heard about Family Law, but haven’t quite dived in yet, what would you say to kind of get them to give it a watch?
Jewel Staite: Well, I think it will surprise you, I think it will shock you sometimes, I think it will make you laugh really hard, and I think it will make you cry. So, I just feel like it has everything to make an entertaining hour of television, and I hope people feel the same when they get to see it.
Victor Garber: I second that. Above all, it’s entertaining, and I think it’s so nice to be able to sit down and watch something that, first of all for me, I can follow, and I can actually understand what’s going on here. Oh, he’s not an alien. And I think it’s really a perfect show for a family and that in the best sense to sit and watch.