Sarah Shahi’s hot — but you already knew that. Here’s what you might not know: She stars in a new legal drama on the USA Network, Fairly Legal (formerly Facing Kate) on which she abandons her gig at her father’s law firm after his death in favor of a gig as a mediator.
AfterEllen.com sat down with the former L Word actress to get the dish on Fairly Legal‘s Kate Reed and how she’d mediate Shane and Carmen’s problems.
AfterEllen.com: What attracted you to this character?
Sarah Shahi: When I first auditioned for it, I was on Life and that was something where though I was the female lead I did not have any creative input. I didn’t have any kind of say and I wanted to change that for this show. When I went in to test, basically I told the producers: “Look, if you guys want me in this, I would love to do it. But here are the conditions: I want to have a say in the character and casting and I want to be more than just an actor for hire.” I basically gave them every reason not to hire me. It turns out they loved it and that’s exactly what they wanted to hear.
AE: How would you describe Kate?
SS: She’s whimsical, she’s crazy, she’s a bit off. At the same time, she’s Dorothy and she’s the tornado. I get carte blanche to do anything. Within the first season of a show, we had to find that balance between what’s her professional outlook on cases meets her emotional belief on cases and that’s something that I still think I didn’t quite hit and I could go further with for a next season. The most important thing for me to remember playing her was how big is her heart. Here’s a character whose heart is so big, that’s why she quit the law. She’s almost like a child in some ways.
AE: Does she have to rein it in because she’s a mediator?
SS: In some of the other episodes, Kate gets in trouble for her emotions and she lets herself get carried away when she should be professional about things. But that’s the beauty of the character. Also, in her personal life, she’s incredibly childlike and immature — with the on again, off again with the ex-husband and the way she insults and torments Lauren (Virginia Williams).
AE: If Kate were to mediate Carmen and Shane’s problems on The L Word, how would you go about doing that?
SS: Of course you asked that! Here’s the thing. Kate doesn’t go about anything in the conventional way. Kate would probably pretend to be a lesbian, sleep with Carmen, see how that made Shane feel and then go from there.
AE: What happened that you didn’t renew your contract with The L Word?
SS: My contract was only for two years. That’s a question for Ilene [Chaiken]. She never offered anything more.
AE: Really? Carmen was a major fan favorite. You’ve been on AfterEllen.com’s Hot 100 every year since its inception.
SS: It was amazing character. My contract in the beginning was a two-year deal. It just came down to business, that’s all it was. I think Ilene — and I don’t want to speak for Ilene in any way — but she’s an incredibly astute businessperson and I think she might have gotten the sense that I was ready to move on to something else. Maybe that’s why she chose not to offer me another year to extend the contract. Hindsight is always 20/20. I don’t know what would have happened if —
AE: Do you know how the series ended?
SS: [Laughs] No, I don’t!
AE: Shane winds up with Jenny, who winds up floating dead in a pool. Any thoughts on Shane and Jenny’s pairing?
SS: Wow! I think it’s crazy and I think it’s just in tune with the show. It makes sense.
Fairly Legal premieres Jan. 20 on USA Network. Are you fairly interested?