‘For The People’ is Shondaland’s newest show. HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Jasmin Savoy Brown and you’re not going to see ‘backstabbing’ between the female friends.
Jasmin Savoy Brown plays Allison Adams, a new public defender in the Southern District of New York, a.k.a. The Mother Court. Fans were introduced to Allison and the rest of the show’s incredible cast during For The People’s March 13 premiere. The show follows Allison and other new, young lawers, as they start their careers and take on the most high-profile cases in the country. Shonda Rhimes is one of the show’s executive producers, alongside Betsy Beers, Tom Verica, and Paul William Davies, who is also the creator and showrunner. Jasmin talked to HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY about what’s ahead in the show’s first season, as well as what it feels like to continue the tradition of strong female characters on television.
Allison has had a lot opportunities throughout her young life. She’s been very privileged. Jasmin noted that “that perspective has influenced the way that she works and how she views people. That’s part of her journey. We’ll see her perspective shift, and we’ll see that change happen over the course of the season.” Check out the rest of our Q&A below:
What’s it been like to join the Shondaland universe?
Jasmin Savoy Brown: It’s an absolute honor. Honestly, while we’re shooting, I can’t really think about it because it can be a bit overwhelming to think of all of the amazing women who have come before me in this universe. But now that we’re done shooting, I think about it, and it’s a little bit intimidating. Beyond everything, it’s a huge honor and exciting to get to tell these stories where I know the representation is equal and accurate and the voices that are given to us as these characters are complex and layered and intricate. It’s really an honor.
What’s it feel like to continue that tradition of strong female characters in Shondaland?
Jasmin Savoy Brown: It’s very empowering but it’s also a bit intimidating.
What can you tease about the cases coming up? Are they going to tackle real life issues or will the show chart its own path with cases?
Jasmin Savoy Brown: Both. So a lot of the cases are going to be inspired by real life events. They’re not ripped straight from the headlines, but they are inspired by some of the cases that we have seen in the judicial court and in the actual Mother Court. One case that is dealt with this season kind of mirrors the female comedian who was making jokes about assassinating our president and then it actually ended up going to court. She ended up having a trial. There’s one kind of like that.
If you could have any Shondaland character guest star who would it be?
Jasmin Savoy Brown: Easy! Viola Davis. Done. I dream of working with her. I have all kinds of ideas. I think she could be Allison’s aunt. I think she could be her estranged mom. Anything, as long as I get to work with her.
Allison’s friendship with Sandra is a main aspect of the pilot. This is a competitive atmosphere, so will the pressure of what they’re having to do on a daily basis weigh on their friendship?
Jasmin Savoy Brown: Yeah, they both are so passionate about their work and approach it so differently that at times it will be an area of conflict, but at least for right now what I really value about this show and the whole Shonda world is the power of female friendships. I feel like Paul William Davies, our showrunner and show creator, and all the writers do a very good job at portraying what that actually looks like. I feel like so often in the media when I see female friendships I see backstabbing and gossiping and not having each other’s backs and letting the friendship fizzle out over stupid reasons. We will not see that here, as I don’t think that’s real life. I appreciate that they don’t portray these women that way. They have each other’s backs. They work hard together. They have tough conversations, and they go through strains in their relationships, but at the end of the day they’re committed to each other and have each other’s backs.
Fans were also introduced to Allison’s romance with Seth, but she does put her case over him. Are they over? Or will that be a push and pull going forward?
Jasmin Savoy Brown: I think you’ll have to watch and see!
You’re going leave me hanging like that?
Jasmin Savoy Brown: They will go through a lot I’ll just say that much.
This is a big ensemble, so will all the characters be working together?
Jasmin Savoy Brown: So that’s something else that I really love. A lot of paths cross, but not all of them. Actually with Allison, there are a couple of characters that everyone will see on a weekly basis, but she doesn’t even meet this entire season, save from the very opening scene where everyone is in the same room for once. Allison specifically won’t meet everyone this season, which is exciting because it leaves a lot open-ended and a lot to be explored in the future. But various paths will cross. Sandra has a specific relationship with Leonard and a specific relationship with Kate. Jay and Kate’s paths will cross at a certain point, and it’s all different and exciting.
Did you find yourself learning the law as you filmed the season?
Jasmin Savoy Brown: Yes, it’s a bit overwhelming. Because obviously I’m not actually a law student, so I didn’t go to school for years and years and memorize all these things. But I definitely have learned a lot about the law, and something that has been ignited in me is this anger and this passion for all of the black and Latino men, mostly black, that are incarcerated and in our prison systems now for having cannabis and weed on them, when all of these Caucasian people are making all sorts of money now that weed is becoming legal in a lot of places. They’re opening up these weed stores and profiting off of that, while these men who were convicted, sometimes for having it being planted on them or for having a little bit of weed, are in prison rotting away for the rest of their lives. That’s not dealt with on the show, it’s something else similar to that, but it’s really made me more aware of all of that and made me very angry. I’m just continuing to do my research to see what we can do about that.
There have been so many TV shows about lawyers. What sets For The People apart?
Jasmin Savoy Brown: I think the starkest difference between For The People and other law shows is how it focuses on both sides of the case. We’re not just looking at the prosecution. We’re not just looking into the public defender. We’re looking at both all the time. What I specifically like about that is specific to the individual cases that we see. Even just in read throughs, when we would begin the script, I would go, “Oh, that guy’s wrong. That guy’s guilty. He definitely did this.” By the end of the episode, it’s completely changed. We get to see how both sides think and both sides serve and both sides function. That’s one big difference between us and the rest, and I think our cast is just phenomenal.
Over the course of the season, are we going to tackle a case each episode or will there be one major case the teams will be focusing on?
Jasmin Savoy Brown: For the most part, it’ll be a few different cases each episode and usually it’ll be one or two lawyers per case, but there will be times when we see either all the public defenders working together on a case or all of the prosecutors working together on a case. But for the most part it’ll be one or two main ones each episode with one or two that trickle in and out throughout the season.
For The People airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on ABC.