Interview With Gloria Reuben of TNT’s New Show Raising the Bar

Last Tuesday, I and a three other online media outlets got a chance to ask Gloria Reuben (ER) questions regarding her new show, Raising the Bar. It stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar (NYPD Blue), Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle), Reuben and is produced by Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues).

I wanted to know what interested her most about the role and the show, how much fun they have on the set, whether she does any singing in the show, and if she watches much TV. Someone else asked the first one, but I got a chance to ask the other three.

Below you will find the entire transcript, minus the hellos, thank yous, etc. Also, find a few promo photos and shots from the first episode.

Gloria Reuben Interview – Raising the Bar

Question: I was wondering what made you interested in being a part of this project?

Gloria Reuben: Well, first and foremost was the fact that it’s Steven Bochco’s show, and I had never worked with him before, and of course admired his list of creative and successful shows. Secondly, the book that the show was based on, called Indefensible, I very much enjoyed reading it and loved how it portrayed a different aspect of the judicial system that I had never read about or seen and how that – you know how the pilot parallels that aspect of primarily the public defenders’ point of view, but also very much representing the district attorneys’ and the judges’ point of view.

So I liked how there’s kind of this triangular type of portrayal of the – of the system, and also I’ve always – I’ve always been kind of drawn to or interested in the legal system and how it works and the you know people that may be power hungry or people that really might have more of a altruistic intention of getting involved in that kind of line of work and often the corruption that happens. It’s always been a world that fascinated me. So, yes, that’s why I wanted to be a part of it.

Q: What’s been your most memorable moment you’ve had from filming the show?

Reuben: Gosh, well, I don’t really know if – I think my most memorable moment came from not even filming it but from when we were doing a research trip here in New York. I live in New York, so when you know a few people came up from Los Angeles, we went up to the Bronx to go to visit the Bronx defenders, which is where (David Vygo) was a public defender, to go through – to watch the proceedings happen in the superior court in the Bronx and also down in Manhattan on 100 Centre Street.

My most memorable experience of that – of the research was literally walking through the jail system and what happens when somebody is booked and fingerprinted, and just literally walking through the whole – what somebody actually goes through, and it was absolutely disturbing how – you know how these – how human beings are not treated as human beings as much as they were just kind of treated as numbers and just kind of hand up literally, like. So it was kind of shocking to witness that.

Question: Given that the show deals with so many serious issues and situations, I was wondering sort of the opposite side how much fun and practical joking goes on …

Reuben: Well, I tell you – yes, well you know we do have a lot of fun on the set, and there are surprisingly very – some very funny moments throughout these episodes. I have to tell you that you know we watched – the cast and crew, we watched the first view, and there were some great unexpected moments of laughter where everybody laughed at the same time ((inaudible)), which is great. So even though, indeed you know very serious kind of issues in the story that we’re portraying, there is quite a bit of humor. So it’s a nice (salad), I find.

Q: Okay and do you get a chance to watch much TV?

Reuben: I don’t. I’m really not a big television watcher, I have to say. I do like watching – I like watching MSNBC, and you know I’m a big NFL fan, so come September I’ll be you know watching the NFL. But I won’t be watching Monday Night Football because I’ll be tuning into our show instead. But no, I don’t really watch a lot of television. I’m more into music.

Q: Speaking of music, is there anything shot that you’ll be singing on the show at any time?

Reuben: Well, I don’t know. That’s kind of a – kind of a tough call. We just finished – we just wrapped our first season. We just finished episode number 10 a few weeks ago. So we’ll see you know if we get asked back to do another season. It’s a tough thing to kind of work that into a show you know unless it’s a theme song or something. But you never know. We’ll see.

Question: So some questions about your character, Roz. You said that you did some research in going to see how things worked in the New York system. What else did you look at in terms of developing your character? I’ve seen a few of the previews, and there’s kind of a den mother kind of aspect to what you’re doing. What did you draw on for this – for this part?

Reuben: Well, den mother – yikes.

Questioner: In a good way.

Reuben: Yes. Well you know I – the woman, Robin Steinberg, whom this character is based on, is the executive director of the Bronx defenders, and so you know I just – I witnessed how she would juggle numerous things and still you know be the leader and still – you know be a very kind of the eye of the storm. So in terms of you know what I drew on, I mean I think that I don’t really have that much kind of experience in personally in that you know in helming an office or kind of you know being other people’s boss.

But I think that I do know a little bit about leadership and about, even amidst kind of having 25 things to do at the same time, you can still be able to focus on one thing at a time and give it your full attention and be able to you know do right by what that particular thing, or in this case what the particular client would need that’s best for the client. So – but …

Q: But you’re also – you’re also a protector of your attorneys. You know you’re an advocate for them. You know it’s not just about the clients. You have to inspire and motivate your crew.

Reuben: Exactly. Yes, the leadership qualities that are necessary to – of course, to you know be able to carry (very) – these – my attorneys through when they keep on you know having to – when it feels like they keep on running into walls or they keep on you know having new challenges that they’re constantly up against. Yes, there definitely has to be – Roz definitely has to be an advocate for her attorneys.

Otherwise – but you know she is that, not just for attorneys but because clients need them, may need people to be able to do their jobs well and without burning out, which is what often happens. So I think it’s kind of a lot to – for one person to juggle you know to kind of overview everything, and again, still be able to not be overloaded in a way that she can specifically point out who needs help when and how to help them do the best job that they can, and also be aware of the layers to meet that, which is what’s going on with the client.

Questioner: I see. It’s really great because I think – you know I’m very familiar with your work on ER over the years, and it’s really great seeing you in this other way, in this other environment and character, and it’s really fantastic.

Reuben: Well, thank you for saying that. I feel the same way. I very much – I enjoy it a lot too. I very much enjoy it, absolutely. Yes.

Question: I was just curious, what – you might have answered this in the previous question, but what’s been the biggest challenge for you thus far, either just on the show overall or in the character of Roz? What’s been your big challenge?

Reuben: The biggest challenge?

Questioner: Yes.

Reuben: Well you know I would have to say the biggest challenge, for me, as an actor, in this particular role, and I’m just going to take it from that vantage point, is to – yes, and we did touch on this a little bit in the last question – is how to kind of you know portray this woman, (balance) and all of these things, and still not just be a leader, but still kind of you know be a human being, do you know what I mean?

I mean I think that part of it has come through with the writing in terms of the kind of location that happens between Roz and Richard, who’s one of her attorneys. So it kind of gives you another side of you know Roz as a human being. But I think that – you know there can be a tendency to – especially if one is kind of stuck in their office or behind the desk or at a computer you know for a number scenes, it can be a little challenging as an actor to have some inner life going on and try to – try to not just you know be flat with some style like that may not be that rich at the time you know?

Questioner: Right.

Reuben: So that would be the biggest challenge is to kind of, without obviously showing that I’m doing it, but you know portray that this woman has a full mind – like a mind that is full of things constantly but is still being able to focus in and do the work that’s immediately in front of her.

Questioner: Okay, great.

Reuben: So I hope that made sense. I’m sorry. I’ve been talking about this for a couple of hours. I don’t even know – I hope – did that make sense?

Questioner: Oh, no. No, yes, it did. It can – in terms of challenge, that’s good, either as an – as an actress or just in the role itself. So yes, sort of kind of doing – ((inaudible)) makes sense to me. I’m good. I’m looking forward to the show, looking forward to seeing you back on serious television.

Question: I was wondering why you think people should tune in to see this show?

Reuben: Well you know I think it offers a different perspective of the judicial system. I think it’s different than any other – than any other show when it comes to the law because it really does have a pretty balanced viewpoint of these three different arenas, right, the public defenders, the district attorneys, the judges.

I mean you know some episodes weigh more heavily on one than the other, but I really think it gives a balanced look at what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to the law and when it – the system, and I don’t recall really seeing a show that is as balanced as this one, and I think that also you know there’s this element of you know too often, we, as a society or the in the entertainment world we want to have the hero and the villain, right?

We want the good guy and the bad guy, the guy you root for and the guy you hope doesn’t make it, or whatever. And we really kind of blur those lines a lot with the cases that we deal with. I’m really – I’m really proud of the fact that you know like how I had said earlier was that sometimes, even though somebody have, quote-un-quote, “broken the law”, it may not be kind of you know as black and white as that. It may not be that then that person should go to jail you know?

So it really raises some good questions, I think, about how the system works and doesn’t work. And I don’t know, sometimes I like to think that if a show, like is successful if people start asking questions within their own minds about – you know they start kind of thinking differently about how the world works and sometimes it can ((inaudible)). [The phone cut out for a short time.]

Reuben: Well, I was – just to kind of recap, yes, I just was saying that you know hopefully, if people tune in and it makes them kind of look at the world differently or ask questions about this particular aspect of our – of our society and how it works and doesn’t work, then you know sometimes it can inspire, change or activism, or even at just the very basic fundamental level of not taking things as you know verbatim as sometimes we do.

Raising the Bar premieres September 1st on TNT after a new episode of The Closer. Look for an interview with Steven Bochco next Monday and one with Mark-Paul Gosselaar the following week.

Update 8.28.2008: Had to remove the photos from this post, as the WordPress photo gallery seems to have developed a problem that was causing this interview not to display at all. Will repost the photos when I find a fix for the problem.

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