‘Pearson’ Darker, Edgier Than Show it Spawned From

Gina Torres plays Jessica Pearson, Chicago mayor’s fixer extraordinaire
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Gina Torres in USA Network's "Pearson"

Suits spinoff Pearson begins on USA Network July 17, showing disbarred lawyer Jessica Pearson, played by Gina Torres, setting out for Chicago and working for the mayor as a fixer.

UCP produces both Suits and Pearson. Suits starts its ninth and final season July 17 too, leading in to Pearson.

Suits was created and is executive produced by Aaron Korsh. Daniel Arkin is the showrunner on Pearson, and an exec producer.

Arkin said he developed “a real rapport” with Korsh while working on Suits, including heading to Toronto to write the finale. “I really developed a chemistry with him,” said Arkin.

Torres, and Pearson, departed Suits after six seasons. The NY Times noted how Torres never really split from her character:

Torres found Jessica haunting her daydreams and realized she wasn’t finished with the character after all. And then her obsession with the presidential election and its strange bedfellows took flight.

“I started thinking of Jessica in terms of a political fixer, and what would she do in that situation, and I started writing it down and sorting it out,” she recalled.

Arkin described Suits as blue sky, and Pearson as kind of gray. “It’s meant to be a little more rough around the edges,” he said.

That includes touching on real-life, real-world issues, such as racism. Arkin said Pearson is not a “ripped-from-the-headlines” show, as the issues are always examined in a character-driven way. But they are touched on.

“We do the real issues in a real way,” he said. “Hopefully without doing a lot of preaching.”

I asked Arkin if Jessica Pearson is modeled after any real-life women. He didn’t name anyone, but did note the wave of African-American women coming to power in Chicago politics. “It feels like we’re in the zeitgeist,” he added. “Jessica is a woman of her time and place.”

Torres told the NY Times her Pearson character looks a bit like President Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway:

When I would see Kellyanne Conway — and she wasn’t the only one, let me just put it that way — I just kept trying to figure out, Who are these people, really? Like, are they true believers? Are they opportunists? Are they making a power grab? What motivates them? With Kellyanne, there were people that loved her, and there were people that loved to hate her. You just never quite knew which it was. And then I thought, Oh, she’s like Jessica. No one really knows at the end of the day: Can she be trusted? Is she a moral person or is she just about the power?

Pearson is shot in Los Angeles, and Arkin said they spent a week in October banking Chicago shots. “It’s always a challenge, finding the look, the lighting, the color of Chicago” in Los Angeles, he said.

Arkin said Bonnie Hammer, chairman, NBCUniversal direct-to-consumer and digital enterprises, has long been a fan of both Jessica Pearson and Gina Torres. That helped Pearson emerge as a spinoff. “Bonnie has always loved Gina the actress and Pearson the character,” he said.

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