‘Fairly Legal’: Michael Trucco on His Character’s Complicated Love Life

Posted: January 19, 2011 in fairly legal, interviews, tca

The characters of USA Network came out last week at TCA to have breakfast and dish with the press. Below, Michael Trucco from Fairly Legal, premiering Jan. 20 at 10 p.m., chats with a group of reporters, including myself, about the new series, developing chemistry with his gorgeous costar Sarah Shahi and their complicated onscreen relationship.

I’m so sorry you have such an unattractive costar.

It’s called acting. I turn it on every day. Yeah. Really unfortunate.

You guys have such a good chemistry on screen. Was that kind of just instant?

I was just talking about this.It’s funny because I had not met Sarah before. I think what was really important in the process is that when I tested for this role for network I read with Sarah. She was obviously cast. She’s the anchor of the show. So in order to get her costar, as the process usually do, they do what they call a chemistry read. It’s exactly that. You have to establish whether or not there’s chemistry. If there is, there is. If there’s not, you can’t fake it. I had never met her and she was instantly engaging and embraced me and was warm and funny. We had this kind of rapport and we were able to kind of… You know, you stick to the script. It’s an audition. You can go off the page if you have to. You have to see whether or not you can bounce those off of somebody.

If the ball hits the wall and it falls flat, then that’s going to set the tone for the rest of the series. But when you throw something at somebody and they volley it right back, whatever the case is…  That happened in the audition and I felt it. I remember going home that day thinking, I think I have a real shot at this because I felt like Sarah and I had made some kind of connection. I think it carried on into the first day of shooting. We got into the pilot and people seemed… As soon as we did a couple scenes together, that was the feedback. People watching were like, “Hey, you guys work well together.” I don’t know what the formula is. There’s no accounting for it. It just happens. I wish there was a formula because I’d sell it and make millions and millions of dollars telling actors how to have chemistry. It helps to have an extraordinary costar and a really good actress. She’s top notch. This show has found a good anchor in Sarah.

You start off in a really interesting place in the pilot because you’re divorced, but you’re still sleeping together.  Are we going to learn more about what happened to their marriage and what they were like as a married couple?

That’s the hook.  What I liked is the fact that we did start off the series with an established relationship. So many shows, since the dawn of television, the formula is when you have a male and female costar the dynamic is will they, won’t they get together. That’s what creates tension. That’s what keeps the stories fresh in the seasons. That formula works and there’s a reason it works.  People like that. What I like is that this show with the two characters already having had a relationship. We come to the table with baggage. So it’s not will they, won’t they. It’s like, “How long have they and is this going to continue and what’s going on now?” So that was a unique twist. That’s what kind of attracted me when I read this. It wasn’t they met for the first time in the law office and then they became attracted and then they shouldn’t get together because she’s the bosses daughter.

We started this pilot already having a full blown relationship. We’re very familiar with one another and now we’re in the midst of a separation. So that story is definitely explored throughout the season. I’m sure if, knock on wood we get a second season, we’ll get into it a little bit deeper. But there are references to what created the tension in the relationship. Why we are where we are at right now. There’s a lot of big type A personalities, these two characters knocking heads. There’s moments, you’ll see in certain episodes, “What’s the problem here? These two are great.” Then there are going to be moments you’re like, “What the hell are they doing together?  These two are terrible for each other.”  That is definitely a theme.

From what I’ve seen so far, I’m not sure I’ve seen either one of your characters date other people, which I’m sure will rub the other one the hard way.  Is that something that comes up in the first season?

It does.  I mean the illusion to it I think in her case…I don’t even remember. … I come in, I shoot one scene and then I get to go home.  If they do, that will probably be explored later down the line. I think right now the focus of this is… It would complicate things way too much. The nature of the relationship’s already complicated, so to introduce other characters into it…  But it’s coming.

What’s the banter like on the set with you and Sarah?

I don’t talk to her very much. We have separate trailers, separate chairs. I try to keep my chair as far away from her as possible.  It’s just…well, if and when Sarah actually has a chance to sit down in the chair, it is an extraordinary event because she is in every shot. I mean the girl is working her tail off. I’m very lucky. I have a very cushy job right now. I get to come in and shoot my scenes and relax and hang out with the crew, have a cup of coffee. Sarah is literally going from scene to scene to scene to scene. So she is an enormous bundle of energy, but she has to be. So sometimes when you get the chance to sit down and talk to Sarah, you can see her mind running through the Rolodex of things that are on her mind.  So some of our conversations are slightly discombobulated.

I can’t help but notice you are very tall.  Sarah’s very petite.

Yeah. She wears 8 inch heals.

Does this create some interesting challenges on set?

Always. Always. On more than one occasion I’ve shot some scenes without shoes. If you know we’re going in tight and we’re not going to see a whole shot, I’ll go without shoes just to save a couple of inches. We shoot a lot on this boat that her character lives on. That’s helpful because there’s the dock and then there’s the rail of the boat and there’s different levels and decks. So any chance we get we put Sarah up on the next level and I stand next to her. We deal with it. It can be a trick to frame the two characters when we’re standing next to each other. It makes a slow dance kind of awkward.

How has USA been to work with?

Unbelievable. It has a feel of like a boutique agency, a boutique network. But they have the power of a network. I mean this is USA. This is five years in a row of the number one rated cable network on television. It’s like playing for the Yankees. You know, I just got recruited on a team and I’m going to play for the Yankees. I’m really lucky. I think USA gives their shows… They cultivate them. That’s a luxury you don’t get from a lot of networks.  So very fortunate.


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