Gloria Reuben has riveted as a nurse on ER and now she’s riveting as a lawyer on the new legal drama from Stephen Bochco, Raising the Bar.
Steven Bochco has an impeccable ability to capture those who work the hardest in the world of legal maneuvering. Whether it the police’s perspective — Hill Street Blues or NYPD Blue — or that of the lawyers — LA Law or Murder One — his handprint is all over some of television’s greatest moments. Appropriately, this Labor Day, his Raising the Bar premieres on TNT at 10pm.
Therefore, it is easy to see why Gloria Reuben accepted the role without reading a word. “It’s a Steven Bochco show. When I got the script and I knew it was written and produced by Steven, I jumped at it,” Reuben said to SheKnows while we sipped Mango Martinis at the Beverly Hills Hilton.
Raising the Bar’s pedigree does not solely end with Bochco’s Midas television touch. “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,” Reuben said. “I wanted to be a part of it.”
Based on the life of New York public defender David Vygo, portrayed with vivacity by Mark Paul Gosselaar, Bochco’s show spotlights the selfless office, but equally the judges, government prosecutors and everyone else caught up in the scales of justice. “I liked how there’s kind of this triangular type of portrayal of the system. I’ve always been drawn to or interested in the legal system and how it works,” Reuben said.
Reuben reports that Raising the Bar removes the veil from the justice system of Manhattan and spreads the drama across the character archetypes. “There are people that really might have more of an altruistic intention of getting involved in that kind of line of work. It’s always been a world that fascinated me.”
Key to the cast giving their real-life counterparts their proper due was tailing those who did the job, an activity for Reuben that was a pleasure. “I think my most memorable moment came from doing a research trip here in New York. I live in New York,” she said. “We went up to the Bronx to go to visit the Bronx defenders, which is where [David Vygo] was a public defender, to watch the proceedings happen in the Superior Court.”
An eye opener
Of particularly impact to the cast was a visit to those receiving justice’s judgment. “Walking through the jail system and what happens when somebody is booked and fingerprinted, and just literally [seeing] what somebody actually goes through, it was absolutely disturbing,” Reuben said. “How human beings are not treated as human beings as much as they were treated as numbers. It was kind of shocking to witness that.”
The actresses’ character is based on Robin Steinberg, the executive director of the Bronx public defenders. “I witnessed how she would juggle numerous things and still be the leader — be an eye of the storm,” Reuben said. “The biggest challenge for me as an actor in this particular role is how to portray this woman, to balance all of these things and still be a human being.”
Raising the Bar, Reuben said, promises to be a legal show unlike any audiences have witnessed. “I think it offers a different perspective of the judicial system. I think it’s different than any other show when it comes to the law because it has a balanced viewpoint of these three different arenas: the public defenders, the district attorneys, the judges,” Reuben said.
Justice is blind
As in any good drama will, the plotlines move from one end of the spectrum to the other, showcasing its ensemble cast strength’s with wide-ranging opportunities for character growth. “Some episodes weigh more heavily on one side 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. I don’t recall seeing a show that is as balanced as this one,” Reuben said.
“Also, there’s this element as a society, or in the entertainment world, where we want to have the hero and the villain. We want the good guy and the bad guy. We really kind of blur those lines a lot with the cases that we deal with. I’m really proud of the fact.”
A legal show that illustrates points of view from all sides courtesy of the creative force behind some of television’s best dramas, must challenge the mind.
“It really raises some good questions about how the system works and doesn’t work,” Reuben said. “It makes audiences look at the world differently.”