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July 11, 2019

Raising the Stakes

Gina Torres wasn't quite ready to give up Jessica Pearson, so she created a place for her.

Nicole Pajer
  • Brian Bowen Smith/USA Network

In season seven of Suits, Jessica Pearson left New York and corporate law to ride off into the sunset and live near her family in Chicago.

But that wasn’t the end of her — thanks to actress Gina Torres.

Though she was initially ready to say goodbye to the character (apart from a few guest appearances), Torres soon came up with an idea for a spinoff.

“I was home one day, obsessed with the 2016 presidential race, and my brain started spinning,” she recalls. In that moment, she pondered how Pearson would fit into the world of politics. She put together a pitch, shared it with Suits creator Aaron Korsh and executive producer Daniel Arkin, and Pearson was born.

The show, which premieres July 17 on USA Network, and is produced by UCP (Universal Content Productions), explores the corrupt world of Chicago politics. Torres says her character doesn’t have an official job title, but as the mayor’s “fixer,” she must gain the trust of players such as city attorney Keri Allen (Bethany Joy Lenz).

“It’s deeper, darker, there’s a mystery element and the stakes are higher,” Torres explains. She loves that it deals with subjects like immigration, homelessness, guns and gang violence, but “also interpersonal issues.”

Suits fans will get to know Pearson better. “Jessica was more of an enigma,” she says. But now we “go home with her, explore her family and personal side, and see a fully realized woman” — not just a corporate powerhouse.

And Torres is now an executive producer. “I came up with it so, unlike Jessica, they had to give me a title,” she jokes. Arkin says she’s been hands-on since the beginning — from brainstorming sessions to overseeing the storyline and casting.

Whereas Suits is about “the 5 percent and those that aspire to the 5 percent,” Torres says, Pearson caters to the remaining 95 percent. “You’ll be able to see yourself in the characters and recognize your neighbor, your sitter, the teacher,” she enthuses, adding that her beloved character “continues to be everything you want her to be, and more — including well dressed!”

This article originally appeared in emmy magaine, Issue No. 7, 2019

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