Virginia Williams and Baron Vaughn Talk FAIRLY LEGAL

Virginia Williams Baron Vaughn

USA’s legal dramedy FAIRLY LEGAL centers on mediator Kate Reed (Sarah Shahi), but the characters around her are just as interesting. For example, Virginia Williams plays Lauren Reed, Kate’s young stepmother and boss at her father’s law firm. The two share a contentious and complicated relationship. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Baron Vaughn is Leonardo (Leo) Prince, Kate’s invaluable, loyal, and impressively resourceful assistant.

Daemon’s TV was there when Virginia and Baron talked about their characters, the dynamic between Kate and Lauren, and what their favorite Fairly Legal scenes have been so far.

On Lauren

Lauren could easily have been simply the young trophy wife and evil stepmother, something Virginia was very cognizant of when she decided to take the role. “The scene that really got me on board was in the pilot when a client propositions her. The way that she handles that situation-I just thought that was a really unique and interesting way to present this character. She definitely could have been a very one-dimensional antagonist that we’re supposed to hate who doesn’t have any heart.”

Here is a lot about Lauren that Virginia admires. “I actually aspire to be more like Lauren. She is incredibly prompt and poised and meticulous and so put-together and I think she handles every situation with such grace and elegance. Lauren doesn’t have much goofy in her. .. She’s incredibly mature”

While Lauren can seem detached, Virginia thinks it’s just her way of coping. “I don’t think she actually is cold. I think she needs to win and she loved her husband. She just wants desperately to honor his name and his firm and to make a name for herself. She wants to do everything in her power to put her best face forward and try to face this firm. She never does anything evil-there’s nothing evil about her. She just might approach things in a more cold way and that’s just the way she operates.”

Virginia said that Lauren knows exactly how the world sees her and that affects everything she does. “She knows that people view her as a trophy wife, but she also knows that they had a very unique bond and they really got each other and they loved each other. She’s seen as a sex object and incapable and she has to constantly overcompensate. I think that’s why she dresses the way she does and wears her hair so ridiculously severely: to present this image that she can take care of herself and take care of the client.”

While Kate has obviously had a difficult time since her father died, Lauren hasn’t had an easy road, either, and she’s the one responsible for the firm. Virginia said, “Lauren has a conversation with Kate where she tells her all the people who have already jumped ship. As soon as Teddy died, people who were very near and dear friends for them went to other law firms. She constantly has to prove to everyone that though she may be young, she’s serious and she is still capable.”

All this pressure leaves Lauren with the desire to always be the best. According to Virginia, “Lauren’s big motivation is to win, so I try to approach every single scene with the over-arching intention of winning. That can be done in a myriad of ways. I think that she ultimately needs, at the end of the day, to have felt accomplished and that she did everything in her power to win that day.”

Virginia’s favorite scene so far was the one in episode 4 where Lauren got drunk. “It was so fun to give her some looseness and let her play a little bit. I think what made it so great that it was absolutely still within the character of Lauren. She tried to keep herself together the whole time. It was fun and a challenge to have her drunk but still keep the character of Lauren intact and safe and in her mind pulled together and in control.” Virginia likes seeing cracks in Lauren’s armor. “Any time that we get to see Lauren start to fall apart and pull herself back together-those are my favorite scenes to play.”

Here’s a fun bit of trivia: Virginia tested for the role of Jill on Royal Pains. I can absolutely picture her in that role, but I’m glad she’s Lauren instead.

On Lauren and Kate

While Kate despises Lauren enough to give her a Wicked Witch of the West ringtone, Virginia thinks it’s more complicated for Lauren. “I don’t think Lauren hates Kate the way that Kate hates Lauren. I don’t think that Lauren agrees with or respects the way that Kate handles her business or her personal life. I think it drives Lauren a little bit crazy because they’re such different people.”

To do character research, Virginia spent some time with the top mergers and acquisitions attorney in the nation to get a sense of what her day-to-day routine is like. “She answers 400 e-mails a day and that immediately gave me so much to work with. If you’re answering 400 e-mails a day, you are never not busy and you do not have time for tardiness. You do not have time for silly antics. You can see why Lauren is so frustrated with Kate so much. To Lauren, it is not a game. It is very serious and when Lauren feels disrespected, that’s about as low a blow as you can deal her.”

Virginia thinks that it’s hard not to have sympathy for Kate given her father married someone her own age because that is such a difficult situation but that the sympathy also has limits. “You understand Kate’s distaste for Lauren because it would be really hard. I think Lauren can understand that Kate isn’t 100% happy about [her father] remarrying, but I think she also feels like it’s time to grow up and get on with it and be an adult. That’s where Lauren’s frustration with Kate comes from–because she knows they’re the same age but they act so differently and their maturity levels are on opposite ends of the spectrum.”

Virginia said that when she and Sarah Shahi had their chemistry read, “We just kind of fell in love. Our onscreen animosity is not indicative of how we are together. We have a really fun time playing with each other. I think we have a great rhythm with each other and we’re both really willing to play and explore so we’ll mess around with the scenes.

Baron confirmed that Virginia and Sarah really are friends. “It’s funny to see them play at each other’s throats on the show and then have a little round of booty dancing in between takes.”

On Leonardo

According to Baron, “The character of Leonardo changed a lot after I auditioned because they decided they wanted to make him more like me…So, like Leonardo, I’m always there with a sarcastic, sardonic, ironic remark.”

While Leo is loyal to Kate and consistently there for whatever she needs, his dreams lie in a different direction. Baron explained, “Leonardo is the consummate observer. He’s excited every day to go to work and see what everyone is up to because he gets to live his own reality show with everyone’s insanity. He takes everything that he sees and he’s turning it into a graphic novel, so he is observing life as it happens in this the law firm with all the people around him and one day I will reiterate those things except they’re dragons and kings.”

On what’s coming up for Leonardo

Baron teased that “later in the season we are going to meet a romantic interest [for Leo].” He wouldn’t give out any more details, unfortunately.

According to Baron, his job is going to expand a bit–at least for one episode. “There’s a scene I have with these two brothers; these old Italian men who own a dry cleaner’s and they were just mad at each other and because Kate is busy, I try to resolve their dispute by using the skills that I have–Dungeons and Dragons; stuff like that.” Baron called that one of his favorite scenes to play and he’s curious to see it in the show.

When asked what he would like for Leo, Baron said, “I’m hoping to open Leo up a little bit more. On the show you see the surface, but there’s another level, so I’m interested in showing the audience the other level, maybe the personal life of Leonardo. Maybe something that he struggles with in terms of his family or friends or just issues in general that start to affect his performance. I’m interested in solidifying his three dimensionality.”

Fairly Legal airs on USA Thursdays at 10pm eastern/9pm central.

You can read all our Fairly Legal coverage here.

Follow me on Twitter @michstjame