Rebecca Wright wakes up late with a mean hangover, gets in her beat-up van and drives to work, taking a pregnancy test before donning a black robe over her cutoffs. Yep, she’s a judge, one who has sex on her desk and plays drums in an all-girl punk band named Ladycock. What’s not to love?
Kate Walsh couldn’t resist, which is why she’s starring in the new NBC sitcom Bad Judge (Thursdays, 9/8c). After spending the past few years in more serious fare like Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and the recent Fargo, Walsh is returning to the comedy roots she first established doing theater and improv in Chicago and New York.
And she’s embracing it for many reasons, as she explains below…
“I have a busy brain, a lot to say, a lot of people residing in me that want to come out and be heard…”
How liberating is it to play a role like this?
It’s super fun. It’s awesome. I love it. We get to improvise and I get to be physically comedic too. She’s a party girl, there’s a stunted adolescent part of her, and she happens to be really, really good at her job. She’s super-proficient and smart in the courtroom. But there’s a huge dichotomy between what happens on the bench and what happens in chambers. We do want to keep it grounded in reality but it’s a little bit of fantasy, too, and that’s part of the fun. She gets to do what we wish we could do—it’s like vigilante justice. I’m hoping there will be some kind of joy and reveling in her spirit. It is a comedy after all. We’re not doing Law & Order.
Was that a draw for you?
Absolutely. I wanted to get back into comedy. That’s my background. I did Kicking & Screaming, The Drew Carey Show. I always divided my career luckily and gratefully between half‑hours and dramas, and then Grey’s happened, and that is how most people knew me. The single-camera half-hour allows so much of the comedy to come out of character and story as opposed to setup‑setup‑joke, setup‑setup‑joke. I wanted to play that physical comedy and make people laugh. It was a no-brainer for me.
Did you talk to any judges for research?
I went to hang out with a judge downtown in Los Angeles Superior Court, to spend time with her and interview her. She’s exactly my age and had been sitting on the bench for about five years. She takes her job very seriously, is super-smart and she’s also kind of a cowboy.
Is this a case of living vicariously or did you ever have a reckless phase?
It was always carefully modulated fun because I’m the youngest of five and I had a lot of older siblings to watch mess up. I was always very conservative with the partying or what have you. I worked since I was 14. I had the time in college where I got an academic probation—I was out having a great time drinking every night and then paying for it. Luckily, my lessons came very quickly and swiftly.
Did you have to learn to play drums?
No, I was in a rock band with my brother and my assistant. I had a little kiddie drum set and took lessons.
Do you like Rebecca? Do think you’d be friends with her?
Yeah, I would. She’d probably be a little annoying to be friends with, but she’d be a good time. She’d be a good drinking buddy, a good pool player.
You have a couple of movies coming up. Details?
Dermaphoria is a strange, trippy, psychological thriller, and I play a strange, dark, weird, duplicitous attorney. Any Day is a serious kind of family drama and Sean Bean and I play siblings. Eva Longoria is in it, and Tom Arnold. It was a great experience, really close to my heart. Dermaphoria is in some festivals now. I don’t know what’s going to happen with Any Day. I’ve been buried in Bad Judge.
You were great in Fargo, by the way.
Thanks. I was just totally excited to be a part of that. I went back and forth to Calgary for five months, two days at a time. They moved really quickly because they use so much natural daylight in the winter in Calgary. So you can imagine the days were really challenging, but that character Gina Hess was a ball to play. I have a busy brain, a lot to say, a lot of people residing in me that want to come out and be heard, so it was really fun to play that part for sure.
Have you ever been before a judge?
Indeed, I have. It went all right, but it is an interesting thing. It’s not often that you have someone deciding your fate. This person really holds all of the power.
What was it for, a traffic ticket?
No, it was something much more interesting and horrible, but we’ll end on that!