Created and written by Josh Berman and Allie Hagan, the ABC drama series Notorious centers on the symbiotic relationship between charismatic defense attorney Jake Gregorian (Daniel Sunjata) and powerhouse TV producer Julia George (Piper Perabo), as they use their friendship to help them succeed in their own careers. When Jake’s clients at Gregorian & Gregorian find themselves in the glare of the spotlight, he uses the media to sway public opinion while Julia, the executive producer of the #1 TV news program in the country, Louise Herrick Live, capitalizes on the notoriety of Jake’s clients to make headlines.
Collider was recently invited to Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, Calif. to hang out and tour the elaborate sets for the new series, and sit down to chat with the cast. During exclusive interviews with showrunner Josh Berman and cast members Piper Perabo, Daniel Sunjata, J. August Richards and Aimee Teegarden, we learned about all things Notorious and what viewers can expect from the season, and we’ve compiled a list of 26 things that you should know.
Co-creator Josh Berman was introduced to executive producers Wendy Walker and Mark Geragos (who the main two characters are inspired by), and thought they had a story to tell. Geragos is a defense attorney while Walker was a long-time producer at Larry King Live and, after a 20-minute meeting turned into three hours, Berman knew that there was a TV series there.
- When it comes to just how far ahead they’ve thought about their story, Berman said, “We like to try to plan ahead, but the show has the pacing of a news cycle. Every 15 minutes, there’s a new story, if you press refresh on a news site, so our show is crazy fast. Although we have our long-term arcs in place, we’re constantly refreshing our stories, in the sense that we want to draw from real-life experiences with the media. Mark and Wendy are in the writers’ room, giving us morsels from stories that are happening right now, so we want to be as current as possible.”
- Berman wanted to approach writing a workplace drama, as if it was a family drama, so Julia and Jake are the mom and dad of the show, each with their own dysfunctional families. And while none of the characters are perfect, they all look to their boss for inspiration.
- Every episode after the pilot will have its own story, and then they will also keep their ongoing mysteries going. Unlike shows that have a murder of the season, the news cycle doesn’t last that way, so this show won’t go down that road. Each story will wrap up in its own natural time, whether that takes two episodes or ten episodes. This is a very fast-moving show with so many twists and reveals, in every episode. Secrets will be dropped all over the place, throughout the season.
- For Daniel Sunjata, after doing Rescue Me and Graceland, he wasn’t sure if he was up for jumping into another long-term TV series, when he would also like to do more film and theater. He enjoys the opportunity to dimensionalize and add texture and depth over time, if the writers’ are writing towards your strengths, but there is also the possibility of being committed to something for years of your life. But, he just felt this was too great of an opportunity to pass up, especially since it was the best pilot he read for this pilot season.
On the show, Jake really believes in justice and has more of a mushy center than Geragos does. He fights the good fight, which becomes apparent, over the course of the series.
- Coming off of Covert Affairs, where she played the newbie, Piper Perabo was looking to play a role that was more of a boss, and Julia fit that bill. She’s the best executive producer on TV, and she cares and is passionate about producing a great show. Said Perabo, “There is a new type of woman in storytelling on TV, especially at ABC. They really create worlds where there are bosses who are women. It’s not just the small idea of some bitch. It’s these big, powerful characters who happen to be women and happen to be the boss.”
- To take on Julia, who is based on producer Wendy Walker, Perabo read Wendy Walker’s book and spoke to her to get a feeling for what the world would be like. She also spent time at CNN Headquarters and at the New York branch of CNN to get a feel for how it all works.
- Like all powerful people, sometimes their personal life suffers because they spend too many hours at the office. But when it comes to her work, Julia knows what she wants and she knows how to get it done, and she doesn’t apologize for it.
- Julia isn’t the type of boss who intimidates her team. She has put together a team of go-getters who are smart and who want to make it in their career, and who have their own opinion on how to do things. She doesn’t judge people for their past, but instead looks for qualities that she needs.
- Megan, played by Sepideh Moafi, used to be an escort before working for Julia. Because of her past, she has a lot of very useful contacts and is able to reach into worlds that other newsroom producers can’t.
- Ryan, played by Ryan Guzman, comes in as Julia’s new assistant, which she didn’t necessarily need, but he is very eager to impress her. As the boss’ son, he doesn’t want to coast on that. He would rather work hard and get noticed.
Perabo and Sunjata did not have a chemistry read before starting work on the show. They just met on set and started working together, and they both felt lucky to have an immediate playfulness with each other, from day one. The first scene they shot together is when Julia tells Jake, “You’re impossible,” and he tells her, “Oh, I’m so possible!”
- The relationship between Jake and Julia walks the line between legal ethics and morals, which is something that the writers are always thinking about. They are constantly debating about the subjectivity of truth, where that line is, and what you should cross. It comes down to when news becomes entertainment and when ratings drive the news.
- Perabo feels like Julia has a clear moral code, but also wants her show to be number one. As a result, that doesn’t mean she’ll never make a bad moral call. She takes risks for what she believes in and what she thinks is going to make great news.
- According to Berman, Jake and Julia will continue to have a back-and-forth in their relationship. “Sometimes [Jake and Julia] are in conflict, and other times they are in confluence. They love each other, but they hate each other.”
- Jake and Julia may not always tell each other the truth, but they don’t lie to each other. Sometimes they just wait to reveal things to each other when it works the most to their benefit. If they ever were to lie to each other, there would be no coming back from that because that is their code.
- August Richards had never booked a pilot during pilot season, so he was surprised when this show happened. Originally, he wasn’t right for the role because the character was Jake’s older brother, lost in his shadow. Instead, they changed the role to better fit him.
- Aimee Teegarden, who plays Ella Benjamin, is taking on her first role as a professional adult that is also an empowered working woman, finding her place in the world of law. Ella looks up to Jake as a strong male role model, which gives her direction and helps shape who she wants to be.
Teegarden actually had the opportunity to shadow Mark Geragos at his law firm and got to see how the whole thing works. That helped her understand the day-to-day of a lawyer’s life in Los Angeles, and informed the character in a way that she couldn’t have gotten from just watching another TV show.
- The Ella-Ryan relationship dynamic mirrors the early days of the Jake-Julia relationship. Said Teegarden, “They’re both at the start of their careers, trying to figure out their path and how to rise to the top and become better. I think there’s an attraction there and you’ll see that relationship grow, but it’s probably more physical than anything.”
- When they shoot on the newsroom set, what’s going on in the booth is very different from what’s going on, on the stage, but they happen simultaneously. While the two scenes are going on at once, Perabo can talk to Kate Jennings Grant, who plays Louise Herrick, from one location while her co-star is at the other.
- Over time, we will learn more about Julia’s past and her family. They’re going to let the audience care for the characters first, and then fill in viewers on how they got to where they are now.
- Richards enjoys his character because he sees him as a member of the Medici family, who is very committed to continuing his family’s legacy and will do anything to protect the family name. He is someone who is just so passionate about who he is, and he really gets in the skin of his clients, figures out what they need, and then solves their problems.
- At Gregorian & Gregorian, Bradley’s sense of morality is not fixed. It’s based on relationships for him. Richards said, “He loves his brother so much that whatever’s right for him is what is right. If his brother does something wrong, the whole ship is going down to protect him. He’ll do whatever he needs to do to protect his brother.”
- This show plays out on both a macro and a micro basis. Said Richards, “Each character is notorious, in their own right. They have their public persona and the truth that they hide.”
Notorious airs on Thursday nights on ABC.