The new CBS courthouse drama All Rise follows newly appointed Judge Lola Carmichael (Simone Missick), a highly regarded and impressive deputy district attorney who’s learning to navigate, push boundaries and challenge the expectations of what being a judge means. Along with a look at what life is like on the bench, the series also explores the lives of the prosecutors and public defenders, as they work with bailiffs, clerks and cops to get justice in a flawed legal process.
While at the CBS portion of the Television Critics Association Press Tour, Collider got the opportunity to sit down and chat 1-on-1 with actress Simone Missick about what it’s like to take on her first lead role, the emotional roller coaster of learning about the cancellation of Luke Cage and not getting closure with Misty Knight, why she wanted to be a part of the second season of the Netflix series Altered Carbon, all of the fun layers to play with Lola Carmichael, what she did for inspiration to play a judge, and advocating for every character that she’s played.
Collider: At the same time that I was highly disappointed not to get to see you on Luke Cage anymore, I’m thrilled that you’re headlining this show.
SIMONE MISSICK: Thank you so much.
How awesome is it to be playing this character, on this show and on this network?
MISSICK: This is my first lead role. Luke Cage was a wonderful experience, but it wasn’t my show. I just got to spend a great time up in Vancouver shooting Altered Carbon, and that was a great job, but it wasn’t my show. So, with All Rise, I’m able to be the lead of a show, on a network that is really committed to seeing these stories being told, and that is interested in seeing it told in a really different way, where it’s not your typical legal drama. The fact that they signed up for this ride, I’m so thankful. Not often do people say, “Here is a dream role with a great character, and a great cast and crew.” That never happens. And so, for me, this has just been amazing. Yes, those other jobs were fabulous, but I don’t have a bionic arm. I get to wear a robe and some comfy slippers, and kick ass in a different kind of way. It’s great.
Did you have a moment, the first day that you walked on set, where you needed to stop and take it all in?
MISSICK: Yes, 100%. I was very intentional in recognizing that this was not an ordinary day. Every day that I’m at work, I’m very present and thankful to be there because we’re in L.A., and there are millions of people that never get this opportunity. I have friends who have changed careers, and I know former actors who have just said, “I can’t get be on this train anymore.” So, to be in this position, every day on set, I say, “Thank you, god, for this opportunity,” because it does not come, all the time. I might be wrong, but I’m almost positive that this is the first African American female judge show that’s scripted, ever, in the history of television. I’m pretty sure it is. To be able to play Misty Knight, the first African American female superhero ever written, is pretty awesome, but this is great. So, I’m definitely present and thankful, every day, and I’m also enjoying the hell out of my job.
Was it an emotional roller coaster, having Luke Cage, and then getting unexpectedly cancelled, and then having this job come along?
MISSICK: So, when Luke Cage was cancelled, I was on set, on a CBS All Access show, called Tell Me A Story, playing opposite my husband (actor Dorian Missick). It was the best place to get the worst news of my life. I could ugly cry and no one would no because someone would be there to touch up my make-up, but I didn’t cry. It was surreal. Jeph Loeb gave me a call at eight o’clock at night on a Friday, and my husband was like, “He’s calling to tell you that you’re getting your own show.” We both thought this was gonna be the phone call saying, “Guess what? Daughters of the Dragon!” And it wasn’t that. It was, unfortunately, “Hey, Simone, the show is not gonna move on.” I’m a faithful person, and I have a strong faith in God, so I knew that, if this was where it was ending, something great was coming. And then, Altered Carbon presented itself and I was like, “Well, this is an amazing experience and something great to move on to, and I’m super thankful to be here, playing around with these people.” Never did I think that the next step would be my own show. So, it has been a roller coaster of sorts, but it feels like the up in the ride, and I’m still enjoying the ride. I’m very, very happy for where I’ve ended up, at this moment. I’m very, very happy to be able to play this character, week after week after week, for a network that supports us and is really excited about the show, and is as equally as excited as we are. It’s a great team to be a part of. And then, Mike Colter is on EVIL. He’s on the CBS team. I’ve got Wilson Bethel from Daredevil, playing my best friend. CBS was watching it. They were like, “Oh, you dropped that? We’re gonna pick that up.” It’s been great, but it was a roller coaster.
It’s hard anytime a show gets cancelled, but it must be even harder when you don’t get closure with the character.
MISSICK: That has been the toughest part, thinking about all of the ways that I had hoped for Misty to develop, and then for it to end the way that it did. Had the writers known that we were only getting two seasons, they would’ve done something different. Even ending it on Iron Fist was an interesting way to say goodbye to her. She’s broken. She has to get a new arm. Everybody was like, “Ooh, who’s gonna give her a new arm? What’s it gonna look like?” So, it was a difficult way to say goodbye to her. That’s why I think it’s, “So long.” I don’t think it’s goodbye forever, but you never know. If it’s meant for me to play Misty again, in a different way, on a different platform, or in a film, I’m certainly game for it. But right now, I’m just so thankful for where I am, doing this, that that’s my focus.
This is a great character because there’s humor to her, there’s a seriousness to her, and she’s smart and funny. She’s not just one thing.
MISSICK: Right. To me, the show feels like such a hybrid. It’s a legal drama, but do we really want to call it a drama? It’s funny, and it makes you cry, it makes you laugh, and it makes you think. These are things that you want, when you’re getting to do 13 episodes, or 22 episodes. You want to be able to tell those kinds of stories and be engaged, and this is just such a fun show to do it on.
When you sign on for a TV series, the stability of the job is great, but it could be a few years, so you want to make sure that it’s something that you really want to do.
MISSICK: And I think that our creators, our executive producers, the network, and the studio made some amazing choices in casting because we are truly already a family. We enjoy spending time with each other. We have fun hanging out, outside of work and on set. All of us showed up to the table read and we were like, “Oh, I can kick out what these people for five, six or seven years. This could totally be okay.” I’ve had that situation in the other shows that I’ve shot. I’ve loved my castmates. I’ve been very, very blessed with amazing people to work with. You do not know what you’re signing up for, but I know that I wouldn’t be placed anywhere that I’m not supposed to be, good or bad, in order to get me to where I need to go. And so, I’m really excited about this journey because I think it’s an opportunity to get into a lot of households that don’t have Netflix, didn’t see Luke Cage or Iron Fist or The Defenders, and that don’t watch sci-fi shows, so they might not catch Altered Carbon. Those people might watch Lola Carmichael and then go, “Let me go back and look at those shows.” It’s such a great opportunity. As an actor, all you really wanna do is work, so I’m thankful.
I love the relationship between Lola and Mark because we not often get to see characters like that just be friends, and have that playfulness instead of sexual attention.
MISSICK: The playfulness is the fun of it. It’s almost like going out with your girlfriends on a date, and you’ve got a boyfriend. You and your girlfriends are going out to a club, or a restaurant, or a bar for happy hour, but you know you’ve got your man at home, so you don’t have to worry about whether somebody is gonna offer to buy you a drink, tell you that you look good that night, or that you have something in your teeth. You don’t care ‘cause you’ve got somebody at home. And that’s what the relationship with Mark and Lola is. They each have someone who knows them, inside out, who’s been their friend for over 15 years, and who’s got their back, so they don’t have to worry about all of those other things that complicate male/female relationships. There are enough complications on the show that I don’t think that’s one that we have to go down.
Did you watch any judges or shadow anybody to see what that’s like?
MISSICK: I didn’t get a chance to shadow anyone, but I did watch a lot of footage on judges. It is so interesting, and yet, of course, TV is always so much more heightened. I was able to see some black female judges who defied that, and were just as engaging and interesting as any judge that you see on TV courtrooms. I was like, “Oh, you’re giving monologues for your closing. Okay. All right, judge.” It’ll be a different look inside of the courtroom, that people think they know, but they’ve never seen behind the scenes with judges. I was listening to Serial, the podcast, and they had a whole season where they were in Cleveland and there was this one judge, and I will not say that judge’s name, but the judge would speak so disparagingly to the people in front of him and about them, in a very paternalistic manner. He said, “If I don’t talk to them like this, they won’t hear me.” He was always condescending because he comes from one background and thought that he had to speak to people a certain way from this other background, which was whack. And then, he would hand out these sentences with this very, “I know what’s best for you,” approach to it. And so, it’s gonna be interesting to see what Lola’s thing is. She thinks, “I’m a black woman, so I can’t be biased. I’m a woman, so I can’t be sexist. I come from a working class and middle class family, so I can’t be socio-economically prejudiced against someone.” But we’ve all got it, so it’ll be fun to be able to explore that. She’s a disruptor, but for the good.
When you play a character at the center of the show and you are the lead on it, what kind of a relationship do you have with your showrunner and with your directors? Are you able to have a voice, as far as being an advocate for your character?
MISSICK: Apparently, I have approached every role that I’ve had as if I was the lead of the show, and had a voice and could advocate myself with the writers and creators. Cheo [Hodari Coker], who ran Luke Cage, would joke that I gave him the most notes. I was like, “Really?! More than Mike? More than Alfre [Woodard]?” I was like, “ I just thought that was how we do things. Isn’t this like theater?” I have always brought that to every role that I’ve had the fortune of playing. I’ve had that agency, in order to say to my writers, “These are my thoughts. What are your thoughts?” We’ve got an amazing team. Greg Spottiswood, our creator and EP, and Mike Robin, who’s our showrunner, have been making great television for a really long time. Greg approaches the work in a way where he knows the way that this show was supposed to sound and how these characters are supposed to be developed. But he doesn’t do that without the perspective that he is a white guy from Canada who doesn’t know what it’s like to be a black female judge. Our room is very diverse, for that reason. We have lawyers in our writers’ room, which is outstanding. It’s almost 50/50 male and female, and it’s ethnically diverse, as well. When you’re telling these kinds of stories, you wanna do at with a sensitivity and a reality to it, and I get the change to pipe up about it, but I have yet to need to pipe up about it. They have this constant self-check that I’ve never seen before. There was a moment that was written in the pilot script that portrayed a character in one way that was very believable and we see it often. I couldn’t say it was stereotypical. And yet, by the time we got to the shooting script, it had changed to something that looked at this person in a human way. That comes from people being aware and sensitive. As much leeway as they might give me to be able to say something, I have yet to have to really say much of anything because they are just outstanding at writing these characters, truthfully and honestly.
Who did you play in Season 2 of Altered Carbon?
MISSICK: I played Trepp, who’s a bounty hunter. She’s tasked with finding Takeshi Kovacs, which is where we find her. So, I’m on the hunt for Anthony Mackie. Eventually, she finds him, and then hilarity ensues. No. If Misty Knight was all for her community, for helping the people of Harlem, and just really trying to do what’s right, Trepp is very singularly focused on what she needs, which is money, in order to protect her family, and doesn’t care about anybody else. She doesn’t care about the greater good. She doesn’t care about the community. All she cares about are her people. That circle is small, and she is unwavering in that. It’s fun to play somebody who doesn’t have this very lofty ideal. She’s very self serving, and Takeshi Kovacs is very self-serving, so it’s good to be a compliment to that, in this world that’s set 400 years in the future.
All Rise airs on Monday nights on CBS.