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.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actor Wilson Bethel (who plays prosecutor Mark Callan, who also happens to be Lola’s best friend) talked about why this TV series appealed to him, the tone and feel of the show, going from the intensity of Daredevil to something a bit lighter, how much this cast clicked, working with co-star Simone Missick, and his character’s complicated family dynamic.
Collider: When this show came about, did you know that you’d be teaming up with a fellow Marvel/Netflix cohort (Simone Missick), and then a couple others (Mike Colter on EVIL and Eka Darville on Tell Me A Story) would also be doing shows on the same network?
WILSON BETHEL: It’s funny, I feel like CBS was just like, “Okay, you guys are gonna cancel these shows? We’re gonna get all of them.” I actually knew Simone [Missick] personally, just through friends, and we’d hung out a few times, before the show started. I think Simone was the last main character to be cast, and I had been thinking that she was perfect for the role and had been hoping, in the back of my mind, that somehow the gods will be listening, and of course, they were. So, I feel like we got really lucky to get her on board. It really, just all around, is an amazing cast. They’re really a wonderful bunch of folks.
Did you get a sense of the tone and feel of this show, right away?
BETHEL: I got a good sense from the scripts, at least what the potential for it was. The writing’s really strong, and the vision, from the outset, was really strong. But then, there’s something that happens that’s really special, in terms of the synergy, once you get that group of actors together and it happens that, not only are they a wonderful group of actors, but they’re all really lovely folks. We all just have a really nice vibe together, and that’s the kind of thing that translates on screen, really strongly, with these relationships. These are people who spend at least 40, 50 or 60 hours a week together, and they all have strong working and personal relationships, so you want that to translate. Fortunately, with this group, I think it does.
And this is a high-stress occupation, so this group needs to have people they can rely on.
BETHEL: That’s also where it’s important to get some levity, too. Even in a courthouse, where it’s a high-stress thing because you have people’s lives and freedom on the line, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t moments of real genuine humor and lightness that are interspersed throughout. The characters that are being brought to life by the writers and by the actors, as well, you have a lot of room to play both sides of it because that’s really dynamic.
When you sign on for a pilot, you only know the skeleton for what it could be. So, what was it that most appealed to you about the pilot for All Rise?
BETHEL: The writing was really strong. That’s always the number one selling point to me. It was smart and it had a very distinctive, stylized tone to it, in terms of the pace and the bantery quality of it. It just felt really precise, in the way The West Wing, which is a show I really love, or something like that, so that was really exciting to me. Beyond that, in the early stages of the process, I got to work with the creator/writer, Greg Spottiswood, and the director of the pilot and one of the producers on the show, Mike Robin, and I just really loved the way that they approached the material and approached working with the actors. Their whole way and tone of working was just very much in line with what I wanna be a part of. It’s hard to tell sometimes with pilots, but also, sometimes it’s not. It was very easy for me to see, pretty quickly, that this was gonna actually be something really worthwhile, and also something that would really strike a chord with me and be something that I’d be excited about. I feel very lucky to be on board, and it’s not always though that way.
Do you feel like you have a better sense of the show now?
BETHEL: Yeah. The nature of episodic TV is that it’s a constant process of discovery, both in terms of the actual working relationships that you have on set, and also with your own character that you’re playing. It continues to evolve. You’re learning new things, the writers are learning about you, and fans are responding. It’s this very fluid process, but that’s what makes it exciting and very different from film or doing a play. Every 10 days, when you get that script in your inbox, it feels like Christmas morning. You’re like, “What’s gonna happen next?” We, as actors, have a version of the same excitement that viewers have, when they’re watching their favorite shows. They’re like, “What’s gonna happen this week?,” and we get to have that experience, too. We’re just particularly invested because our characters are involved in those journeys.
Especially having come off of something like Daredevil, where your character was so serious and there wasn’t really any levity to it, were you intentionally looking for something lighter, like this?
BETHEL: That’s an interesting question. My brother, after he saw Daredevil, was like, “I loved it, but please never do something like that again.” It was exhausting, but I would have happily done another season of Daredevil, and I would’ve happily done another show like it, or something in that vein. I also am a firm believer that the opportunities have come into my life as they’re supposed to. And so, this feels like a perfectly timed digression from that. Having just done Daredevil and had an opportunity to exercise that particular side of my creative expression, I am very happy to return to a different sort of material, which is not to say that all of this material is light. There’s a lot of really lovely dramatic moments and heartfelt moments in this, but it’s a totally different tone, and one that does feel like a real nice change of pace.
And not as physically demanding.
BETHEL: Yeah. Trust me, I know. I broke my hand. This is exercising whole different muscles, in terms of the kind of dialogue that you have. Obviously, being a lawyer, lawyers tend to really love their words, which is something that I really appreciate. And because of the quality of the writing, it’s something that I feel like I can really sink my teeth into. I just enjoy getting to be verbose. I love language. It was always a dream to play a lawyer, in some kind of Atticus Finch type mode, getting to deliver big, stirring speeches, in front of a jury. To be honest, it’s a challenge, no doubt, but I love it, and it feels very natural, in some ways.
You said that you knew Simone Missick previously, but what’s it been like to work with her and share scenes with her?
BETHEL: I think we have a very easy, very natural dynamic that is partly born just of genuine affection for one another, as people. And then, the way that the relationship is developing on screen, feels like an extension of that. It feels like these are two people who care deeply about each other, who have known each other for a long time, have inside jokes, and have things that annoy them about each other, but it also has all of the things that you want and expect out of a real friendship. Hopefully, with that as one of the cornerstones of the show, that’s one of the things that viewers really attach to, become invested in, and brings them back, week to week.
Unfortunately, that kind of relationship is a little rare on TV, that kind of intersex adult friendship that’s not fraught with sexual tension. It’s not about bantery flirting. It’s what you want with your friends. You wanna be able to give each other shit, and also have each other’s backs, talk shit about other people, and do all of the stuff that you do with your friends. It’s really cool, and Simone makes it all very easy. She’s just lovely to work with. My hope is that, as the show progresses and as our own personal relationship progresses, it’ll get more and more comfortable and fluid, in all of the right ways that translate on screen.
What do you enjoy about the complicated family dynamic for your character, being a prosecutor who has a criminal for a father?
BETHEL: Talking about some of the things that drew me to the pilot, obviously, that was one of the things that drew me to the pilot. I saw a lot of possibilities for where the writers were gonna take Mark, and that’s really exciting. It’s one thing to be able to get to do all these wonderful courtroom scenes, but you also want it to feel like you have a character who’s fully formed and has a life outside of work, and that’s being explored, in depth. And that’s not just with my character, but with other characters, as well. I think that’s gonna be a really important component of the show, generally. It’s not just a straight up the middle procedural, where you don’t really know or care that much about the characters’ personal lives. We really spend time with them, in their homes and in their other relationships, and that’s part of what makes us love them. As an actor, I continue to learn more about Mark, which helps me make stronger decisions and choices, in terms of the way that I approach the work version of Mark vs. the home version of Mark. That all feed back in on itself.
All Rise airs on Monday nights on CBS.