Michael Trucco: 'Fairly Legal's' Secret Weapon

March 16th, 2012 2:00pm EDT

Michael Trucco USA's Fairly Legal returns for its second season tonight with one big ace up its sleeve: co-star Michael Trucco.

When is a series regular a secret weapon? When he's doing fantastic work and still playing second chair. Yes, Fairly Legal belongs to the character of Kate Reed (Sarah Shahi), but there's something about her not quite ex-husband that sticks.

As played by Trucco, Justin Patrick is that hard-working, dedicated Assistant District Attorney that you'd want fighting for you in court, and he's also the voice of reason in his complicated relationship with Kate. In a conventional legal drama, he'd be the star, and deservedly so. This is the guy I'd both trust with my prosecution and want to get a cup of coffee with. It's easy to see why Kate can't let him go, because he's memorable.

Justin might not be such an interesting character if not for the casting of Trucco, who brings his own great personality to the part. He's one of those people that's just fun to be around; I still laugh when I think of how he ribbed me for never having seen Battlestar Galactica. With charisma and a positive attitude that makes him impossible not to root for, he's one of those actors I'm glad to see every week.

"Interestingly enough, I think this is the first series I've been in from its inception," he told me when we connected recently. "I think just about every show and every character and long-term role that I've played, it's always coming on to a show that's been established. This was the first time that I've experienced what it's like to carry a show from the pilot into a season, and you start to find your legs a bit. That's true probably for most shows and for me, I'm getting more comfortable wearing the character of Justin."

While the show's renewal gave Trucco more time to build Justin's character, it also came with significant changes behind the scenes. "There's been a bit of a paradigm shift, in terms of we have new writers [and] a new showrunner," he explained. "It's always strange to, mid-stream, be changing captains. Michael Sardo was the creator and previous showrunner; there's always a loyalty to that. Because of him, the characters exist. The transition was smooth; I think it was a respectful transition. I think [new showrunner] Peter [Ocko] and the new writing team kept the key elements."

How does he think fans will react to the changeover? "It could go either way," he acknowledged, before pointing out that "we're only twelve episodes in [to the series], so we were still trying to find a rhythm and tone, and for me, I like the change. I like the new energy. I'm really enjoying it." He added that "Nothing major has changed and we pick up where we left off."

With that in mind, what's in store for Justin this season? We'll get to see the one thing that both Trucco and I campaigned for last year: he'll be on the job, and not just in his office. He revealed, "I wanted to see Justin at work, in his element. I wanted to see him in the courtroom and we get that at least once this season, which was great for me."

"This year we delve a little deeper into the characters," he continued. "It's a show about law and mediation in particular,but we're getting a bit more of an exploration of the characters' lives. There are certainly avenues to be explored still. The main thrust of the character [of Justin] is obviously the dynamic between Justin and Kate, this complicated relationship of theirs. I like the fact that the show started with the characters already having a relationship; I thought that was an interesting angle. I like that there's complexities and complications. I think these two have a lot of backstory; I think there's a lot to be discovered. I'd like to see more of that come on screen."

Of course, the biggest role on Trucco's resume remains his portrayal of Samuel Anders on the reimagined Battlestar Galactica. That creates an interesting perception of his new role: not only can Justin win an argument, but it's not hard to think that he could probably also win a physical fight, since he's played by a guy who once helped save the human race.

With a season of Fairly Legal in the books, I asked Trucco what the reaction he'd gotten from the Galactica fans was. Had they embraced him in another role?

"They wanted to know if I'm going to be playing Pyramid," he joked with a laugh, but seriously now: "I respect the die-hard BSG fans who come to a show just because I'm in it, but I wouldn't be so bold as to pretend that people are just going to jump over. You're talking about two different genres. It's a different show. It's a different tone. You couldn't pick two more disparate shows, and that was what kind of inspired me. I wanted to play a character that was something different. I think that's part of the challenge of being an actor."

As we spoke, however, he'd just joined Twitter days earlier, and was pleasantly surprised at "how supportive and how warm the welcome has been. There's a ton of Castle fans, Battlestar, One Tree Hill. I think that there's going to be a good portion of fans that are going to check [Fairly Legal] out."

Going the other way, for the Fairly Legal fans who want to see more of him, Trucco had quite a few suggestions. "I had a blast doing Castle. I came on for the last four episodes of their second season and became good friends with Nathan Fillion from it. [They're] a really incredible bunch of people. From the first episode I was on, I felt completely at home. That's kind of the same feel that I hope we present for Fairly Legal. The fun, the wit, the banter. I'm proud of the work on that. Obviously, Battlestar was a career highlight that has yet to be topped. I consider myself very fortunate to be part of that."

Just don't expect him to be watching his own work. "Everything I do, I watch stuff and I'm all, 'Wow, that was terrible.' I didn't see all the episodes of Fairly Legal last year," he admitted. "It's hard for me to go and look at it. It's hard for me to enjoy the product if I'm in it. It's that quest for perfection. One of the things I watched in the last couple of years, I guest-starred on this show that was under the radar on NBC called 100 Questions. I played this like tattooed biker, and I had a blast. It was a half-hour multi-camera sitcom, and that format usually freaks me out, and of course nobody ever saw it."

(But if you want to, you can: it's on Amazon Instant Video and Hulu Plus.)

What does he watch? You'll probably find his TV tuned to cable. "Storage Wars. I'm obsessed with that. I think that show's hilarious," he told me. And I can't get enough of Gold Rush. That show blows my mind."

And when it comes to scripted television, "For me, the best show on TV is Breaking Bad, hands down. I've never been more impressed with a production. Season in, season out, episode after episode. I can't explain to you, inside the first thirty seconds from the pilot, it's got you hooked. It's interesting, it's confusing, it's mysterious, it's odd right off the bat. Even though we have three guest stars on our show that were from Breaking Bad. We've had Dean Norris, we had Mark Margolis this year, and Betsy Brandt."

"I thought Suits was fantastic," he added, prompting the thought: wouldn't Trucco and Gabriel Macht in the same courtroom be something to see?

But since a USA Network crossover seems highly unlikely, we'll have to make do with more of Trucco on his own, which is more than enough. Whether it's Justin bantering with Kate, or being truly passionate about the justice system in which he works, watching Trucco is one of the highlights of Fairly Legal. Here's to hoping his talent gets a lot more exposure.

My thanks to Michael Trucco for taking the time for this interview! You can follow him on Twitter, and don't miss him when Fairly Legal returns to USA tonight at 9 PM ET/PT.

(c)2012 Brittany Frederick/Digital Airwaves. Appears at Starpulse with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted.

Related: 100 Questions, Battlestar Galactica, Breaking Bad, Castle, Fairly Legal, Michael Trucco, Sarah Shahi, Suits, Starpulse Exclusives, Interviews, Television, Drama, Interviews, Previews, USA

Photo Credits: USA

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