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Hands down, Esai Morales would be the best dinner guest EVER. Handsome, funny, friendly and with that amazing ability to address a group but make every listener feel like he’s speaking directly to her or him -- he delights and enchants.
Even before his turn in front of the throng of digital media press came around, he’d already popped his head in to good-naturedly heckle the other newcomer to the 'Fairly Legal' cast, Ryan Johnson, during his Q-and-A.
When he was finally in the hot seat himself, Morales was the epitome of eloquence. Season 2 of “Fairly Legal" delves into the world of Kate’s not-so-ex-husband, Assistant District Attorney Justin Patrick (Michael Trucco), as he makes a political run at the office of district attorney, the seat that Morales’ character, Davidson, currently occupies and is not interested in giving up gracefully.
Morales is most enamored with the fact that his ethnicity does not play a part in this political character. Jokingly, he opened the press interview by introducing himself: ”Dearly beloved ... We're getting the token Latino. But I'm playing Aaron Davidson thank you. No hablo espanol in this show.”
In comparing the progression of roles from his earliest work to “Caprica's” Joseph Adama and Davidson, he expands: “I bemoan the fact that oftentimes, people of my background don't have opportunities to show any intellect. To show any heroics.
"It's the four h's of Hispanic Hollywood that I refer to. We're either overly humble, overly hormonal, overly hysterical or overly hostile ... But outside of that you don't really see much of our folk in mainstream, just regular people. It's always like, oh yes, let's add him on. We'll add spice to the story, you know ... we're more than condiments now.”
Adama and Davidson are great examples of characters where intellect has been both defining and motivating factors and ethnicity -- although it did play a role in the Caprican landscape -- is secondary.
Of course, Adama was a heroic figure while Davidson is ... less so. Morales, smiling widely, describes Davidson as “dastardly ... a politician ... a bit of a quintessential slimeball [or] sleazebag ... which is kind of interesting.”]
And, again, there’s that intelligence.
“I mean,” Morales said with a twinkle, ”at least if you're gonna be a bad guy, have some brains about you.”
The danger of being the perceived Big Bad on a show -- and “Fairly Legal” has been devoid of truly unscrupulous regular characters up until now -- is in becoming two dimensional. This usually happens when the actor doesn’t truly like and understand the character he is portraying. Morales is very much in tune with Davidson.
“I think he's wonderful," he said. "I think he's in the right most of the time, because you got to play people that. I think he's a realist.”
The conflict with Trucco’s straight-shooting “Justin Justice” is a real David and Goliath battle -- or possibly more a David and Saul struggle -- with Justin as the usurping apprentice and Davidson as the experienced, somewhat jaded, authority. But Morales doesn’t see them as so different in the long run.
“[Aaron] is a shrewd politician who does what he has to do," he explained. "Not only to do his job, but to thrive and to climb higher and higher ... The job defines you sometimes, you know? When you go from working on the floor to being manager, it changes you. And I believe that the position of district attorney has changed him from his young days a green, you know, oh “I want to save the people” [lawyer], which he sees in Justin. ... It's like, you're not gonna, I'm not gonna let him steal the work I've put my whole life into. Here he comes because he's Mr. Goody Two Shoes. He thinks he knows that game and system better than me? No way.”
With a young daughter at home, Morales expressed some concern at the quality of entertainment being produced these days and what she’ll grow up to see and experience. Having worked with the genius of Ron Moore in the recent past and with incredible respect for the writers and producers of “Fairly Legal”, he fears the influence of the Snookies and the low-budget shows that appeal to the lowest denominator.
“Where are the Rod Sterlings of our time?” he asked. ”I think Ron Moore was definitely in that neighborhood ... How can you compete when a show like ['Battlestar Galactica' or 'Caprica'] costs two and a quarter million dollars an episode and Jersey Shore costs maybe $100,000 or $200,000 at the best ... and yet they got eight to nine million viewers where we were struggling with getting over a million or a million and a half. It was ridiculous.”
Refocussing on his current situation, he said, ”I love this show because it's not just smart, it's sassy, it's classy, it's a ... youthful oriented show.”
Although he isn’t in every episode this season, Davidson is a key force in Justin’s -- and therefore Kate’s -- life and his influence is there even when not physically present. On paper, he is in about half the episodes in Season 2.
Morales considers his options for future projects pretty flexible but has a priority to spend time with his baby girl at home. Comedy is a frontier he would like to explore at some point but, meanwhile, “Fairly Legal” is giving him some outlets.
“I mean there's some funny stuff on this show," he said. "That's what I like about this show too. There's some fun here ... I play the heavy. But the banter is funny. And I'm quite a dick on this show. And I love it. [For instance,] yesterday, [in] one of my last scenes I tell [Justin], ‘Take the deal.' And he goes, ’What if I don't, what if I want to sit out and fight this?’ And I go, 'Okay look, this one is your prerogative but ... what's, what's that smell? Oh,’ and I look at his clothes and I go, ‘your campaign going up in smoke.’" He pauses to laugh quietly. "I'm a dick!”
Be sure to watch USA Network Fridays at 9 p.m. ET for all new episodes of "Fairly Legal" (dick-ish Esai and all) and return to Inside Blip next week for our next installment of cast interviews!
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