PTR Senior Staff Writer
Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Kathryn Morris have something in common: hair obsession.
No, not their own.
Rather, viewers' obsession with their characters' hairstyles.
Kathryn's "Lilly" do became infamous by the second season of Cold Case. Mark's sloppy long locks punctuated the first season of TNT's hit legal series, Raising the Bar.
Much to both actors' dismay.
Hair distraction is not a good thing for a show - or a character.
So Kathryn changed her look in the third season. Mark's doing the same for his second season, which premieres Monday, June 8th at 10 p.m..
"I’m getting it cut," says Mark. "I’m not getting rid of it. That would be bad at 35-years-old."
Quite frankly, Mark isn't terribly concerned with his hair. And when we joined him on a conference call recently to discuss the ins/outs of all-things public defender Jerry Kellerman for season two, I was surprised how much he actually sounded like Kathryn in that she never really understood people's fascination with her hair, either - nor did she want it to take away from the character and stories of the show.
"For me personally, it’s [just] hair," says Mark. "I mean, it’ll grow back. If we decide to have it longer, that’s fine. If we decide to keep it short, that’s fine. It’s sort of an experiment, and a work in progress kind of thing. And it was one of those things where I put so little effort into my hair that what you saw last year was the way [both the character of] Jerry and myself would actually do our hair. We just don’t. And over the negative and positive press of the hair, I kept going, 'Really? This is such a big talking point? This is what people are getting from our show?' So, from that point of view, and with the [new] haircut, we’re not distracting the audience [anymore]. We don’t want to take away from the stories and characters, and what’s really important on the show. We’ll see how this works and go from there."
And while last season's long-haired "do" was actually done for his character, getting it cut this season is no different.
"Basically, Jerry is doing it for a client who’s on trial," says Mark. "Jerry is a bit more tactical this year. He’s [always been] a very smart and bright attorney, [but this year] he’s using his brain and his mind more than just his voice. Cutting his hair is just [an example of] working the system a little bit better."
Highlights from the call:
On the continuing challenge of portraying a public defender: "The challenging thing is we don’t hear from this side of the criminal justice system all that often. You don’t hear too much about public defenders and their clients. So, the stories they’re coming up with [are] extremely challenging; a lot of them are true because our co-creator is David Feige who was a public defender for 15 years. You find yourself as an individual going, 'This really happens? This isn’t something completely made up in left field?' That’s what challenges us - to find the compassion in these people, these clients. These are human beings. But the amazing thing I learned from preparing from this role is that Jerry isn’t unusual. There are thousands of passionate, dedicated public defenders out there every day who are fighting against a system that they think is terribly stacked against the poor and the powerless. We just don’t hear from them because it’s really not a sexy thing to hear about public defenders and their clients."
On what he feels is the most important thing people should know from the first season if they are just beginning to tune into the show this season: "The show is unlike the other legal dramas that we’ve seen in the past. We’re not a how show, we’re a why [show] - why did this person do [the crime]. The truth about most crimes is they’re really driven by really basic things: poverty, jealousy, desperation. You sort of stick a label on people for their crime. But what this show does so effectively is tell the story behind the case, allowing the audience to see the clients the way their lawyers do. When that happens, guilty or innocent becomes much more muddy and less clear. That’s basically our show in a nutshell - it’s allowing you to see the gray in the criminal justice system. And it makes it unlike other legal dramas."
On the maturing of the Jerry Kellerman character from season one to season two: "He does things in his passion. He’s devoted to his cause. But [last season], he tended to sometimes rely too much on his voice. [This season], we’re wanting you to see how bright and smart [of an] attorney is. [So] one of the the differences that you see right off the bat in episode one is the haircut. How we made it work was that Jerry is willing to back down. The whole reason for the haircut was a potential jury member says to Jerry that he doesn’t trust him - he says, 'You look like a dirty hippy.' So, I get my hair cut, and I clean myself up to show this person that I don’t want to take away from the facts of the case. So, Jerry’s become more tactical. Last season, he would have just told that guy to go do something with himself and kind of put his fist higher up in the air. This year, he seems to be showing a little bit of a restraint. His passion and his dedication hasn’t waned in the least, but he’s just becoming more aware."
On what he hopes viewers will enjoy in the second season: "I hope that they can enjoy the show as much as they did last year. The word that we use a lot to describe what we’re doing this upcoming season is more. There’s a sort of confidence that you have with a second season, and I think it makes the show better overall. We built a very strong foundation last year, [but] we only had 10 episodes to work with so it was a bit rushed. [Since] we’re doing 15 this year, we’re able to broaden [everything]. We have more complex, interesting cases, more characters - the new judge [Judge Farnsworth, played by John Michael Higgins] brings another perspective to the bench. There’s more arguments and clashes with the prosecutors and the judges. More romance - we have some great romances brewing. So yes, more."
We at PTR extend our great thanks to Mark-Paul for taking the time to chat all-things Jerry. We also thank our friends and Turner publicity. The second season of Raising the Bar gets underway Monday, June 8th at 10 p.m. on TNT.