The courthouse drama series All Risenow in its third season and airing on OWN, follows Judge Lola Carmichael (Simone Missick) and the chaotic lives of the judges, prosecutors, public defenders, bailiffs, clerks and police that she crosses paths with. Pushing boundaries and challenging expectations has earned Lola respect, but it’s also caught the attention of some people who might not be looking out for her best interests.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Missick, who’s now also an executive producer on the series, talked about the cast’s undeniable chemistry, how she reacted when the show was originally canceled by its previous network, some shake ups for Season 3 , the gift of the Lola and Mark (Wilson Bethel) moments, getting to dive into cases a bit deeper, whether she always finds herself in agreement with Lola’s legal decisions, and the challenges that Lola is facing this season.
Collider: I love how, even though this is technically a legal drama, which has been done over and over on TV, you’ve managed to make something that feels new, different and unique. With this show in particular, that largely feels like it comes from the cast and the cast chemistry. Was that something that you felt right away? Do you instantly know when something feels special?
SIMONE MISSICK: Yeah, you do. I will say it has everything to do with our actors and our cast. We’re like family. Some of us had known each other before. Ruthie [Ann Miles] and Lindsay [Mendez], both Broadway actresses, had known each other. Wilson [Bethel] and I had hung out before. Jessica [Camacho] and Wilson knew each other. Jessica and I used to work at The Cheesecake Factory. We had just missed each other, but we knew people who knew each other. There definitely was an immediate bond with all of us. I was very aware, when I sat at that first table read, that we were trying to do something different, just by virtue of it being a predominantly female cast, women of color leading the show, and we were doing it with not only the legal perspective, but also this comedic air to the show that was reminiscent of shows that I grew up loving and hadn’t seen in a while. I grew up watching Ally McBeal, and hadn’t really seen any show try to walk that fine line. It felt really good to be on a show on a network that was trying to do that, and do something a little bit different. It certainly has resonated with our fans.
I was sad to learn that it wasn’t going to continue, and then very happy to learn about the pickup at OWN. Did you go on that same emotional roller coaster with all of that? Did you finally grasp the full meaning of what it’s like to be on the Lola coaster?
MISSICK: I certainly did. I’m a person that is very confident that God has great things planned. I remember the first show that I was on that got canceled. My husband was like, “Are you okay?” And I was like, “Yeah, I’m good. Something great must be coming.” I wouldn’t have been able to do All Rise, if I were still on that show. And so, when we got canceled, there was this feeling of, “All right, what’s coming next, God?” I never, in a million years, would’ve imagined that, not only would we get picked up again, but we would be going to OWN and I would be able to say that Oprah is my boss. Oprah has been on vision boards of mine, for as long as I’ve been vision-boarding. I didn’t imagine that this would be where our show would go, but our fans wrote, texted and tweeted and posted and signed petitions, in order to bring this show back. I certainly have been on a roller coaster, for that couple of months, but I’m glad with where the ride ended up.
How does it feel to return for Season 3, with a new actor playing her husband, some shakeups with her friends and coworkers, and everybody shifting around? Is it bittersweet to find those new dynamics, or is it exciting to shake things up a little bit?
MISSICK: It’s definitely bittersweet, in a lot of ways. Marg [Helgenberger], for example, is back, but she’s not in her same position. Sara, played by Lindsay Mendez, is back, but she’s not in her same position. There was a very like strong, feminine dynamic in the HOJ, in Lola’s world, that has shifted this season. Every episode that we see her try to find a new stenographer, it’s hilarious. It’s funny for Sherri and Lola to go through that, but you miss having Sara sitting right there and having their little girl talk. The same thing is true with Judge Benner. Ultimately, all of these things are working together for good. I am very thankful that Christian Keyes is playing Robin this season. He’s an amazing actor and a great person to work opposite. Of course, you want everyone to come back, in order to be with us, but the same is true behind the camera. We don’t have the same crew members. Sometimes they come and visit and say hi, and we realize how much we missed them all. Life changes very quickly for a lot of people. I’m just happy to be able to do this show, so I’m leaning into the good. I’m leaning into the new because I’m a person who doesn’t like change, period.
When you started doing the scenes between Lola and Mark and the stairwell, did you have any idea how big a part of the show they would become? Did you think anything of them, when you had started doing them, or were they just another scene?
MISSICK: The beautiful thing about Wilson and I is that we have a real friendship and a real connection in those scenes. I didn’t think that they would resonate with the audience as much, but for us, it always feels like a good pair of shoes. You can go home and slip on those shoes, and your feet are gonna be fine. You don’t have to think about anything. That’s how those scenes with Mark and Lola always worked for us, so I guess what you feel off the screen bleeds into what audiences fall in love with on screen. It most certainly has become the best part of every episode. For me, it’s what I look forward to, in a lot of ways. Our writers, this season, have really found some innovative places for us to meet because the stairwell is no longer an option. It’s a gift. I did not think that it would be what it is, but it has become that thing where audiences are like, “Where’s the Mark and Lola stairwell scene? I need that.”
I love how it keeps adapting. With COVID, those scenes moved outside to the roof. Now, they just don’t really know where to go. It’s funny that that’s the storyline that you always know is going to be there.
MISSICK: Yeah, and it adds another character to it. I can’t even tell you where we’re meeting in one episode. They are literally coming up with the craziest places around the HOJ for Mark and Lola, and that’s a lot of fun. That’s what you get to do in the third season of a show.
At TCA, you guys were all joking about how the move to OWN meant that the show could have more booties and that you could drop a few F-bombs. The celebrity case about the hockey player and the social media starlet having rough sex feels like something that maybe you could have done previously, but it probably would’ve had to have been a lit bit less descriptive. Does it feel like you’re able to go deeper into some of the cases now than you were before, and in ways that you maybe couldn’t have done previously?
MISSICK: One hundred perfect, and I think that’s important. Our show has always tackled more difficult subject matter, but we’ve done it in a way that was just a little bit safer. I believe that, for example, with that case, for victims of sexual assault, those experiences on the stand and with police officers and those interviews are brutal. It’s almost like they’re being assaulted a second time. And so, to be able to lend authenticity to that experience for those victims are important, and it’s also important for the audience. This season, being on OWN, our edges are a little rougher, in a lot of ways, which just makes the show that much more grounded and real. Hopefully, we don’t offend our audience. Hopefully, they take that Lola coaster ride with us. I think that it will certainly resonate with our new audience, as well.
Do you always find yourself in agreement with Lola and her decisions, or are there times that you read about her decision on a case or some aspect of a case where you’d personally have a very different angle on it?
MISSICK: Yeah, there have been a couple of times. Not usually, because I feel as though Lola pretty much speaks to the kind of judge I would want to hopefully be. But there are other things, as it pertains to the law, that legally she has to do, and I would probably have gotten kicked off the bench a long time ago. I’d be like, “We’re not doing that! They’re not going to jail!” or “They’re going to jail.” So, it’s very rare, but it does happen. The writers, led by Dee Harris-Lawrence, our showrunner, have a vision for the entire season and there are certain things that have to happen. I have learned a lot about justice, through these cases and through the judges, and not just Lola’s decisions, but Laski’s decisions and Benner’s decisions. This season, we have Roger Guenveur Smith, who’s another judge on our show, and his perspective is very different from Lola’s. It opens up a dialogue about the legal system. If Lola just did what I wanted to do, the conversation would be stuck in a certain lane.
Lola has always been under scrutiny, and that definitely seems ramped up this season. Does she have a full sense of just how threatened she and her career really are? Is that something that will see continue to play out, throughout the season?
MISSICK: I think she does. If you look at our world right now, Ketanji Brown Jackson becoming the first African American woman appointed to the Supreme Court, and the scrutiny that she underwent was something that I think Black women and women of color all around the globe understood. It was not surprising to us, the level of scrutiny. The questions and the demands that were put upon her in this appointment were going to happen. It’s something that every professional woman understands, that need to have to work twice as hard to prove themselves, and especially so for women of color. Lola always knew that it would be hard. She wasn’t going into this judgeship with magenta colored glasses, but it was also because she knew that she wanted to be a disruptor. She wanted to change the system from within. That’s why she chose to become a judge. And so, she’s not surprised, but she’s tired. You come to a point where you’re like, “How much more do I have to prove?” But every episode, there is something that she’s dealing with, professionally, in a way that can get exhausting, but the payoff, at the end of the day, is lives being changed. She knew that’s what she was signing up for.
All Rise airs on Tuesday nights on OWN.