David E. Kelley retains Kathy Bates for quirky ‘Harry’s Law’

David E. Kelley is practicing
law again — TV law, that is.

The award-winning creator of Boston Legal, The Practice and Ally
McBeal
comes back to the bar with Harry’s Law (NBC, Monday, 10
ET/PT).

Kelley, who was once a practicing attorney, thought he was done with the
legal trade for a while after Boston. But he found he missed the
opportunity to express himself on the issues of the day, a signature component
of his programs.

“With everything that was changing in this country — a new
administration, health care, Congress — I felt it would be so nice to be able
to talk about some of those things,” he says. “I love to talk about
evolving ideas, and the law is a great springboard for it. It’s inexact and
unscientific, but still our best way of legislating human behavior, morality
and ethics.”

One topical issue at the top of Harry‘s agenda is unemployment.
In the first episode, patent attorney Harriet “Harry” Korn (Kathy Bates) is fired from
her job. “I’d read so many stories about people losing their jobs … late
in their careers and having to start over, and the obstacles in doing that. I
thought that might be an interesting story to tell,” Kelley says.

Harry, disillusioned with the practice of law, must start at the bottom
again, hanging her shingle from an abandoned shoe store in a run-down area of
Cincinnati.

Bates likes the gun-toting character, which was originally written for a
man. She asked that she keep the name Harry. “I liked that she was a curmudgeon
and she tells it like it is. What I love about her is she’s rumpled, she
doesn’t apologize for who she is,” Bates says. “And I think she’s at
a very interesting place in her life, at her age, to be starting over.”

Harry is joined by an eager young lawyer (Nate Corddry), her law
practice assistant (Brittany Snow) and an aide
(Aml Ameen) who literally drops from the sky.

Harry is “not a touchy-feely kind of person at all. She finds
herself surrounded by people who are very warm and loving, and I think she
senses a need for that in her life but doesn’t exactly know how to go about getting
that,” says Bates, an Oscar winner for Misery who is taking on her
first lead role in a TV series.

Bates has the ability to make the pessimistic Harry likable, Kelley
says. “She’s able to play those tough scenes and be unlikable in a given
moment and trust the audience to go with her and like her just the same,”
Kelley says. “That’s an intangible. Not every actor brings that.”

Kelley says Harry won’t be a conventional courtroom drama.
“As the series progresses, (we) spend less and less time in the courtroom.
A lot of justice we practice in this law firm is street justice that takes
place in bizarre places. A lot of alternative dispute resolution goes on.”

The storefront practice “makes for a more interesting range of
characters,” Bates says. “As David said to me, you never know who’s
coming in the front door. An interesting point for him (is) there’s almost a
class thing going on with the gentrification of the neighborhood.”

Harry won’t stake a political position in the way Kelley did on Boston
Legal
, “where we wore our heart on our sleeve a little bit,” he
says. “I don’t agree with all of Harry’s politics. She has a great
affection for weaponry that I probably don’t share,” he says. “It’s
not our intent to get on the political soapbox. It’s really about this character
and her new life.”

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