Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Speakeasy with ... Kate Levering

Posted By on Tue, Jun 29, 2010 at 2:47 PM

Kate Levering is Kim Kaswell on Lifetimes Drop Dead Diva.
  • Kate Levering is Kim Kaswell on Lifetime's Drop Dead Diva.
The jury is still out on whether or not Kate Levering's character, attorney Kim Kaswell is the queen of mean on Lifetime's dramedy Drop Dead Diva. On the show, the sultry, smart and ambitious Kaswell pits her venom towards her in-office nemesis, rival attorney Jane Bingum (Brooke Elliott) who unbeknownst to everyone is really Deb, a bubbly L.A. model who was killed in a car accident and wakes up in Bingum's body. Sandwiched between the office politics and her stony approach to practicing law, Levering's Kaswell character slowly sheds her armor-clad, cold persona and glimpses of her true self to seep out weekly.

Kim Kaswell is just the latest character in the Levering's arsenal. Levering, a veteran of stage and the small screen received a Tony nomination for her role in Chicago and has appeared in more than 20 television shows spanning over 10 years. With Drop Dead Diva gaining momentum in the midst of its second season on Lifetime Network, Levering's character comes back with a new look and a new outlook - but not too much, she still has it out for Bingum. Recently CL spoke with Levering about her role on the show, the new season and what its like living in Atlanta where the series is filmed.

Drop Dead Diva starring Brooke Elliott, Margaret Cho, Kate Levering and Jackson Hurst airs Sunday nights at 9 P.M. on the Lifetime Network.


So now tell me about your character. You play a no nonsense lawyer on the show but I feel that the jury is still out on you - are you good or bad?

Obviously because I play her I cannot like see her as bad, because you know, nobody is all good or all bad. I think that she’s conflicted and I think that she’s misunderstood by a lot of the people around her but I think, the key to, you know, playing a character who’s seemingly a villain or a nemesis you know is breaking it down into everybody behaves the way they do for a reason. She can’t be your stereotypical bitch, and I don’t think the writers want her to be so last season and this season-towards the end of last season- she softened up and continued to see that through this season. And I think that her actions come from insecurity and you know fear of being hurt, fear of love, fear of not being in love, fear of not succeeding, the same, you know, issues we all deal with, hers just manifest themselves into you know this hardened kind of exterior.

What is the tension, in your opinion, between your character, Kim, and Jane (Brooke Elliott)?

That’s a great question. You know it’s interesting because as writers we haven’t really gotten into it. I think the underbelly of the conflict that the audience sees right away is that Kim has only ever dealt with old Jane-old Jane, the pushover, old Jane the, uh, you know the kind of grumpy, insecure version of Jane. So what they haven’t addressed is Jane is now Deb or that Deb is now Jane, Kim is dealing with a totally different person. So all of a sudden, overnight, Jane is standing up for herself, dressing differently, Jane is pushing Kim’s buttons in a way that she doesn’t recognize. And so I think that a lot of reactions from Kim are because she’s like “Who is this person, you know?” So that creates a really fun push and pull as actors for us to recreate. But I think it hasn’t really been addressed with the audience that this is a totally different personality Kim’s dealing with at work that she’s not used to. She did not have any competition in that law office until Jane came back as Deb, you know.

Obviously you have to do a lot of preparation for the court scenes, how familiar are you with the lingo now that you’re done with a season of Drop Dead Diva.

It definitely gets easier. I was on another law series 6 years ago called Kevin Hill where I played a lawyer, so that was helpful. I also spent about a month - after we shot the pilot, I very coincidently sat in a courtroom for an entire month and watched um a lawsuit. I was in the court every day for a month watching the jury, watching the judge, watching the lawyers, meeting with lawyers, talking to lawyers, so that was the best research I could have done. You know, it wasn’t even intentional, but it happened.

Do you ever catch yourself like watching the news or watching other like court shows and analyzing the cases?

I don’t. I probably should, but I don’t. The great thing about our cases on our show is that they’re always so different from anything else you see. We have some quirky, fun cases that match the tone of our show so I couldn’t, I don’t feel like I could really watch a Law and Orderr and really relate to what those actors are trying to do, because what we do is so different, just in terms of tone.

Tell me what it’s like on the set.

We have a blast. I love going to work. When I have days off, I’m sad, I’m like “I wanna go to work.”

I mean we have so much fun. We meet for dinner every night. I was just out last night for dinner with four out of five of the actors, and the other two were doing press, so we get along really well. Part of the reason I think we’ve been forced to have such a familial feeling is that we shoot in Atlanta and we are all far away from our families and we’re all far away from our homes and our friends and our favorite teams, and so we kind of were forced into this very like close bond which I don’t think necessarily happens when you’re shooting in L.A. and you can go home every night, and every weekend. We have every weekend here and we just hang out with each other.

Wow. Well that’s a pretty unique bond you have there.

… Yeah, it’s really special actually.

So in season one you did something that was really unique. You decided to walk away from your particular love interest with Grayson, and that’s pretty rare on TV that you see a woman leave a man hanging. How do you feel about that?

I think she did the right thing. I think that it was obvious that Grayson wasn’t over Deb. And like I said, Kim is not somebody who’s gonna set herself up for heartbreak. She’s not somebody who’s going to put herself out there knowing there’s a great risk. Um, she would much rather be the heartbreaker than have her heart broken. And I think it was pretty obvious Grayson wasn’t ready, so she did what she had to do, and actually you get to see in season 2 some of the aftermath of she and Grayson’s breakup.

Last season you had a pretty impressive parade of guest stars on the show. Who was your favorite to work with?

Oh that’s a no brainer, Liza Minnelli and Delta Burke.

Really?

I mean, for me as a theater performer, I grew up watching Judy Garland movies, Shirley Temple movies, The Little Rascals, so when I saw Liza walk on set, I felt like I was looking at Judy Garland, and she is such a legend in the Broadway World. I have friends that have been in her shows and so for me, I felt-it was really overwhelming - just to be in her presence and to feel like I was looking kind of at Judy Garland through her, it was just a thrill for me.

And what about Delta Burke?

Oh, she’s a crack up. She’s the funniest woman. You know what’s incredible about all these people that keep showing up to work on our show is that every time I see them, I feel so honored they’re there, so lucky that they enjoy the show and want to be a part of the show, and they say the same thing back which is always so nice. We have no concept really of how much people like the show, so to hear, um, these women and men that I so admire, excited about working on our show, it just- you know.

What can you tell me about season 2?

Well Kim - we talked about the fact that Kim gets a new look, right?

... I saw that. She goes blonde.

Yes, Kim gets a new, sassy look, which I like. And she gets a new love interest, which is really a little bit- it’s pretty scandalous- somebody that can kind of meet her in the middle, somebody that can play the game almost as well as she can.

Is this person a member of the firm or someone who’s making a guest appearance?

Um, I can’t tell you.

Gahh!

I get to work with some really interesting guest stars this season. Um, you know, we’ve had Candace Kane, who’s a very famous transgendered woman. Um, Cybil Shepherd, Leelee Sobieski, Chad Lowe, just you know a great- we always have incredible people that come. Natasha Henstridge is coming, um, so in that case- um, in that way we have really interesting court cases again.

Talk to me about the musical number in the season opener.

We have a lot of dream sequences in our show so it’s pretty obvious it’s this big dream sequence, but what’s unusual is that all of us are in it. All the series regulars are in it and we each get to play a very unique role in the food court. So of course Jane would dream that Kim is the janitor. How much lower could you be on the totem pole than the janitor in a food court [laughing].

I thought that was hilarious.

Yeah, so I get to play the janitor, which at least they made me the sexy janitor that was nice.

You grew up in California, obviously you lived New York to be on Broadway, and now you’re in Atlanta, tell me, what do you like best about each of those cities?

Well New York, the culture, and the fulfillment in being able to perform live every night and for so long. Um, California, the weather, and the water, and being near my family. And Atlanta’s been a real joy to explore. I’ve been taking a lot of side excursions to Savannah, and Asheville and it’s beautiful and green and a whole different kind of bag of fun. And you know I’ve gotten to really know and love the people I work with, so that makes this experience really unique.

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