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[ # ] Seven non bluffs about Bluff City Law
September 30th, 2019 under NBC


Last week, we got to meet lawyers Elijah Strait (Jimmy Smits) and his estranged daughter, Sydney (Caitlin McGee) on Bluff City Law. Tonight at 10p, they take on a case close to their hearts.

Back when Sydney was a little girl, she used to take horse riding lessons on a farm. That farm is now in trouble of being sold because of a seed that contiminated their land. The business behind the seed knows that their product gets mixed in with other people’s crops. When it does, they ask the farmers to pay them back for using their seed. Several other farmers have either sold their land to the corporation or took them to court and loss.

The Straights are not going to let that happen to their friend. Therefore, they are going to take on her case that has never been won. Can they be the first lawyers to win the case?

All while Sydney is dealing with the fact that she just found out that her father fathered another child from an affair. Will she accept her younger brother, Emerson (Stony Blyden), who works at the firm as a paralegal? Will she forgive her dad? Did her mother know?

I have to say, when I watched the first episode, I was not blown away by the series. However, after watching tonight’s show, I added the legal drama to my season pass. They take on interesting cases, ones that make you think. It is not the normal stuff everyone else does, but cases that really makes a difference in our World. Then you mix in some father/daughter drama and you have a drama that has you hooked. Case closed.

That is just how I see the show. A few weeks ago at the NBC Summer Press Day at the TCAs, Jimmy Smits and Caitlin McGee along with Executive Producers Michael Aguilar, Dean Georgaris and David Janollari talked about Bluff City Law.

Why do legal dramas work?
DEAN GEORGARIS:
Part of it, I think, is one of the most remarkable things about our nation is our legal system. We take it for granted, but as a country, we have a forum where we come together, and we can air our grievances. We can decide what we believe in society is right and wrong, and frankly, over time, the legal field is where we evolve as a society, where we decide, “You know what? This was okay for 100 years. Now it’s not.” I think police dramas, like medical dramas, these are really questions that are fundamental to the human experience. I suspect that’s why they seem to be as timeless.
MICHAEL AGUILAR: My father’s an attorney, so I grew up in a house where the law was an art form. And I think it gives us an opportunity to explore subjects like justice and fairness and what we all share, the human values we all share, so I think that’s why it endures.

What type of cases can we expect?
DEAN GEORGARIS:
Yeah. I mean, the pilot cases were sort of loosely inspired by the Monsanto case. We’ll be taking on I don’t want to say were ripped from the headlines, because I think it’s almost a little has a connotation to it, but issues like free speech, issues like privacy, these are things that we’re all talking about right now. Frankly, it’s a really interesting time because these definitions are changing. Every week we’ll be taking those on and, by the way, sometimes from a more comedic perspective. If it’s all drama, I think it doesn’t feel real. If you don’t laugh every now and then, it’s not representative of life.
MICHAEL AGUILAR: Yeah. And some of the cases are also very human stories and very local Memphis stories as well, and they dip into the culture of Memphis, which is incredibly rich.

Why did they cast Jimmy Smits?
DAVID JANOLLARI:
And I will say, on the page, the character of Elijah was incredibly nuanced and incredibly complex, and we knew that we needed to have someone with amazing gravitas and kind of command of leading this show in the role. We were thrilled when Jimmy read the script and was as excited about it as we were.

Was it easy for Smits to step back into the courtroom again since he played a lawyer on L.A. Law from 1986-1992?
JIMMY SMITS:
No. There was a lot of brushing up. That was 20 something years ago. But you try to take the best from the experiences that you had and know that this particular guy that I’m doing now is a lot different and doesn’t have the kind of bounce in the same way, and, luckily, we were able, besides having a really great pilot script that is a wonderful jump off point for all these characters and this relationship, we had some really great technical people that were able to work with us that are attorneys there, and a particular duo that have the same type of father and daughter relationship. So that was really helpful as well.

How the producers got father and daughter lawyers to work as consultants on the show.
MICHAEL AGUILAR:
Yeah. It’s actually a funny story. We were looking at an office space that an attorney has and started to chat with him. He had no interest in us shooting in his offices, as, of course, he shouldn’t. He’s got legal files everywhere. And we started to chat with him and he said, “So what’s your show about?” And I said, “Well, it’s a father daughter story.” And he said, “Well, you know, my daughter just started working here.” And I sort of paused and said, “Well, that’s probably a little complicated.” He said, “It’s very complicated.” And at that point we just couldn’t stop talking and it was hours. He’s joined us on our show. I mean, he sort of is, in a lot of ways, the Elijah Strait of Memphis. He’s an incredible attorney, a really generous person, and he’s been working with all of our cast, but particularly Jimmy and Caitlin. And his daughter has as well, and she’s brilliant and they have a similar dynamic. So it’s been an incredibly special relationship.

Why did they base the show in Memphis?
MICHAEL AGUILAR:
We’re huge fans of “The Firm.” I don’t know that it was necessarily in our thought process, but I do love that movie. I think the great thing about Memphis is that it’s a big city that gives us a lot of opportunity but has a small- town feel, so you really believe that someone like Elijah Strait could be the pinnacle of justice and a real war hero and could have this firm that could make a real change, make a real difference and change the city.

Are they shooting the series in Memphis?
MICHAEL AGUILAR:
We are shooting in Memphis entirely. And there aren’t a lot of soundstages, so it’s actually kind of an advantage. We get to shoot on location, which gives it even more authenticity. We’ve converted a couple of buildings into some of our sets, and we’re continuing to do that. We’re growing the infrastructure, which we’re excited about. I mean, we’ve all fallen in love with Memphis, and it’s not an understatement. I mean, I can’t sort of the history of the place is sort of in the soil, and the people there are so generous and have really welcomed us. So we want to build a film community there. They have some infrastructure, and they’ve certainly are really trying to help us build it. We’ve brought some people in to help train and try to hire as many locals as we can.

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