Mark-Paul Gosselaar, star of the new TNT legal drama Franklin & Bash, has been puzzling over this one for a while: Many people hold lawyers in contempt, yet courtroom dramas are enduringly popular. "Go figure," he says. Maybe there's a perception that attorneys are mercenaries, Gosselaar says, willing to argue whichever side of a dispute that's paying, willing to "game" the system if it's to their clients' benefit. Meanwhile, if a clever TV lawyer pulls a fast one, it's just a fun plot-twist moment. Jared Franklin (played by Breckin Meyer) and Peter Bash (Gosselaar) are maverick attorneys who play fast and loose with the law. "These guys see the legal system as their personal playground," Gosselaar says. "They love nothing better than finding the loopholes to win their cases. They are not righteous people." But somehow it's OK, because they're on television. Plus, if only by accident, their cause is usually just. Will a jury of viewers embrace Franklin & Bash? The show premieres at 8 p.m. CT Wednesday, June 1, so expect a verdict soon.
Although Franklin and Bash possess brilliant legal minds, they're also like mid-30s frat boys. They drink beer, play video games and chase women. Are these fun characters for you?
Meyer: "So much fun. They're a couple of Peter Pans. But they're good at what they do. They complement each other, a one-two legal punch: Jared is unorthodox with his legal strategies and might get thrown in jail from time to time, but it will have a purpose. Peter knows how to play a jury. He knows how to lead them down any path he wants them to go. I think people will enjoy watching how they circumvent the system."
Gosselaar: "I did another legal drama for TNT called Raising the Bar. It didn't have the comedy element that this has. My character, Jerry, was very tortured about fighting for justice and he was a very polarizing character. People have told me they couldn't stand Jerry. My character now will be much easier to take."
Meyer: "But Frank and Beans, as I call them, are still fighting for the little man. They take cases that are a little off the beaten path. They take clients who can't get the high-falutin' law firms. And now that the guys are part of a big law firm, there will be some inner conflict: 'How do they stay true to themselves?'"
Do you think, as actors, that you have some of the showmanship it takes to be trial lawyers?
Meyer: "Maybe, but Im not nearly good enough at the fancy book learnin'."
Gosselaar: "When I did Raising the Bar, I interned for a week in the Bronx public defender's office. Watching these attorneys give closing arguments was like watching great theater. They've seen Law & Order and Boston Legal and they know that juries expect that kind of performance. So I think, when it comes to trial lawyers, life is imitating art and art is imitating life."
There are A Clockwork Orange and Blue Thunder movie posters in Jared and Peter's home. So why don't they recognize Malcolm McDowell when they meet his character (Stanton Infeld) in the pilot?
Meyer: "I figure they probably thought, 'Gosh, that guy looks a lot like nah, it couldn't be him.'"
Gosselaar: "That's a funny little inside joke with the posters, isn't it? There was an episode where we were doing karaoke and we were all singing and we had talked about Malcolm doing 'Singin' in the Rain,' like in A Clockwork Orange, but there was a timing issue, so it never came to be. But it would have been great."
Meyer: "Malc's a legend. He's fantastic. We didn't know what to expect when he showed up. If anybody's going to be a diva, he's earned the right. But he's not. He's just awesome, everything you want in an actor."
Gosselaar: "He's the elder statesman, but he doesn't carry himself that way. He's just one of the guys."
Jared and Peter often pass the time musing about sleeping with such celebrities as Marisa Tomei, Scarlett Johansson and Zoe Saldana. Are you friends with any of these actresses?
Gosselaar: "No, so I'm safe. But it does get problematic at times. For one episode, I can't remember who it was we were talking about, but it came off as a bit creepy because it was like an 18-year-old actress. We said, 'You know what? We're 37-year-old men. Let's pick somebody a little bit older.' I mean, sure, we're inappropriate, but we don't want to get too offensive."
Meyer: "Actually, I do know Scarlett. And it turns up later in the series that she's Jareds favorite girl of them all. I haven't had a chance to tell her. But I think she'll be flattered. I'm sure she won't be offended."
What do you think of your costar?
Gosselaar: "Oh, he's all right."
Meyer: "I don't trust guys with hyphenated names."