In addition to our interview yesterday with Drop Dead Diva creator and Stanford-trained lawyer Josh Berman, we took a few minutes to chat with actor Josh Stamberg who plays managing partner “Parker,” one half of the fictitious law firm Harrison Parker—AKA the firm in which the show’s set. Remember: Drop Dead Diva premieres its second season on Sunday, June 6th at 9/8c on Lifetime.
In Drop Dead Diva you play “Parker,” the managing name partner. What’s he all about?
Money. Women. Power. Really nice suits and ties. And more women. He has a real soft spot for amazing cufflinks and fashionable socks. You don’t really get to see all the details on camera, but wearing them shows me how metrosexual “Jay Parker” really is.
Here’s Josh describing “Parker.” (Interview continued below video.)
Is this the first lawyer you’ve ever played?
It’s not. Not at all. I’ve played a bunch of lawyers. My grandfather was a lawyer, and my dad went to Harvard Law, even though he never practiced. It’s somewhat fated or karmic-ly loaded that I’d play lots of lawyers in my career. This character is the lawyer that I’ve played the longest, and it’s fun how his mind works. He’s sarcastic, and I like the way he plays the bottom line. No other lawyer I’ve ever played has been quite as dynamic as this guy.
I talked to Josh Berman [the creator and executive producer of Drop Dead Diva] the other day, and he described your character as a peacock.[Laughing] That’s interesting. I can’t help but wonder if he developed the peacock or did I?
Would you agree with his description?
I like to see him [“Parker”] as a big cat more than a peacock, but I understand the reference. He’s concerned with looks and appearances, and he’s careful about the cases he brings in. So image is very important to him and the firm that he runs.
I assume that since this isn’t really a technical show, you probably didn’t go out to DA’s offices and law firms to study up?
Not so much.
So where do your instincts come from to play this particular law firm partner? Is he just a character you created, or is he based on someone?
Like I said, I have a bunch of lawyers in my life who are peers. And it’s great having [Josh] Berman. It sounds like he came up with a lot of the stories [in the show] back in law school. My character comes from a bunch of different people and ideas.
And what’s shakin’ at the law firm this season?
For “Jay Parker,” confirmed ladies man, it’s interesting. He tried in season one to keep it all on the down low, but he’s maybe met a match for himself now. And he’s learning how to cope and apply his bachelor mentality to that woman. It’s been an interesting and surprising challenge for him to be a committed fellow.
You co-star with comedian Margaret Cho who plays lead character “Jane“‘s legal assistant, and that just strikes me as odd. In a good way. I mean, I’ve met a lot legal assistants, and though some may be spitfires, few are actually as over the top as Cho is in real life. And her real-life personality is something I expect to see in her character—even though she plays it well and acts like a great professional. How is it for you? Is it surprising?
Let me make sure I understand what you’re asking: It is surprising to me that Margaret Cho is playing a legal assistant?
Yes. Thank you for summing that up really well.
Is it surprising? My answer to that is I don’t know. I love the fact that a personality like Margaret’s and a person as hilarious as her is playing a potentially boring role. I love the confidant she’s become to Jane. She’s like a type of bodyguard, but it’s so much more. I love it. But it’s usually the contradictions that are most fascinating to me.
She brings a lot to the table with her career and her fans, which are maybe a different audience than the show’s, and that’s cool. She’s so even and mellow [in real life]. We go and watch her do her standup around Atlanta [where the show’s filmed], and she’s so blue and hilarious. And then she’s on set, and she’s amazing and true.
In a way, do you consider “Parker” to be a Bitter Lawyer?
Well, what’s your definition of a Bitter Lawyer?
You know . . . how the label of a “Bitter Lawyer” is more about not being so completely earnest and having a sense of humor about the frustrations of lawyering rather than being unbearably miserable to the point of suicidal.[Laughing] I get ya. And I’d say in season 1 he was slightly, but in season 2, absolutely not. It’s fun to watch a guy go through gradations of his personal life and career. We see him this summer come out of a hard shell in a fantastic way. For him now, it’s about more than having a crapload of money and the best law firm in Los Angeles. He’s finally asking, “How am I liking the people I work with and who am I?”
If you don’t mind, we’re going to end this interview with five quick, random questions to see what you have up your sleeve. Cool?
Um, okay. Fire away.
1. Which of the following is not a top-100 law firm?
a. Baker Botts
b. Fried Frank
d. Dewey, Cheatum & Howe
I gottta go with the last one, but you know what? The fact that there’s a law firm that calls itself “MoFo” makes me want to go to law school. That’s brilliant.
2. What’s the best legal television show from yesteryear?
a. Perry Mason
b. L.A. Law
c. The newly canceled Law & Order
Oh, God. What a toss up. Gotta say, having done it three times, Law & Order. But Perry Mason, wow, I remember as a kid. So serious and important. Then I remember L.A. Law and was like, “Wow, you can do that on TV?” But for the sake of employment, I’d say Law & Order. As a New York actor, thank God there was a show like Law & Order. In fact, I was just a guest star in an episode of Criminal Intent that aired last Tuesday.
What was the name of the episode, do you know?
Uhh, I think it’s “Love on Ice.”
They always have such lame Broadway titles.
Yeah, but then you work with Jeff Goldblum, and he makes everything cool.
3. In Drop Dead Diva, you play “Parker” who’s one half of the law firm Harrison Parker. If you could cast anyone to play “Harrison,” who would it be—because we’ve never seen anyone cast as “Harrison” yet, have we?
That’s about to change.
Oh, there goes my question. Who’s it going to be?
I can’t tell you who it is, but I am over the moon with who it is and why it is that person. It’s going to be a fairly tremendous episode and reveal. I know there was a lot of back and forth on this one—and they ended up with someone so spot on.
Would you have said this person if I’d asked before you ever knew?
It was surprising to me. You’ll find out toward the end of the season.
4. Kill/Fuck/Marry time. Let’s play:
a. Elena Kagan
b. Gloria Allred
c. Nancy Grace
Who are you throwing at me again?
And I have to kill one, fuck one and marry one?
That’s how it works.
Well, Nancy Grace has to be kill. And I guess you gotta marry Elena Kagan, right? So that leaves me fucking that barracuda Allred—who I don’t really know much about, but she’d be perfect for “Parker,” I suppose. I mean, of those, which one would you fuck?
I think you gotta say Allred.
Why can’t you work in Brooklyn Decker or something?
Believe me, if there was a germane way to work Brooklyn Decker into the mix, I would have.
Then I’ll stick with Allred.
5. Finally, as you know, modern law uses a lot of ancient Latin legal phrases. What does “res ipsa loquitur” mean?
Oh, God. I used to know this from last year. Man, and I don’t have enough time to Google it.
That would be cheating.
Okay, I’m just going to say it means: “May the force be with you.”
And with that, the thing speaks for itself.
Read our interview with Drop Dead Diva creator and Stanford Law grad Josh Berman here.