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Gina Torres on Suits, Towering Over Her Male Co-stars, and Playing Badass Women

Gina Torres.

Mention Gina Torres in a room of sci-fi and fantasy geeks, and they will swoon en masse. Beloved for her roles in Firefly, Alias, Hercules: The Legendary Journey, and the Matrix trilogy, to name just a few, the statuesque actress is currently presiding over her own law firm on USA’s twisty legal drama Suits. In a sense, Jessica Pearson is the biggest badass Torres has ever portrayed; not only is she the chess master behind the firm’s every move, but she exclusively wears sky-high heels — allowing the five-foot-ten actress the unprecedented opportunity to tower over every man onscreen. As Suits approaches its mid-season finale, Jessica has called a truce with her back-stabbing protégé Harvey (Gabriel Macht), and masterminded a brilliant ouster of Pearson Darby’s majority partner, Edward Darby (Conleth Hill). Vulture spoke to Torres about Jessica Pearson’s next move, as well as the unjust cancellation of her previous show (ABC Family’s Huge) and the ongoing fan campaign to cast Gina as Wonder Woman.

In interviews teasing the finale, you’ve said that we’ll get to see a little bit more of why Jessica is in the corner office. We just saw her pull the rug out from under Darby in a pretty spectacular fashion. Can you give us any hints about what is coming up for her?
Just more fabulousness. [Laughs.] More well-heeled, well-thought-out, chess-playing fabulousness. As far as Jessica goes, every season seems to have a fire that’s burning closer to the house that we have to deal with. And how do we survive it, get past it, build on it, and move forward? So, with this whole Darby situation, with people being murdered, with the reputation of the firm being at stake – I think what we’ve seen is a coming together, despite some very difficult obstacles and some shifted loyalties that really knocked her for a loop. She was not expecting her protégé [Harvey], who she’s worked so closely with for so many years, to come at her in the way that he did.

Where do you think, as of this point in the season, Jessica and Harvey’s relationship stands? How solid a foundation are they standing on?
You know, there’s enough groundwork and enough of a base in their relationship that they’ll get past it. But it’s gonna take time. And I think they have to rebuild it in a very different way. I think the structure of their relationship will change. But the foundation is there.

Do you think that Jessica has an Achilles’ heel?
It’s the firm. That’s her life’s work: helping to build that firm, creating that firm, keeping it on its feet. So what will she do to protect it and keep it and everybody in it afloat? It’s not just about her name on the door. That’s her family. She’s building something, and she wants it to stand for something, and she’s not just driven by money and power. She cares about her reputation. She cares about the reputation, and being respected in that world is very important [to her].

Obviously you play strong women more often than not. Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad recently penned an editorial about how some viewers hate her character because she’s a strong woman who stands up to the show’s protagonist. Have you ever experienced that kind of backlash?
I’ve never had any backlash whatsoever. And pretty much, that’s my bread and butter. I’ve played precious few women that aren’t badass and strong and capable, and I’ve always gotten incredibly positive feedback across the board, from men and women alike. Men, women, children, grandmothers — yeah.

One of our Vulture readers noted that they love how Suits doesn’t hide your height: You’re always wearing high heels and beautiful column dresses. Have you had the experience of shows or movies trying to downsize you?
I often end up doing most of my scenes barefoot in other shows that I’ve been in. Which, on one hand, I really miss, because being in those heels all day [laughs] is not fun. But it is wonderful. It’s wonderful when you see those shots of me clicking it down the hallway from head to toe, and it’s all me. Gabriel doesn’t care for it, at all. Gabriel is used to being the tallest guy on the set, so it reeeally messes with him, which I love. A part of that, too, is that there’s nobody above Jessica, really. She is running it; she doesn’t have to apologize for her height or anything else. So often when I do come onto another show — sorry, guys — the leading men are shorter, and it’s all about maintaining the illusion that there’s a big guy on our campus. And a lot of [the actors] aren’t mature enough to not have that be so. [Big laugh.] And quite frankly, the networks aren’t particularly thrilled about having their big guys on campus look smaller than they need them to be. But that’s changing, I think. There are a lot of power women that are working today.

I love that you’re the most powerful person on the show, in every sense.
And the smartest.

I have to ask you one non-Suits question: What happened to Huge? Because I loved it.
I loved it, too. I thought that show was so important and so groundbreaking. I loved the characters; I loved my character. We’d never seen anything like that on television. It deserved to have a life, and a long one, and it didn’t happen. And I mourn it … it was heartbreaking to be a part of Huge and having that show be a first for so many people involved. For all of those kids who got a onetime shot to be on the front line of something, as opposed to comic relief. And to have it sort of dissipate in the way that it did, and to see the looks on their faces. I mean, seeing them day in and day out, and their hopes for it — it’s just heartbreaking.

There’s still a very active fan campaign for you to play Wonder Woman in a live-action movie. Thoughts?
You know, she is a superhero that has been a part of my life since I can remember, and it is incredibly gratifying and heartwarming and wonderful that this campaign continues to have a life — even though it might be maybe three or four people that are keeping it alive. [Big laugh.] I love them! I don’t know how realistic it is. Of course I would love to do that. Who wouldn’t in their right mind? And why not? Well, there are all kinds of reasons why not. But yes, it is a fantasy. And it’s a hoot. It’s a hoot that every now and then, all these years go by, and people are still thinking that I could do that; I could make that wonderful and they will come and see it. I can’t even tell you how that feels.

Gina Torres on Suits and Her Badass Characters