This morning, CBS President of Entertainment Glenn Geller was taken to task by the TCA press corps over CBS’ failure to move the diversity needle when it came to series leads on their new fall schedule. However, Geller made a point to give a shout-out to the casting of transgender woman Laverne Cox in the upcoming legal drama Doubt as “historic” for the network.
On the show, Cox plays Cameron Wirth, an Ivy League-educated attorney. CBS originally piloted Doubt last season with different leads (KaDee Strickland and Teddy Sears respectively as criminal attorney Sadie and her client Billy). Cox was in that version and segued to the latest one.
At this afternoon’s panel for Doubt, Cox exclaimed about the breakthrough, “I’m grateful to have a job as an actor, I was standing in housing court in New York City with an eviction notice from my apartment, and I’m happy to have a job. What’s exciting about (the character) Cameron and being on CBS is that I’m an avid TV watcher. A lot of people in my community watch TV and there weren’t people like me when I was growing up.”
Doubt is from former Grey’s Anatomy husband and wife executive producing team Tony Phelan and Joan Rater. The project, produced by CBS TV Studios and Timberman/Beverly Prods, centers on Sadie Ellis (Katherine Heigl), a smart, chic, successful defense lawyer at a boutique firm who shockingly gets romantically involved with one of her clients, Billy (Steven Pasquale), who may or may not be guilty of a brutal crime.
“We wanted to tell a story about the criminal defense attorneys who stand next to you,” Phelan said, “There’s a movement, a new idealism that doesn’t serve the most vulnerable in our society.”
“We wanted to tell a story about attorneys who believe in their clients’ innocence,” Rater said. In regards to Heigl’s protagonist exercising full conflict of interest, the actress said, “we’re trying to make it relate-able and human.”
The EPs mentioned that there will be a case or two a week, but like Grey’s Anatomy, other characters will get their own arcs. One of the takeaways of that ABC show was that viewers always had their favorite characters, and Phelan and Rater are looking to duplicate that tone.