It’s on! Former Suits co-star Gina Torres has closed a deal with the studio behind the hit USA legal drama series, Universal Cable Prods., to headline and produce a potential spinoff series centered on her Suits character, uber attorney and office style icon Jessica Pearson. The project will be shepherded by Suits creator/showrunner Aaron Korsh, whose deal is still being worked out. The new series, which is in very early stages of development, is based on an idea Torres brought to UCP, which is ran by Jeff Wachtel. There has been a lot of enthusiasm for the project, with Torres’ deal closing quickly as UCP stepped up while Torres was fielding offers for broadcast pilots.
“I’m beyond grateful for this opportunity and the level of confidence Bonnie Hammer, Jeff Wachtel and everyone at UCP have in me and the potential of this project,” Torres said in a statement to Deadline. “Can’t wait to get started.”
Korsh will serve as an executive producer and showrunner on the spinoff series, shepherding it alongside his showrunner duties on Suits.
“Gina had the idea and went to the studio. She pitched an idea of what happens if we follow Jessica into the future a little bit,” Korsh told Deadline. “She has a specific take on it that we’re still mulling over right now. They were excited about it, I was excited about it, and we decided to move forward with thinking about what it is.”
SPOILER ALERT: Portions of this story include a detail about the Season 6 finale of Suits.
Torres’ deal comes as Jessica Pearson made a surprise return to Suits in the final minutes of tonight’s Season 6 finale. This was Torres’ first time back on the show since exiting as a series regular in the Season 6 summer finale in September. You can read all about it and the rest of tonight episode’s twists in my finale postmortem Q&A with Korsh.
Korsh and Torres had stayed in touch since she left the show, going out to lunch and dinner now and then. The new project coming together was serendipitous — as Torres was pitching a Jessica Pearson series to the studio, Korsh was thinking about the character.
“I think we were editing either Episode 15 or 16, and sometimes I want to go back and look at an old episode to look at a piece of music,” he said. “We were doing that and whatever the scene was, we pulled it up. It was a shot of Jessica from last year, and I was just like, ‘Man I miss Jessica so much.'”
Korsh quickly came on board the potential spinoff, which he would be writing by himself or with another writer. It is unclear yet whether the potential offshoot would be worked into the story of the upcoming seventh season of Suits or it will be developed completely on its own .
“Jessica Pearson is an iconic character in my mind and hopefully in the public’s mind,” he said. “Gina Torres is a consummate professional both as an actress and brilliant human being, and I think she’s emerging as s a force as a producer. So when we talked about it, we got very excited about it — both from a creative possibility standpoint and just working with Gina. She’s just such a pleasure to work with, so though it is in its early stages, I’m very excited because I love Gina and I love Jessica.”
Korsh originally wanted to kill off Jessica Pearson in the Season 6 summer finale, giving the character a dramatic ending, but changed the storyline upon objections from the network. Instead, after taking up a pro-bono case, Jessica ended up deciding to go to Chicago to be with her love, Jeff (D.B. Woodside).
“At the time there was no thought in my head of planting any sort of spinoff,” Korsh said. “The Chicago thing sort of just emanated. When she originally wanted to become a lawyer, this wasn’t the lawyer necessarily that she wanted to be, and the pro-bono case reawakens this fire in her. Then we thought, let’s bring Jeff back. He’s going to move to Chicago and inspire her to go there and ride off into the sunset.”
When Jessica reappeared in tonight’s Season 6 finale to help Mike clinch a crucial vote and finally become a lawyer, she was still living in Chicago though there was no mention of Jeff. (Woodside is a series regular on Fox’s Lucifer, which has been renewed for next season.)
Will Jessica stay in Chicago for her own series? “Once you start really digging in creatively on something, you never know where it’s going to lead. So since we haven’t dug in really creatively yet, it could lead anywhere, but if I were a betting man, I would probably say it will still be Chicago,” Korsh said.
Torres left the mothership series, which films in Toronto, in large part because it was getting difficult for her to be away for so long from her family, who are based in Los Angeles. While she had been working primarily in Los Angeles since, she was said to be willing to film elsewhere for the right project.
As for Jessica possibly popping up on season 7 of Suits, “I would never count her out is what I would say,” Korsh said. “We don’t have specific plans but she’s obviously always a near and dear character of the show and if opportunities arise, we would of course love to bring her back.”