By Sandra Varner
J. August Richards, a University of Southern California (USC) alum, sounded energetic and upbeat, speaking form his Los Angeles home, as he effusively shared his view about the hit television court room drama, “Raising the Bar,” on cable’s hottest network, Turner Network Television (TNT).
The series follows the lives and cases of young lawyers who work on opposite sides – the public defender’s office and the district attorney’s office – as well as those who sit in judgment on their cases. Season 2 begins Monday, June 8. Check local listings for times.
Richards seamlessly inhabits the character, Marcus McGrath, a talented and brilliant, prosecutor with a strong sense of morality and responsibility. Not one to expect or rely on special treatment, he goes out of his way to prove that a kid from a difficult background can grow up to achieve success despite the obstacles. He also expects nothing less from the people he prosecutes, refusing to be lenient simply because they might be enduring difficult situations.
The character he portrays mirrors Richards’ strong identity and sensibilities away from the camera.
Having no experience as a lawyer, he holds a deep and abiding respect for the law, cultivated during his college years. “When I was in college, I took an elective course, Law 101, with Professor Charles Whitebread, a very prominent lawyer,” he said.
“There were about 200 people in the class, but it was literally as if it were he and I. He really excited me about the concept of law and what the law was; the logic and reason that goes into making laws, defending laws or changing laws. At the end of the course he said to me, ‘Richards, when you’re done with that acting crap, give me a call.’
“He felt that I had the mind of a lawyer and that I should be a lawyer in real life; of course, I couldn’t tell him that that was never going to happen, but, the law and what goes behind it is something that I feel I really understand. I feel I could defend myself (if the need arises) and I hope I never have to.”
Fortunately, Richards has only had to deal with criminal activity on TV. “Ironically, I’ve never had any sort of interaction with the legal system personally, but I have with friends and family. I understand the thought process behind the legal system but I do think that there are flaws and I do think there are certain aspects of the legal system that unfairly target certain people. That’s one of the aspects that this show explores.”
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