By popular demand, Simone Missick‘s court drama All Rise has been resurrected from cancelation and given a new home on Oprah Winfrey’s Network.
Originally cut from CBS’s primetime lineup in May 2021, the show was picked up for a third season at OWN, with most of the original cast returning to continue its story right from where fans left off. It’s a rare, very quick positive fate for a show so unceremoniously chopped in the midst of behind-the-scenes controversy, a fortune which isn’t lost on Missick, who now serves as both lead actress and co-Executive Producer.
“It is such a blessing,” Missick said of the show’s swift rescue. “I’ve seen those petitions on Twitter with people saying ‘save our show’ and it doesn’t always happen,” she observed.
“Television is like a microwave. So many shows come and go, so to have something people would like to see back is truly a blessing.”
For the uninitiated, Missick portrays Judge Lola Carmichael, a District Court Judge focused on providing the best possible shot at justice to everyone that enters through her courtroom doors. In the first two seasons of the show, fans got an opportunity to watch Judge Lola stand up for what’s right and overcome the obstacles placed in her way by her race and gender.
But with a fresh start on a new network in season three, Missick saw an opportunity to give Lola’s seemingly charmed life a few more complicated layers.
“My desire for this third season was definitely for Lola to be a little messier,” Missick said. “She’s so admirable in her judicial rulings and professionally – I mean, this woman has become a judge at such a young age and she cares about the person in front of her. There are so few things I find fault with Lola professionally. So in her personal life, I wanted to see her have some ups and downs.”
With a new baby and a former FBI operative husband turned stay-at-home dad (not to mention a new actor, Christian Keyes, stepping into the role of Robin Carmichael in season 3), there’s a lot of new developments on Lola’s plate. This is only complicated by the presence of a blast from the past that returns to her life as well. Needless to say, the messiness Missick was looking for is definitely present in season 3.
“I don’t know if the fans are going to love Lola when this is done. I’m personally worried.” she laughed. “But at least they’ll take the ride. And it’s going to be a ride!”
With Lola, like any other of her previous characters, Missick was searching for the challenge in bringing her story to life.
“Sometimes the challenge is physical. Luke Cage was a very physical role, Altered Carbon was a very physical role,” she observes. “The challenge with Lola, I felt like she speaks to who I am as a person in terms of the humor and the seriousness about herself professionally. But then, I get to play all these different colors that I had never been asked to play in a character.”
“I think so often in our industry, people get typecast,” she continued. That typecasting, for Black actresses in particular, often finds them relegated to supporting roles with little dimension – something Missick is always eager to avoid.
“My desire is that I’m not an addendum to someone else’s story,” she said, noting that she had fielded a few such offers in between All Rise‘s cancellation and salvation. “It’s hard to step away from being the center of a narrative to then be asked to just support this real strong man over here.”
“In the past you have seen Black women be the lead in projects, and then they’re off being someone’s mama, third character from the left.”
But Missick, like so many of her peers, holds fast to the ideal of holding space as a leading woman in Hollywood as a Black actress; taking on challenging, meaty, layered roles and projects that honor her skill.
“It’s just more exciting to watch people live a full life,” she said.
“The women whose careers I admire – Regina King, who is a friend, and Viola Davis, and Kerry Washington – I’ve been blown away by where their careers have taken them,” she said. “I think it’s so exciting to watch them continue to try to lead projects in ways that you wouldn’t question for a man to do, you wouldn’t question for a white woman to do.”
The fact that Missick and her Black female Hollywoood peers can tackle projects in this manner, and even work behind the scenes in production and directing, is a benefit that wasn’t even possible just a few short years ago.
“This is such an exciting time to be a Black storyteller and I am thankful to be a part of that conversation,” Missick said. “And now EPing, I can actually hire more Black women and Black people.”
Wearing both Executive Producer and actress hats for her show’s grand return, Missick makes it a point to wield her influence in a manner that pulls her people forward and opens opportunities that weren’t always available.
“I was always trying to put those hats on before this season, but now I’m getting paid for it, and people are listening to me,” she laughed. “I have worked with some amazing creatives, led by Dee Harris-Lawence, our showrunner. They have always been welcoming of my perspective, and it hasn’t changed now that I’m an EP.
“It’s a ton more e-mails and a lot more things to do, but it certainly makes going to work every day that much more exciting; to look across and see an actor that you singlehandedly fought for to get the job now being on set and doing what you knew that they could do.”
And that boost is sometimes all a Black creative needs to soar.
“I can tell you how hard it is to hire a Black female director on our show [now] because they’re all working,” she said. “The Black women we worked with in seasons 1 and 2 are off doing their own shows, and EP-ing their own shows!”
All Rise airs Tuesdays at 8 PM on OWN.