Like many of us, Simone Missick’s life was upended by the coronavirus. Back in March, Missick was wrapping up the first season of the CBS legal drama, All Rise, when the world — and the show’s production — shut down.
“We shut down [production] on a Friday, by Sunday, my mother-in-law had come down with Covid,” she tells ESSENCE. “Four days later, she was on a ventilator.”
Thankfully, Missick‘s mother-in-law eventually recovered, but the ordeal not only brought her family closer together, it also strengthened her faith. “By God’s grace, she’s health and off it, but during that time — in addition to fasting until she left the hospital — we as a family started a prayer call every day,” she says.
The family prayer circle has continued, with an extra added component: Weekly game nights over Zoom.
“On Fridays we play Black Card Revoked,” she says. “Honestly, that has been the gift of this time. There are so many people who have lost so much — work, and family, and health, and stability — it’s not lost on me of what a blessing it is that my mother-in-law didn’t suffer the worst like so many people around the world, and that I do have the ability to work.”
Missick’s work, starring as Judge Lola Carmichael on All Rise, was also impacted by Covid. The show, which returned for its sophomore season last month, not only implemented new safety protocols for the cast and crew on and off camera — which includes wearing masks and face shields and controlling the cameras remotely during filming — the events of the past year have also found their way into the show’s storyline.
“They certainly had to shift the original story that they planned for the second season, but in a really good way, in order to address what is happening,” Missick says. “So many of the fears, concerns, and issues that I was dealing with in my home during the protests, that I felt — in terms of wanting to be out there but recognizing I have immunocompromised people around me and feeling like — I would have to find a different way to protest.”
On the season opener of the show, Lola finds herself in the middle of a protest and is detained by police for protecting a young protestor. As a judge, this puts Lola in a precarious situation because she wants to stand up for what’s right, but has to “find a different way to protest because she’s a judge and she can’t be perceived as biased,” says Missick.
The tightrope Lola is forced to walk — as a Black woman and judge — is one of the things Missick is excited to explore this season.
“I love that the feelings, thoughts, and emotions that a lot of us were going through are now explored through our characters. And I certainly have these conversations with our writers often,” she says.
Missak is also looking forward to exploring how her character’s pregnancy will impact her this season.
“What we’ve seen since the first episode is this awakening, not only with Lola but with every character,” she says. “No woman is unchanged after she becomes a mother, it makes everything that much realer — it’s why Lola jumped in front of the gun to protect that young Black child. I think that will affect the way that she does her job, as well as the events of this past year with the protests.”
“The concepts that Lola had coming into the job was that she was going to be able to change it from within and every case exposes the truth of how difficult that is for her,” Missick continues. “So I think exploring motherhood will definitely affect how she approaches her job, and also I think it’s important to show women who juggle both — who have to be present and be mothers and also be career-oriented.”
According to Missick, it’ll be interesting to see how Lola’s pregnancy affects her personal and professional relationships, too.
“A lot of what we explored during the first season between Lola and her mother was this disconnect between these two very strong women, because her mother was career-oriented and always away fighting the good fight and Lola suffered because of that, and their relationship suffered,” says Missick. “So we’ll get to see Lola dealing with what it really looks like to try to parent a child and be better than you think your parents were, and how easy or difficult it is, or if there is some common ground these two women find.”
“I just think it’s rich, fertile ground to explore this season,” she adds.
And we agree.