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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Interviews - Actors > Feature Interviews A to E > Jordan Bridges

JORDAN BRIDGES

DISCOVERS CONVICTION

 By Brad Balfour

Copyright 2006 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 12, 2006.

In NBC's Conviction, the excellent new legal drama from Emmy award-winning producer Dick Wolf, Jordan Bridges shines as an inexperienced New York assistant district attorney among a strong ensemble cast. 

When Law & Order creator Dick Wolf's new TV series, Conviction, debuted this season it set in motion a story that expanded Wolf's examination of the modern justice system. In the spotlight is Assistant District Attorney Nick Potter (Jordan Bridges), a young DA struggling with his tough job. 

Though Bridges is a relative newcomer to such a high-profile role, he has acting in his blood. Jordan's father is actor Beau Bridges and his grandfather is the late film star, Lloyd Bridges. 

Bridges' first starring role, at age 12, was opposite his father and grandfather in a Disney television special, The Thanksgiving Promise. After an NYC waiter stint Bridges became serious about acting, moved back to Hollywood and was cast in teen films such as Drive Me Crazy. Thanks to Conviction, he's now back in New York. 

So how it does feel now that you're back here in New York? 

I've been a New Yorker for about three years solidly. But I've had an ongoing relationship with the city for about 10 years. 

Now you're living in New York and have a TV show that is New York based, do you feel you have an advantage over actors that have never lived here?

It's huge. When I did a Criminal Intent as a guest star, is when first felt that I was really a New York actor. I think it's because when you go to any show on Broadway or off-Broadway and you're bound to see somebody who's been in Law and Order at some point. I love working in the city, and I think that Dick Wolf has done an incredible thing for actors in this town. It's really amazing to be able to work here. I have aspirations to do more stage work and I believe this gives me some of the leverage and ability to do that.

Was it critical to be prepped by prosecutors?

I was really lucky. A lot of things fell into place with this project. I had a good two weeks before we started production, so my first step was to call up my buddy, Sam, who is in law school. I wanted to immerse myself in as much as possible because I'm ignorant when it comes to law. I audited one of his classes and that was really interesting. It was great because it was a class on ethics.

And Potter... well pretty much every episode I have some major moral or ethical dilemma. It was a nice launching pad. One of Sam's oldest friends, Jeremy Salon, who has been a prosecutor in the Manhattan DA's office, for approximately six years, gave me a tour of the bureau. I got to see pretty much every aspect of the process, from the E-Cap unit which is where take you in and to where you file the complaint. I got to watch a trial in process, and peeked in on the grand jury room. In all I'd say I spent about, six or seven hours there soaking it all in. It was great, it was amazing, and it gave me a huge respect for what they do.

One of the stories I like to tell about this experience... I was watching arraignments. Usually when a more junior member of the bureau is doing arraignments, he'll be seconded by somebody who is more senior. A first year assistant will have a fourth or a fifth year with him just to guide him through the process.

There were two lawyers there; one of them was a somewhat heavyset guy, probably mid 40s, and balding. The other guy, a young guy, maybe 21 or 22 had rosy cheeked, blond hair and blue eyes. It turned out, he was the senior prosecutor. He was like the fifth year prosecutor and the older guy was in his first year.

It made me realize that we're not that far off with the show, in terms off all of these younger people having huge responsibility. There's been a little bit of criticism of that. But it is an accurate representation. At the end of this day this isn't on the Discovery Channel. You know, this isn't this isn't a documentary. It's entertainment. I think you can be accurate to a fault, and it would cease to be entertaining. It would be completely technical.

I just don't think that's very interesting for the viewers. I think the writer's take pains to consult on as much as possible. They consult with attorneys and former prosecutors. I draw on Jeremy, as much as possible. But at a certain point I made the decision not to not to have a battle over every inconsistency. We're not a telling a story about, all of the ins and outs of law. We're telling a story about prosecuting. The effect that prosecuting has on the prosecutors. The case loads these people have are incredible. One lawyer in any given week could be processing fifty to a hundred cases. That's not exaggerating.

Would you call this an ER for lawyers?

I think that's a pretty good assessment. I hesitate to describe one thing by using another. I would probably compare it to ER before I would compare it to another law show. It's got that kind of a pace but its really its own thing.

Well, I see at as an ER for lawyers in that it's an ensemble. You have five people that are basically on the same level with each different personality. Your character is a little more introspective than the Eric character. You've women and an urban character. So you have that balance that I think ER tried to strike.

Yeah, definitely. In the sense that it's an ensemble piece. I find that ER isn't so much about practicing medicine, it becomes about the weight that these people carry. In a similar way, these young prosecutors are making life and death decisions. They're changing people's lives in a very real and visceral way. That's a lot of pressure.

One thing that made ER successful was that it dealt with so many profound decisions that are life provoking and you watch the characters grow. People connected to ER because it has been about an ensemble of people interacting. The audience shares in that process.

And they're making mistakes. You don't have anyone who comes out unscathed. Even Cabot, played by Stephanie March, makes mistakes. She has the most experience of any of them but as a new leader she making some mistakes, and learning how to be a leader. I think we're all very human. And that, certainly for Potter, is one of the most interesting things to do is watch him find his steady ground and stand up for himself.

All of you assistant district attorneys have different levels of experience. So as actors you're coming in the same way.

I think what's interesting about the cast is that everybody has actually a fair amount of experience. Everybody has been out there for a while, and tested. But none of us have really broken out in a big way. That's what makes us a really interesting and balanced cast. Everyone brings a different set of experiences. But nobody, in terms of public perception, really overshadows anyone else. I guess the closest maybe in this universe is Stephanie because she was on SVU.

It's interesting how they put you guys in a similar dynamic interacting with each other as actors as you were interacting with each other as district attorneys. Was that intended?

They were very deliberate about the casting process. I don't know what was going on in their heads, but I know that it was a drawn out, deliberate process unlike any other casting process I've ever been involved with. Usually when you test for a network show, it actually isn't a film test. It's more akin to a job interview. You stand in front of a bunch of executives, and I won't say anything bad about them, but it's a contrived situation. You're performing for them, but you're reading with the casting director, who is sitting amongst them. So it's this very weird mixture of performance art and job interview. I've managed to book a few pilots and have always hated this process. Here we actually got to work with other actors. We shot it on film at the Chelsea studios stage and it was great. That was the actual screen test.

Dick Wolf has created a formula in all those other shows, and then played off that formula in various different permutations. Here he used a whole different kind of formula. How involved is he in this process?

He was. In the early stages, he was very involved. Very hands on, on every level, of getting it launched. He has a hand on producer. But I have to give props to Rick Eid and Walon Green, who actually wrote the pilot and the head writers on the show. In many ways, it's their show. Dick Wolf is he's the guardian angel. He's our muse, the captain of the ship. He comes in and gives words of inspiration when they're needed, and guides the show. Walon and Rick take care of the day-in and day-out work.

The producers try to make the scenarios realistic?

Well in terms of portraying what's it's like to be an ADA in Manhattan, I think it's very realistic. I don't know of another show that has gone as far in terms of showing the volume of cases that they are processing. You know most, especially in the Law and Order universe, you'll see them take one case from start to finish. These cases seem to open and shut within a week. You never get the sense that there are other cases. A case in reality is could last three or four months or maybe a year. I think that's one thing that our show does which is great. In that sense I think we do a really good job of showing the job of a prosecutor in Manhattan. You would need to D.A. as to whether or not we're using accurate language. I don't know about that. In terms representing what their life is like, I think it's very accurate.

In terms of the dynamics between the characters, how would you contrast your character from Eric (Balfour), and the other assistant District Attorneys?

I have the least experience. I'm coming in to this having been spoon-fed most of my life. I've never really been challenged. Because of that, I've never really tapped into my potential. I think Potter upbringing was different. He wasn't bathed in love and affection. He's not as outgoing as some of the other people.

The more introspective sort?

Yeah, he's definitely more introspective. He's not comfortable to opening up to people. But I am very confident. It presents an interesting contrast. I have a lot of confidence and I'm sure of myself yet, I have no idea what the hell I'm doing.

How have they been playing your character against some of the others?

Well basically, everyone takes a turn at one upping me. On some level its for no reason. In my enthusiasm to prove my worth I make mistakes. It makes it difficult for everybody. So inevitably, I wind up getting taken to task.

Who takes you to task the most? The women or Eric?

Well Balfour and I or really I should say Peluso and Potter they come from completely different worlds. So there's definitely a kind of a friction there, but with a mutual respect. Steele (Anson Mount) really doesn't have the time to train me, or deal with me. He'd just as soon fire me. Cabot has been really nice to Potter. Cabot I think sees some potential there and wants to kind of help him along. With Rossi (Milena Govich), it's interesting, there's a real chemistry. But Potter is so uncomfortable with revealing his emotions. Not to mention, she's got this thing going on with Steele that everyone kind of knows about but it's unspoken.

Also Desmond, and his relationship with Billy is really interesting, they are both well put together.

Billy's trying to be upwardly mobile?

You'd have to talk to Jay, but my understanding of Billy Desmond (J. August Richards) is that he's not coming up from the hood. This is a guy whose parents worked hard but he had a comfortable life growing up. They weren't rich but they weren't poor either. That's my sense of his background. But he went to a good school, probably Ivy League. They have that in common.

When you work on a show like this, how much do you guys all get together to develop the back stories and feel like you've established the relationships.

In terms of representing social interaction and getting into the private and personal lives of the characters, it's much more relaxed and loose than the Law and Orders. In that world, it's all about the case. It's all about the investigation.

It's more about the characters?

Yes and these are great characters. In our show, character is front and center.

You guys work together to nurture the character's relationships?

Just in the course of working we hang out a lot. I'm really impressed with everybody. I like everybody on the show. I'm not just saying that. I haven't had a chance to spend time and hang out with everybody because we're all very busy. I have had a chance to hang out with Jay and Balfour. All of the ladies on the show are wonderful and amazing. Every week it's like another secret crush. But everyone has their lives, we're all very busy. So we haven't had that much time to hanging out. As much as I'd like to.

Now in terms of like developing history with the characters, Walon and Rick did a really great thing. When we first had our read through of the pilot we worked this out. One of the things they did was sit everybody down and spend some time discussing who we are and where we came from.

The reading gave us an opportunity to work our feeling out. We had ideas that they may not have thought of before. They incorporated some of these ideas. We also had the opportunity to work in pairs.

About the politics, some people perceive Law and Order as a little bit more conservative than this show?

I'm talking more about content and how the content differs.

Is that because Law and Order, often ends up with the prosecutor, the D.A., being kind of tough in certain ways? Whereas with your show, where everybody's anguishing with the grey areas. It feels a little more liberal in a sense.

Yeah. It might be. But that's just a result of serving the story that they're trying to tell. I don't think that it's any conscious decision necessarily to be more liberal. I think that they made a conscious decision to represent these young people who are thrown into incredibly powerful positions. And it's about how do they handle that stress. Sometimes that's going to come out in a sexual way. I think the nature of the story they're trying to tell has dictated what may make it a little more liberal.

I think New York, as a character, is critical to the show.

Oh God. We could not make this in Toronto. New York is huge in the show. It provides the show with a verisimilitude and authenticity that you would not be able to get anywhere else. But it's more than being just being kind of factual and honest and true. It also makes it a little dirty. It makes it a little funky. It's not like it would be if it were shot this on the back lot of Fox in LA. You would not catch that homeless guy in the background, or see the trash piled up on the street. You also wouldn't get the incredible skyline. In the pilot there's this one shot, which we shot in Queens, where you can see the skyline in the background and it looks fake. But you're looking at the real thing. And you couldn't buy that for a million dollars.

So coming from an acting family, does that enhance your experience? Or does that put a burden on your shoulders? Do you feel that being the grandson gives you a little bit more distance?

It's not a black and white thing. I have been blessed with an amazing family. I'm really lucky. And not just in terms of their talent, everybody knows about that but as human beings. My grandfather, my dad and my uncle, not to mention all the people who aren't famous in my family, I'm surrounded by lots of wonderful people. The people who the public know, are incredibly dynamic and interesting men, who have taught me a great deal about my craft and beyond that. What it is to be a man. And what is to kind of be a responsible human being. I've been really lucky on that level and I just need to say that before I get into the dynamics of it. However, I think that anyone who is coming out of a second or third generation, inevitably are going to be struggling against some amount of pressure to come out of the shadow that's been cast. They need to be taken for who they are and not where they come from. That's not something that's unique to my experience, I think that's everybody. And some people handle it by changing their name, or rebelling against who their families were. Maybe their family life wasn't that great. For me, I'm really just trying to work hard and prove myself on the battlefield. I'm very proud of them and I don't need to change any of that. I think the only thing that I need to do is, once I'm given the opportunity, you know, rise to the stage.

It seems like you haven't been around the business in an oppressive way?

No, while I was exposed as a kid to the extent that I got my union card, I think when I was five. I did a few things as a kid; I was never a child actor.

Which is good?

I think so. It's interesting. That's whole complex subject that is a whole other conversation. Suffice it to say, I think it's real easy to say child actor equals bad. But I had the pleasure of working with a really lovely young actress, Anna Sophie Rob, who I think is going to really be amazing. I think that sometimes there is a lot of pressure by the parents, and the kids don't really want it themselves and they're thrown into it. But then other times the kids really want it. I wasn't that kid. I was much more interested in school, and hanging out with friends. But I also loved working with family and doing that, being involved with what they were doing. I wasn't interested in it for myself really until I hit college. I did a little bit of theater and stuff in high school, and a little bit of acting as a kid. It wasn't until my second year in college that I committed to being an actor. I went gunning for it.

Eric came out of more of a child actor experience?

Yeah. Eric definitely, came out of that whole world. He was in Kids Incorporated. I like to tease him about it. I think in a way that comes with its own set of stigmas. Eric says that he'll counsel a kid to wait. It's almost more difficult to become huge as a child actor. You would then have to get people to pull a 180 to see you as an adult. I know that that's something that he's been challenged with.

Do you have plans beyond just acting?

I have a lot of creative interests. I'm a closeted songwriter. I don't really have any aspirations to be a performer. I love music and I love songwriting. And I'd love to at some point in my life get serious about that. I would then try to convince people who I admire to play my songs. I'm also fascinated by the emerging entertainment online. I think that the time for that is now. I think there was a false start about 10 years ago. The technology hasn't really caught up to the ideas but now it's happening. I have some ideas about producing content for web based media, and that's something I really want to get into.

How about the indie films? A lot of you guys that are in this show haven't had as much experience doing in indie films. I would think one thing you'd want to do, since you're in New York and New York has such an indie film scene.

I'm constantly reading scripts and looking for something to do in the off-season. One of the projects that I have done that I'm most proud of is a small film called New Suit. With a million dollar budget, it was as about independent as they can come.

Was that shown at the Gen Art Film Festival?

It was. Its a Hollywood satire. You're like one of ten people who actually saw it. Gen Art was great. The festival was very supportive of the film. Lots of the film festivals loved it. This was when I was still in LA before I came back to New York. I was at school at Bard College, in upstate New York then I came to the city. It was really tough. I was working with a lot of really amazing people, in terms of doing class work. I was training, and doing some work for free. I was doing readings in small, tiny little places. I wasn't making any money. I was waiting tables, and catering. After I felt like I gave it a shot I said to myself maybe I should try L.A. Then when I got to LA I very quickly booked something back in New York.

Then I was bouncing back and forth, for a number of years. That's what I did with the New Suit. I would come back into town every once in a while on a gig. I would squat at friends. Then about three years ago, I reconnected with my wife. We started dating. I moved out here and have been here ever since.

What's been the feedback for the show so far?

Well, it's interesting. Online we're doing incredibly well. Every new episode is usually in the top five, definitely the top ten on the iTunes site. That's exciting, and we're all really thrilled with that. I mean, there's a lot of stuff available online now, so we're coming ahead of a lot of shows. Then, in terms primetime premieres, they've been solid. But we're not getting American Idol numbers. And I think that it's tough, we're aiming for a young audience on Friday night at 10. That's a rough spot but there are definitely a lot of people out there that really love the show.

I have to support these New York shows.

And this show really is. The spirit of it it's a real New York show. We draw from such an incredible base of talent. Every week, they're bringing in amazing actors. I hope it keeps going.

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Copyright 2006 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 12, 2006.

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Copyright 2006 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: May 12, 2006.