Kate Walsh returns to TV this fall with a serious case of law and disorder. As NBC’s Bad Judge, Walsh plays Rebecca Wright, a brilliant L.A. criminal court judge with a penchant for reckless behavior outside the courtroom (and occasionally in judges’ chambers). There’s a serious comedy team behind the project: the executive producers include Will Ferrell and Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights), along with Walsh as a first-time producer and actress Anne Heche as the co-creator.
Put those mash-up of minds together and you end up with a “wild child” party girl judge who drives a beat-up van and plays drums in a girl band when she’s not presiding over court cases, where she has a rep for being tough and unorthodox in her ways.
“She’s a Peter Pan-type character in the sense that she’s not capable of settling down and growing up,” explains showrunner Liz Brixius, who knows a thing or two about naughty professionals because she previously worked on Nurse Jackie.
Ironically, it may be a child that eventually tames Rebecca.
When a bullied eight-year-old boy from the foster system turns up on the judge’s doorstep asking for her help, Rebecca and the kid slowly begin to bond. After all, she’s the one who put his parents away in jail.
The part is a natural fit for Walsh, who’s just as comfortable in a judge’s robe as she is in a lab coat.
“I don’t know what it is, but it’s similar to putting on a doctor’s coat where I just feel comfortable in a position of fake authority,” Walsh joked to us. She’s excited about playing a female role that’s more of the male archetype anti-hero mold.
“There’s this stunted adolescent part of her that I feel like we celebrate in men. It’s one of the reasons why I love Will Ferrell, but I want to see a female doing that,” Walsh told us. “I wanted to have the opportunity to play that physical comedy and make people laugh.”
While audiences mostly associate Walsh as a dramatic actress, for playing Dr. Addison Montgomery on Grey’s Anatomy (2005-2012) and its spinoff Private Practice (2007-2013), she actually has comedic roots.
“I wanted to get back into comedy. That’s my background,” Walsh explained. “I mean, that’s how I actually know Adam McKay.” It was Walsh who introduced McKay to his wife 20 years ago; they’re old friends from back in the Chicago days when they performed improv and hung out with Amy Poehler before they all moved to New York.
Reuniting with her old friend on a new project was just part of the appeal of doing the show for Walsh; she relishes the badness and gleefully calls her character a Bad-Ass Judge.
“What appealed to me from page one was ... I want to be this lady… Who wakes up with a hangover and stumbles around getting a pregnancy test and then the reveal is that … she’s a judge. That was just awesome to me. It was just super appealing. I felt like I had my nose pressed up against the candy store, and that was like all the candy. All the candy is Bad Judge.”
Walsh isn’t worried that Wright’s antics are wrong for a judge and might undermine her character’s authority.
“At the end of the day, it’s a comedy,” Walsh says. “I mean, we’re not doing Law & Order.
Five Fun Facts About Kate Walsh:
1. She actually has stood before a judge.
Yes, Bad Judge Kate Walsh has faced a judge in court before. “It is an interesting thing. It’s not often that you have someone else deciding your fate. Like, oh, this person holds all the power. But it went all right, you know…”
While she declined to elaborate on the specifics of the case, Walsh confessed it was more than just your average traffic violation. “It was something much more interesting and horrible. But we’ll end on that,” she said with a grin.
P.S. She has never been called for jury duty.
2. She really does play the drums on the show.
Walsh took lessons so she could rock out without a double. “I won’t lie to you, I started out in a rock band. My brother and my assistant at that time thought, you know what, you’re good, kid, it’s time you graduated to a real kiddie drum set, so they bought me a kiddie drum set and I got lessons from a kiddie drum teacher. It was really fun.”
Her musical talents don’t end there: “I can also play Helter Skelter on the clarinet,” says Walsh.
3. Unlike her character, she wasn’t much of a wild child in real life.
“I always had carefully modulated fun [growing up]," she tell us. "I was the youngest of five; I had a lot of older siblings to watch, and watch mess up, so I was always very conservative with the partying or what have you. And I’ve worked since I was 14, so I didn’t have that luxury of really blowing things off.” Her first job? Burger King. (She also once worked at Dairy Queen.)
4. Her first TV Crush: Speed Racer, the cartoon.
5. Her Drink of Choice: “I like any kind of light, light, light rose.”
'Bad Judge' premieres Thursday, Oct. 2nd at 9 p.m. on NBC.