Contributor: LeeAnn (questions)
The Night Court is back in session as NBC prepares to debut its sequel series to the classic ‘80s/’90s sitcom. The upcoming relaunch takes place 35 years following the finale of the original. It centers on Abby (Melissa Rauch) who keeps the courtroom going as she steps into the role of night court judge.
Ahead of the show’s premiere, we had the chance to chat with cast member India de Beaufort. In the new show, de Beaufort plays Olivia, the prosecutor. She discusses what it was like to work with legacy cast members, being part of the series, and her character.
Note: This interview was edited for clarity.
Nerds & Beyond: Congratulations on Night Court. This is such an exciting show we’re all looking forward to. To kick things off, you’ve done a variety of shows over the course of your career, from voice acting roles to shows like Firefly Lane and One Day at a Time. With all that experience, what was it about Night Court and the role of Olivia that drew you in?
India de Beaufort: Well just out of the format of the way that we make the show. My dream since I got to LA was to make a multi-cam. One Day at a Time: multi-cam. But I wasn’t a regular. I was recurring. My husband [Todd Grinnell] was a regular on the show. He plays Schneider. But I had never had the opportunity to come into a multi-cam as a series regular, and it was all I had ever wanted to do. Can’t even tell you how many times I’ve tested for multi-cams and gotten right down to the end and didn’t get the job. And so whenever anyone said to me, “Okay, you can ask for anything. What do you want?” I want a multi-cam that shoots in LA. That’s what I want.
There’s just something about that type of comedy and that type of making television. It is one of the greatest challenges you will ever have. To make a live audience laugh is one of the hardest things you can do, and it really stretches your skill set to the furthest it can be stretched. Then on top of that, you take something like Night Court, which has its own legacy as this loved television show, that has all of these incredible die-hard fans, and this unbelievable cast – and I think it’s won 30 plus Emmys in the course of its run. Somebody gives you the opportunity to do your dream job, and then have it be the revival of Night Court? To me, it’s an absolute no brainer.
Nerds & Beyond: Olivia is the prosecutor in this iteration of Night Court, which was originated by John Laroquette who’s back as the public defender for this one. What has it been like to step into that role opposite John knowing how he played it for so many years?
India de Beaufort: He is full of stories. He is – I just love him. I love hanging out with him, I love learning from him, I love watching him work and stealing from him. I love it when he gives me a look, like “You did good kid,” or [laughs] one time he told me I almost got him because he never breaks on set, whereas I break all the time. And that might have been one of the proudest moments of my career when he told me I almost got him.
He is just so insanely talented and getting to spar with him and sit across from him and talk about the time that he sat in the chair I’m sitting in, when he was the same age as I am now – in a way he had so much of an understanding of where I was in this moment, kind of wide-eyed, staring at this set and looking at this role we were in, because he remembered how it was for him. And in another way, I got to kind of sit in that seat while having him sit six feet away from me ready to rescue me if I felt like I was going to fall. I would constantly say to him, “Hey, how do I make this joke work?” or “What would you do if you were me?” or “I’m missing it here. Where’s this?” And he’d say to me, “Hey, take that down from three beats to two,” or give me a quick note on something to punch up a laugh. There’s no better way to learn than from a master at work. How much more fortunate could you be.
Nerds & Beyond: What was it like to work alongside your other cast mates who are also new to this series?
India de Beaufort: It was like showing up to work every day with an All-Star team and thinking, “Well, better raise my game.” [laughs] And it’s also just so satisfying and so pleasing to be surrounded by people who know what they’re doing. Nobody misses a beat. Everybody is on. And it was so fascinating because there’d be times that we would be working, and you have a director come in on day one and see us going through the motions. Then on day three, we have our first rehearsal, and you could see them watch us working and kind of wondering, “Are we good, ‘cause I haven’t seen it full out yet. It’s going to work right? I don’t know. It’s going to [work]?”
Then day three would come, and our first rehearsal would come, and everybody would have now processed rehearsal. They’ve been all slotted in and bam – turn on, rehearsal goes. And then every single week, the director, you can see them exhale and go, “Oh, okay, good. We’re good,” because nobody really knows when you come into those situations the way it’s going to shake out. But with us, we were all so sunk in with each other that we all knew that we had it. It’s just when an outsider comes in each week, somebody who hasn’t seen how we work yet, they never know for sure. But to watch everybody just turn on and crank out one show after another, and hear the audience roll with laughter, was so infinitely satisfying.
Nerds & Beyond: The original series is full of wacky but very lovable characters. How do you think Olivia fits into that sort of dynamic?
India de Beaufort: I would say she is definitely wacky. [laughs] I’m really hoping she’s lovable. She has a lot of elements to her personality that I personally can relate to, and I would hope a lot of other people can too. She’s painfully insecure, and she is vulnerable, and she’s lonely, and she has a sense of who she should be and what she should have achieved and her goals in life. She doesn’t have a lot of balance. Her priorities have been work, work, work. She has not spent a lot of time surrounding herself with people who love her and that she loves, and she finds herself pretty alone. Then all of a sudden, she’s in with this band of misfits, and she starts to find her family for the first time. I can identify with that as well, and I feel like that’s something that Night Court has always done a beautiful job of – it’s finding people who are eccentric and unusual and different, but they’re also human and can be related to and that we can see ourselves in. And that’s just a like a whole bucket of comfort.
Nerds & Beyond: We interviewed Lacretta and Kapil [Talwalkar] earlier and they had both said they would love for their characters to find love. What is something you would like to see with Olivia as the show goes on?
India de Beaufort: Ooh… you know, I don’t know if I would say I need her to find love, because I like the idea that a woman finds her strength and independence in herself without having to look for somebody else. So, I guess I would search for her to find contentment with herself. I think that would be a really wonderful end of her arc, if there ever is one. But I hope there’s a long way to go before that happens because we gotta keep things interesting, right? [laughs]
Nerds & Beyond: What has been the best part of being a part of this show so far?
India de Beaufort: Other than getting to be a part of a show with such an incredible legacy, and getting to work with such pros, and also walking around the Warner Brothers lot – oh my, God. That’s the best. Coming out of work every day, and there’s the big Warner Brothers sign all lit up and the hills, and you’re just kind of like, “Is this life? Like this can’t be real.”
If I’m being super honest, [it] was having my kid come to work. My kid’s four and he came to set, and he sat in my chair – on a day when nobody was there, because of COVID restrictions – and watching him kind of put the pieces together of, “Wait. This is a set, but it’s on the TV, and my mom’s in the TV, and how does this work?” And the funniest thing is that he turned to me the other day and he said, “Mom,” because I have a dressing room, because that’s where he would hang out when he was allowed to and stuff. He said, “Mom, I’m so sorry that somebody else has your dressing room now.” [laughs] Because obviously we’re done with production, and for him it doesn’t [click]. He’s like that’s my mom’s room, and why is somebody else sitting in there, and it’s like I really hope you get your dressing room back. I was like, “Me too, buddy. Me too.”
Nerds & Beyond: My final question for you today, what are you most excited for people to see when the show comes out?
India de Beaufort: I’m hopeful, and I think I’m most excited for fans of the original to be relieved. I hope. I know what it’s like to love something and really not want somebody to take something that you loved and change the way you remember it. Something that we really strived to do was to protect and honor and be respectful to the original Night Court, which was an enormous hit for a reason. And if it’s not broke, don’t try and fix it, you know. We tried to just continue what was already happening, take on that way of making multi-cam back in the ’80s that we’ve sort of forgotten how to do now, and make family programming that you can sit down with your entire family, everybody can enjoy, there’s joke for everyone, and remember what it was like to live a little bit more of a carefree life whilst also catering to an audience that’s coming in fresh – never having seen the original and needing to catch up with us where we are. And hopefully love us regardless of what the show has been.
So, the main goal I think is to be respectful but also make some great television that’s comforting and gives you just a little bit of a break from everything that’s going on outside right now. Hopefully people come and hang out with us, get their little piece of joy for the week, and want to keep coming back week after week after week for a bit more.
Thank you to India for taking time to speak with us, and to our writer LeeAnn for supplying questions! Night Court premieres with back-to-back episodes on Tuesday, January 17 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Check out our other interviews and additional coverage on the series here.