Gina Torres Explains How Kellyanne Conway Inspired Her Character in ‘Suits’ Spinoff Series, ‘Pearson’

Gina Torres turned to politics for inspiration in the Suits spinoff series, Pearson, which focuses on her character, Jessica Pearson, starting over in Chicago. Ahead, learn how Torres took inspiration from the likes of Kellyanne Conway and more. Be aware, there are spoilers for those who haven’t watched the latest episodes of Suits.

Where Jessica Pearson left off on ‘Suits’

Torres played Pearson, a partner at a high-profile New York City law firm in Suits where her staff — Harvey Specter (Gabriel Macht), Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams), Donna Paulsen (Sarah Rafferty), Rachel Zane (Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex), and Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman) — viewed her as the all-powerful leader of the firm. 

That is until she got disbarred in New York as a result of Ross pretending to be a lawyer. She left the city and chose to start over in Chicago as a political fixer because her license to practice law in Illinois had been revoked. That’s where we reconnect with Pearson in the spinoff series

Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson
Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson in Pearson. | Isabella Vosmikova/USA Network/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

In a recent phone interview with The New York Times Torres explained how she channeled President Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway, in Pearson

“When I would see Kellyanne Conway — and she wasn’t the only one, let me just put it that way — I just kept trying to figure out, Who are these people, really? Like, are they true believers? Are they opportunists? Are they making a power grab? What motivates them?” Torres said. 

She explained the parallels between her character and Conway. 

Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson in 'Pearson'.
Pearson — “The Alderman” Episode 101 — Pictured: Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson. | Scott Everett White/USA Network/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

“With Kellyanne, there were people that loved her, and there were people that loved to hate her. You just never quite knew which it was. And then I thought, ‘Oh, she’s like Jessica.’ No one really knows at the end of the day: Can she be trusted? Is she a moral person or is she just about the power?” she said, adding that audiences will learn what motivates her character (Hint: Her “tremendous heart” plays a factor). 

Jessica Pearson almost died on ‘Suits’ 

Showrunner Aaron Korsh once had a different path in mind for Pearson on Suits when Torres first left the show in 2016. He planned on killing her off. 

“I’m very glad I didn’t do it,” Korsh told The Hollywood Reporter, noting that the inspiration came from Lt. Col. Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson) on M*A*S*H* who died offscreen after a moment of triumph.  

Gina Torres and Meghan Markle on 'Suits'.
Suits Episode 609, “The Hand That Feeds You.” — Pictured: (l-r) Meghan Markle as Rachel Zane, Gina Torres as Jessica Pearson. | Ian Watson/USA Network/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

“I think it would have been an incredibly powerful and moving thing. But the network was like, ‘Please don’t do this,’ and they were right,” the showrunner said. “If Jessica had died, what would that have done to the show? It would have cast a pall over everything.”

‘Stakes…are a lot higher for Jessica’ in spinoff series

In Pearson, Torres’s character works closely with Mayor Bobby Novak (Morgan Spector) and quickly realizes she’s not, shall we say, in Kansas anymore. What could happen in the new series is of a different caliber than what she experienced in New York City, Korsh explained. 

Pearson official trailer. | TV Guide via YouTube

“The worst thing that could happen in Pearson is much worse than the worst thing that could happen in Suits,” he said, adding “The worst thing that was going to happen [in Suits] was that Mike was gonna get caught. No one’s getting killed, it’s white-collar crime versus blue-collar crime, and the stakes are in many ways a lot higher for Jessica now.”

Pearson starts tonight at 10 p.m. after the final season of Suits premieres on USA.