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'Fairly Legal' star Sarah Shahi talks hooking female viewers (Men: she thinks you're easy)

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Image Credit: David Moir/USA NetworkSarah Shahi, best known for Showtime’s The L Word and NBC’s Life, stars as Kate Reed, a lawyer-turned-mediator who can fix everybody but herself, in the new USA dramedy Fairly Legal (premieres tonight, 10 p.m. ET). Shahi says she’s probably the only person in America who doesn’t like procedurals, so it’s a good thing she can describe it thusly: “It’s like if Law & Order and Sex and the City had a baby, it would be my show,” she says. In Shahi’s mind, Kate has her Mr. Big, her soon-to-be-ex-husband Justin (Battlestar Galactica‘s Michael Trucco), who she’s still sleeping with. “He’s oh so good, but oh so bad,” she says. Her assistant Leonardo (Baron Vaughn) is like her Stanford. “He knows her better than she knows herself.” And then there’s the Ice Queen of the group, her stepmother Lauren (Virginia Williams), who, after the recent death of Kate’s father, is now Kate’s boss at the family law firm. She’s as image-conscious as Charlotte but as ballsy as Samantha. Needless to say, Lauren and Kate don’t get along. “Kate is feisty, she is sexy, she is flirty, but at the same time, she’s very childlike. Emotionally, she’s immature,” Shahi says. “I’m the complete opposite of that. My dad left when I was 8; therefore, I grew up very quickly. But Kate’s just like a little puppy sometimes, especially when you see her with Justin. It’s just like, ‘Love me, love me, love me, love me,’ and then if he doesn’t agree with her, she’s like, ‘Ohmygod, you’re such an ass!’ She could unravel at the snap of a finger. But for Lauren, it takes a lot more. It’s a slow burn, and you’ll never see it. But when it hits, it’s intense. You always know what Kate’s thinking. All Lauren does is cover.”

It’s Kate’s flaws that Shahi loves most, and why she thinks female viewers will be drawn to her. “I’m sorry, the guys are easy. You can get a man’s attention if you got a pair of boobs and a butt. I hate to simplify them down so much, but I think it’s true,” she says. “Girls, on the other hand, are harder to get on your side because we not only have to like the way females look, but they have to impress us with their wit and their intelligence, and we have to feel like we can relate to them. I feel like Kate is a character that women can relate to because of all of her faults.” (Among those: Her inability to confront her father’s death. SPOILER ALERT: She talks to his ashes. Yes, this is a character-driven show.)

Another way Fairly Legal may lure some female viewers: “We will please the audience with Michael Trucco,” Shahi promises. “Michael Trucco takes his shirt off a few times, and he just looks like he has the body of a Greek god. So the ladies will be very happy. I love that I’m finally a part of something where I don’t have to be objectified, but it’s the boys that get to objectified. Men are the new women. My husband and I talk about it all the time.”

Because it is a female-driven show in a post-Sex and the City world in which every woman knows at least something about clothes, fashion will also be a part of it. Though Shahi admits she and the network didn’t originally see eye-to-eye on her character’s style. In the premiere, she’s wearing Louboutins. “Kate’s incredibly whimsical. She lives on a boat. She’s anti-corporate. I would like Kate to be a little more dressed down,” she says. “I would love it if Kate would just run around in Keds and look not so put-together. Because here’s the thing: She does live on a boat. Her closet is half the size of her shower. For her to pull out these Louboutins and Alexander Wang … But at the same time, we are a TV show, so I guess you’ve got to meet somewhere in the middle.”

Something viewers, regardless of the gender, should enjoy is the chemistry between Shahi and recurring guest star Gerald McRaney, who plays a judge who has it in for Kate. “Gerald McRaney and I love working with each other. I’m so glad his show [Undercovers] got canceled, because maybe he’ll come back more,” Shahi says, laughing. “So thank you, NBC, for doing that.” The network isn’t off the hook for canceling Life yet though, right? “But they gave me Gerald McRaney, so I’m very happy about that.”