HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with ‘For the People’ star Wesam Keesh about Jay’s ‘enlightening experience’ in season one, as well as being a part of a storyline that showcases immigrants in such a ‘positive way.’
The March 20 episode of For the People focused on Jay, the public defender who didn’t start off with the best footing when he started his job working for the Southern District of New York. Jay tackled his most challenging case yet: representing a white supremacist. The case wasn’t easy for Jay to take on, but with the help of Jill’s advice, he became a better lawyer.
HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with star Wesam Keesh about the episode, as well as what’s ahead. Wesam notes that the cases going forward will continue to challenge Jay and showcase a “strength” we haven’t seen in him before. He also talks about how he is thankful for the opportunity to portray a character who comes from a family of immigrants. Wesam and his family emigrated from Syria. Check out our full Q&A below:
In the episode, Jay really had to come to terms with representing someone who challenged his core values. Going forward, will this moral struggle of representing these people who challenge these values continue to weigh on him and will he faced with more cases like this?
Wesam Keesh: Absolutely, yes. I think the plus side to that is once you experience something like this — trial by fire wise — it just makes you a stronger person on the other end. The future cases that Jay has to deal with, each case just brings a new strength to him as a public defender and as a person. It makes him question his own moral values, his core beliefs. I think it’s going to be a very enlightening experience for him, to say the least.
For sure, because he didn’t get off to the best start in the premiere. But in the second episode he really tackled this case head on, even though this guy is not someone Jay would want to represent on a normal case basis.
Wesam Keesh: Oh, absolutely not. I don’t think most people would want to either. The thing that really attracted me to this case is the fact that, yes, this person has ideas that are morally wrong. To judge someone primarily on the color of their skin and saying they’re subhuman, that’s obviously a wrong thing to do. But did this person commit this crime? You can’t just condemn a person for any crime just because they have horrible life views. I think that’s the biggest core issue, otherwise it’d be no better than a dictatorship.
In another case during the episode, we learn that Sandra’s home life maybe wasn’t all that great growing up. Will these cases help us learn more about these characters?
Wesam Keesh: Absolutely. The show is structured in such an amazing way by Paul William Davies, especially the first 6 to 8 episodes, you really get to know each of these lawyers, the judge, and Tina a little bit more. You realize that, despite the various backgrounds where these lawyers came from, they battled through their obstacles, they battled through their struggles, and they ended up realizing what’s right and morally good in this world and they want to fight for it.
At the beginning and end of the episode, we got to explore a little bit of Jay’s personal life. Will we continue to see more of the family?
Wesam Keesh: Yes, you’ll definitely see more of Jay’s personal life. What I’m very thankful for is that Paul William Davies, the creator, he actually wanted to make sure it was OK that my parents came from Syria and they were going to be represented in a positive way because I, myself, and my parents were born in Syria, and we’re immigrants to this country. It’s just a complete honor that my character’s family be immigrants and from Syria and be shown in such a positive light. They’re hard-working and good people. It’s very exciting for me. I get really excited about the immigrant portion, especially the time period we’re in now, a lot of people are starting to think about the whole immigration debate. I’m so glad that the show portrays that the majority of immigrants coming to this country want what everyone else wants for their children — a better life, a better future. They’re hard-working. They’re decent human beings. I feel like it’s a complete honor to portray that.
I loved Jay and Kate’s dynamic in the premiere. Will they cross paths again?
Wesam Keesh: I am certain that Jay and Kate will definitely cross paths again, maybe even more than once this season. I love their dynamic, to be honest with you. It’s the ying-yang of the personalities clashing together, which I think is always a blast to watch.
Jay really leaned on Jill as a mentor in the second episode. Will this mentorship continue?
Wesam Keesh: Definitely. I think for Jay’s personality, he’s the type of guy, once he learns his lesson, it’s engrained in his bones and his brain. If he does come up to Jill again, it’s going to be for a different matter, you know what I mean?
We’ve only see Jay really interact in the courtroom with Kate. Are we going to see him interact more with other lawyers on the show?
Wesam Keesh: I can’t wait for episode 5. You’re going to really see a great dynamic with one of the other prosecutors on the show. It’s one of our best episodes, I think. Yiu really get to see the core belief of what a prosecutor believes in and the core belief of what a public defender believes in. It’s such a moving episode. And that’s just one dynamic of that episode.
Will the cases this season be ripped from the headlines, or will For The People put its own spin on cases?
Wesam Keesh: The cases are definitely relevant. They’re definitely things going on right now, but nothing ripped from the headlines. It’s a very fine line walking with that.
If you could have any Shondaland star guest star on the show, who would it be and why?
Wesam Keesh: You know what, I would really like to work on a scene with [How To Get Away With Murder’s] Viola Davis. Not only with the whole legal thing, but she has such an interesting acting style and she works at such a high caliber, so I would love to see Jay interact with her.