It took Simone Missick 10 years of auditions and grunt work before she landed her first notable series role opposite Mike Colter as Misty Knight on Marvel’s “Luke Cage.”
Missick, who’s now starring in the new Monday CBS courtroom series “All Rise,” credits her husband, actor Dorian Missick (“Tell Me a Story”), for having the perseverance to stick with it.
“When we first met, I had been in LA for five years,” says Missick, 37. “Five years of waiting tables, doing commercials, auditioning and not getting anything. He just kept saying, ‘It’s coming. Keep doing what you’re doing in the living room with me when we’re running these auditions. All you need is one “yes.”‘ And singlehandedly he kept me faithful.
“To have a person who’s also in the industry with you is the most amazing part of it because they know exactly what you’re going through,” she says.
The Missicks have reason to celebrate as “All Rise” has performed well so far for CBS. In her first leading role, Missick plays Lola Carmichael, a recently appointed Superior Court judge in LA County who deals with the city’s diverse population and their issues. With CBS embracing casting diversity after years of criticism, Missick joins the celebrated ranks of shows fronted by a strong black actress.
“‘How to Get Away With Murder,’ ‘Scandal’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ showed the networks that people are not afraid to see women of color in the lead,” she says.
“Sandra Oh, Viola Davis and Kerry Washington. We also have ‘Killing Eve.’ They’re awesome shows. We had the political field. We had the medical field. We had the legal field, but also in the classroom. So this is something new.”
Missick is surrounded by actors from the New York theater such as Ruthie Ann Miles, Lindsay Mendez and J. Alex Brinson. As a life insurance policy, the show cast CBS mainstay Marg Helgenberger (“CSI”) as Lisa Benner, Carmichael’s boss and mentor.
“Lisa’s been grooming [Carmichael] to get to this place because she sees potential in her as a Deputy District Attorney,” Missick says. “It’s supposed to be a gradual appointment, but Lola gets bumped up faster than she anticipated. There’s a lot of men. There’s a lot of older men. There’s a lot of white men.”
Missick, who was born in Detroit, is keenly aware of CBS’ diversity campaign — at least three of its new series have leading roles for actors of color — but she is less interested in fulfilling an agenda than finding a good part and telling a good story.
“We don’t necessarily look at the network as a whole, as in, ‘Is TNT hiring black people this year?,” she says. “We’re like, ‘Here’s a script. How is it written? How is it being cast?’ I knew about [CBS’] history. But everything that they’ve been doing with our show and the new lineup — ‘God Friended Me’ and ‘The Neighborhood’ — I think the changes and strides are in a positive direction. I’m coming into it like the new kid on the block.”
With Lola handling a heavy caseload each week, “All Rise” doesn’t seem to offer many avenues to explore her personal life, but Missick promises that will change.
“Viewers will go home with Lola. You get to find out about her family,” she says. “Her mom is a very strong presence in her family.
“You’ll get to see what made little Lola Carmichael want to become a judge.”