The saga continues as Sofia Escala, a.k.a. Justice Woman, and Robert Gallion, a.k.a. Roberta, delve deeper into the wrongdoings of a corrupt legal system.
By Elia Esparza
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree… because Vanessa Verduga’s alter-ego Sofia Escala, a.k.a. Justice Woman, has a lot to do with the woman who by day is an attorney where she combines all of her skill sets to work as the advocate for the disenfranchised and fight against injustice by night fall.
After enjoying a successful season one, Justice Woman is back with more of adventures and misadventures in Season 2. Here’s a little preview:
Justice Woman stars Verduga, actress, writer and producer of her live action comic web series. Recently, she has reached out to indie film director Daniel Maldonado, who helped her with some edge-of-your-seat sequences for Season 2.
“There are some cool car chase sequences that I would not have been able to manage on my own,” said Verduga, “especially since I was involved, starring in those scenes throughout the shoot.”
Maldonado is the director and writer of H.O.M.E., (http://homeacronymfilm.com), a social realist feature film about the human condition, comprised of two stories of characters on personal journeys in search for a human connection in an alienating city. Verduga is producing H.O.M.E. and co-stars in the film along Jeremy Ray Valdez (Mission Park), Jesus Ochoa (Get the Gringo), Angela Lin (Grey’s Anatomy), and Karen Lynn Gorney (The Buffalo Kid and co-star of Saturday Night Live). Co-starring in Justice Woman as her sidekick is Lee J. Kaplan who as Robert Gallion goes beyond the call of duty to watch the super heroine’s back at all times.
We asked the multi-talented triple threat entertainer how closely her alter-ego Sofia Escala mirrors her own life and she gave us the 4-1-1:
LH: Where does this come from? Justice Woman almost seems like an anti-establishment piece. And yet, there are many legal references in the show that seem to come straight out of the courtroom, a Law & Order type environment. So who is Justice Woman to you? Is she a superhero or is this the real world?
Vanessa Verduga: Justice Woman has a lot to do with me and with the Occupy movement, which I completely support. The story is not just about a heroine that goes after the small time criminals, but she focuses on getting the big guns with deep pockets who use the little guys to perpetuate their criminality.
And yes, I do have legal knowledge that comes from my career as a lawyer. I freelance on corporate litigation cases and investigations pertaining to the Foreign Corruption Practices Act – I get hired on these cases because of my language skills aside from being a licensed attorney – I handle Spanish, Italian, French and Portuguese matters. Even though my job deals with multinational corporations, the focus is still on investigating corrupt practices – not saying that my clients are corrupt because that’s not necessarily the case, but it has become my field of specialty so to say.
LH: Ever been involved in politics? Or should I say, will Justice Woman ever venture into politics?
VV: I actually did have a minor involvement in my town’s local politics a few years ago. But, the things I saw and heard were enough for me to lose my faith in politics. And that brings me back to the whole Occupy thing. I think that people today feel as if they can’t always trust the ones they are electing to uphold the law. So my superheroine is more intent on going after corrupt forces that shouldn’t be part of an otherwise effective system of justice. The white collar greedy criminals who think they’re above the law because they are the law. In this sense, Justice Woman is not like other superheroes with superpowers who battle unique villains who twirl their moustaches, dress in colorful clothes, or stroke cats while laughing maniacally.
LH: So by day you wear designer suits and by night…
VV: I like to keep it real while wearing spandex!
LH: What was it like working with Daniel Maldonado?
VV: Wonderful! We were both in a position to help each other. Daniel is a great visionary and he is really doing a great job with H.O.M.E., which is currently in production. H.O.M.E. is a wonderful film and I’m happy to give him some much-deserved spotlight. And at the same time, he really helped me with some of the action sequences for Season 2. The car chase scene he directed for me served as a good training ground for him directing H.O.M.E.‘s second vignette “The Passenger” which takes place for the most part in a town car, as it tells the story of a livery cab driver and his passenger embarking on a journey H.O.M.E. So it was a good experience all around.
LH: So you’re writer, producer, star and director of Justice Woman?
VV: Director, executive producer, sometimes you play whatever role they need you in to finish the show. But sometimes I do reach out and ask other people to help out with segments and sequences. It’s like what they do in network TV, guest-directing spots, guest acting spots. They make it a vehicle in which to showcase a lot of other talent and network. And I’m doing the same thing, even though we’re currently doing a web series. We have big plans for the future though.
LH: Is this a show for adults or children?
VV: Good question. I’d like to think in some ways it is in honor of the old Batman TV series, because that was a show that worked for both children, who got to see superheroes and super villains, and yet it was also a subversive show for adults. So just like that, I think it’s an adult-accessible show, but one that does appeal to all age groups. I have a lot of young people at the comic shows approach me and say they’re big fans.
LH: From episodes I’ve seen there does seem to be a good amount of adult humor in the writing. Sometimes a bit raunchy.
VV: Of course.
LH: So what about that? How does that reconcile with all age groups?
VV: Well, sex and humor are both just a part of life. It’s the real world we’re looking at. You know, one of my influences is Pedro Almodóvar. I don’t have a big issue with the topic of sex like so many people do. On the show we talk about sex, we talk about gay people and gay culture, we talk about what’s on these characters’ minds because that’s life. Robert is one of the main characters of the show and part of the screen time revolves around him and the conflict he has at work, being gay but feeling pressured to stay in the closet because of the good ol’ boys club legal world we work in. So yeah sex appears in my writing. I actually think it’s funny how squeamish people get around sexual comedy, or just talking about sex in general. Like it’s a big secret. So I guess you could say the raunchy humor comes from the hypocrisy I see in so many people. That sex can be enjoyed behind closed doors but we can’t laugh about it. We can’t talk about it. So that’s why I infuse humor into my writing through the topic of sex. I don’t show sex – I prefer to leave those things to people’s imaginations, but I give them enough and let their minds take over – so it becomes a game of who’s the real pervert here? And yes, Pedro has very much influenced me – not just in the use of a strong female lead and her transvestite sidekick, but also in his raunchy humor.
LH: Were you a rebellious child growing up?
VV: Sure. I have always been rebellious –I drove my mom nuts! “No one puts Baby in a corner,” is my motto. I will not be boxed in, I will not be silenced, I will speak my mind, I will call out bullshit, and I will make my art because it pleases me. I believe in the words of my mom, my superhero, “Todo sacrificio tiene su recompensa”, which translates to: “Every sacrifice has its own rewards”. I’ve always worked hard for everything in life, nothing has ever come easy for me. I’ve overcome a lot of things in life and have experienced some pretty dark times. But like Catwoman, I always land on my feet.MEOW! (Laughs)
LH: What are your feelings about politics and injustice. Is this a pro-anarchy series? Is that a scary thing?
VV: I think it’s actually a classic superhero-vigilante story that just so happens to take place in the real world. Justice Woman is not your average superhero with superpowers. She’s a human who stands up for justice. Granted she may end up way over her head at times, but she is guided by a strong sense of justice. A justice to stand up against corruption and greed. I’m talking about corrupt judges, lawyers, politicians, bankers, etc… In this sense Justice Woman is very much influenced by “V for Vendetta” – which has influenced the Occupy movement. So it’s in the spirit of Batman or Daredevil. It’s operating outside the law, which is the escapist fantasy that people want. But instead of making it about blue collar crime or street crime, I figured, let’s make people uncomfortable—as I always do!—by setting it in the Occupy movement world. The real world. The stuff people are talking about right now. They’re not talking about a woman getting her purse stolen by a thug. They’re talking about Wall Street, about corrupt judges, about corrupt cops. That’s where we are, and Justice Woman, like many other comedy-dramas, is a reflection of our world. And yeah, I don’t mind having the reputation of being a bad ass. You know another person who has been influencing me recently is Louis C.K. The guy just puts it all out there and I love his “I don’t care what you think” attitude.
LH: Did you enjoy attending the comic conventions this past year, all dolled up in Justice Woman garb?
VV: Absolutely! It’s good promotion. The bigger following I get, the more views I get. Being face-to-face with the people who show interest in our work also gives me insight into what types of people I’m reaching online. Actually, I had this adorable little girl say to me at one of the conventions that she wanted to be Justice Woman for Halloween. And that got me thinking that I should really get moving on a comic book spinoff made especially for kids. You see, I have a comic book coming out this October 4th titled “Justice Woman Begins”. It’s the story of how little Sofia and little Robert met while being bullied by the bad kids in school and how their friendship bond grew. The book segues into the web series nicely like a prequel to it. In that very first comic book I purposefully hinted at a spinoff series for children entitled “The Adventures of Justice Woman and Roberta”, to make a series of kid-friendly comic books.
LH: Where do you go from here in Season 2 and 3?
VV: Justice Woman gets more and more complex as the story unfolds. Season 2 of Justice Woman is more about character and plot development – continuing the story in Season 1 – it’s a series, not a show where these two solve different crimes in each episode. Sofia’s breaking into the white-collar criminal world and is meeting up with some big dogs, villains that aren’t as easy to beat up and to put behind bars as she would hope. She continues to try to prove the innocence of a framed man, and Robert is helping her. I like to describe the show as Law & Order meets Will & Grace meets Batman & Robin. We’re the first show in history that I know of that has a Latina superhero and a Gay sidekick dynamic duo.
LH: And things are picking up for you. You won an award for Outstanding Lead Actress at the L.A. Web Festival and now H.O.L.A., the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors, is presenting you with an Excellence in Multimedia Award on October 21st.
VV: Yes, it’s quite an honor. It’s exciting and humbling at the same time. You know, I’m being honored alongside Bobby Cannavale, who is receiving the H.O.L.A. Jose Ferrer Tespis Award. Well Bobby is the actual actor who inspired the character of Robert Gallion, small world. It turns out that when I ran a casting for Robert Gallion in the casting notice, I specifically requested a Bobby Cannavale type, based on his role as Will’s boyfriend in “Will & Grace.” However, Bobby Cannavale nor his type came through, but the actor Lee J. Kaplan is fabulous in the role and I’m truly happy with his work.
LH: I think a lot of people are curious as to where the Justice Woman show is going. You mention big plans for the future…where is this show going? Are you hoping to make a movie, a network series, or a comic book?
VV: Well Justice Woman is a brand, absolutely. And it’s an idea that will live on for a while. It inspires a lot of people, and I’ve recently had the opportunity to meet with them at comic conventions, and they tell me what a great thing Justice Woman is, and it’s humbling. Yet at the same time, I consider this current series a genesis, the beginning before the beginning. And the story arc is working its way to a natural conclusion, which will continue on with the ongoing Justice Woman saga. The point is Justice Woman is more than just a web series. It’s a cause, one that I want to live beyond me. Hence my branching out into comic books like “Justice Woman Begins”, which details how a little girl fascinated with superheroes met her sidekick in school while they were being bullied. Before they grew up to become the characters we see in the web series.
LH: Do you think more people are watching for the comedy or the drama/superhero stories?
VV: Well it’s funny you mention that. When I first started writing the show, I started to find a voice that wasn’t just about me, but about the many things that are unfair and disturbing in our society. Racism, gender and age discrimination, homophobia, immigration, double standards, sexual hypocrisy, class power, political corruption and the list goes on. Those became the issues I wanted to tackle in Justice Woman. However, as my dear mentor Oscar Wilde recommended: “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they’ll kill you”. I decided to put a humorist twist to my writing and the results have been remarkable. So it is a real world series. It’s funny but it’s a humor that doesn’t detract from the issues. And I’m happy to see that my voice has helped others to stand up and raise their own voices, in their art, in their work. It’s like I always tell people…Take control. If you see something you don’t like then do something to change it. Put yourself in the driver’s seat and tilt the balance even. We all have a voice. That’s really what Justice Woman represents.
The 1st episode of Season 2 will air Thursday September 26th with subsequent episodes to be released every other week. There will be a total of 6 episodes for Season 2 averaging 8 minutes each.
Read more on Vanessa Verduga and Sofia Escala on Latin Heat here:
Season 2 Justice Woman premieres September 26, 2013 on http://www.justicewoman.com
Cast: Vanessa Verduga, Lee J. Kaplan, LukeGuldan
Released by Justice Woman Products LLC