On "Malcolm in the Middle," Jane Kaczmarek played the tough-as-nails mother of five kids, so her role on the upcoming TNT series "Raising the Bar" is quite a switch. Not only is it a change from comedy to drama, but Jane plays Judge Trudy Kessler -- a cougar! Judge Kessler, it seems, is having an affair with her law clerk, Charlie, played by Jonathan Scarfe.
"He is 20 years younger than I am and there is a real power difference between me, being the judge, and him, being my clerk, and being [sexually] involved with someone like that is [full] of complications," she says, teasing the storyline to come.
"Raising the Bar" follows the lives of young lawyers who work on opposite sides of the legal system -- the public defender's office and the district attorney's office -- as well as those who sit in judgment on their cases.
So Charlie isn't the only young man with whom Judge Kessler is involved. She is also the judge on the majority of cases handled by liberal lawyer Jerry Kellerman [Mark-Paul Gosselaar]. It is the push-pull of their relationship that is at the core of the series.
"Basically, I just continue to be really annoyed by Mark-Paul Gosselaar's character, who is very idealistic and very earnest and totally justified in his arguments and very, very outspoken," Jane says of the relationship between the characters.
One thing that the series (based on the book, Indefensible, by David Feige) has taught Jane is to have more respect for lawyers than she had before the show -- but also, perhaps, it has made her a bit more cynical about the legal system.
"Oh, man, I tell you it makes me drive the speed limit," she says. "It is terrifying and yet ... do you know what they say about democracy? Democracy is the worst system out there except for all the others or something like that ... I am just grateful that so far in my life, I have not been involved in [the legal system], but I have been able to play someone on TV who is."
"Raising the Bar" premieres on Monday, September 1 at 10 p.m. on TNT.