CASTLE star Penny Johnson Jerald talks Season 4

I first became familiar with Penny Johnson Jerald as the at first harmless wife of a Senatorial candidate on 24 and she quickly turned into one of the most deplorable and amazing characters on the show.  This season, she’s bringing a little bit of that Sherry Palmer fierceness into the NYPD as the new Captain Victoria Gates on CASTLE.

I had a chance to chat with Ms Johnson Jerald about what’s coming up for Monday night’s Superhero episode, and why she thinks Gates poses a realistic (versus manufactured-for-the-sake-of-drama) obstacle to a Castle/Beckett romance

Don’t take the wrong way, but I love to hate the characters you play!
[laughs] I’m not going to take that the wrong way haha!

With Sherry Palmer, she was so great; and now with Sir Iron Gates, it’s a breath of fresh air to have a staunch rule-follower on CASTLE.
That’s put very well –  a rule follower.  She’s by the book.  And it’s time to follow the rules because these kids, they’ve been unruly.  Doing their own thing, in their own time.

Was it that that brought you to this role?  What about Victoria that made you want to play her?
I do like the strong women.  I definitely like strong women, and I guess at this point in my life, I’m having so much fun just as a person that being able to have someone for younger people to identify with, I think it’s very important to me.  So I really like this woman.  I like her a lot.  I love women in authority.  Maybe I missed that in my former life.

I read an interview that you gave where you talked about how it’s no longer “out there,” or strange, any more to see a woman in power like with Gates.
Because it isn’t.  It’s not foreign territory any more.  Here in Los Angeles, we have at leave 5 female captains running precincts.  They’re not statuesque women.  They’re short, small, petite women, who have a role, you know, an authoritative role.  They’re running they city.  They’re getting the crime off the streets.  And not only that, they have lives.  They’re mommies, too.  You know, we can bring home the bacon, and fry it up in the pan [laughs].  I like it.  I think I’m one of those women.  My husband says, “you know, sometimes, I wonder, why am I here?” and I go [as if she was winking], “You know the reason” [laughs]

The show CASTLE over the past couple of years, has really started to explore the outside lives of these characters.  We’ve seen a little bit more about Esposito and Ryan as the show has gone on.  Will we be exploring outside the precinct for Gates?
I hope so.  I’ve been told that I do have a life outside the office.  That’s yet to be seen; I haven’t seen it yet in the episodes we’ve shot.  We’re still early on in the season, so I do look forward to that.  Because outside life, it adds so much more, and you understand why a person has a certain personality inside the work place.  It adds to the reality or the realness, and I think that’s how you can get more fans watching, because they start to identify with “oh wow, I do that, too,” and “oh, okay, that’s important” so I hope so.  I’m looking forward to that.

Let’s talk a little bit about the “Heroes & Villains” episode that’s airing Monday night.  It sounds like it’s going to be one of those cases that is right up Castle’s alley which, without even watching, without knowing much about it, I can see that already Castle and Gates might not see eye to eye on this kind of case.
You’re clairvoyant, I’m telling you!  It is right up Castle’s alley because he’s a know it all when it comes to information like that.  He has the crime solved at the very beginning in his head, and of course, he’s going to try to impress Gates with his ability to do so, so we’ll see how that unfolds, if she’s taken in at all.  If she gives an inch, and if he is successful in his tactics.  We’ll know that on Monday night, I don’t want to give too much away, but we have this vigilante killer, masquerading as a super hero.  That’s just fun in itself [laughs] and ridiculous.  So I love ridiculous fun.

I’ve commended the show in the past for the way they handle the Castle and Beckett relationship by having them admit up front that they like each, and introducing real obstacles (not plot contrivances) to keep them apart.  It feels like Gates could be an obstacle that could put a realistic wedge between these two characters.
I definitely think that she is a main ingredient now.  You have this twosome going on, and now you hvae this triangle.  You have them both having to prove themselves on another level.  If you’re proving yourself, and you’re upping your game, that means you’re changing. So their relationship ultimately has to change in one direction or the other, or a little bit here and a little bit there, because they’re changing.  Because their situations are now different.  It’s not easy street for Beckett anymore.  She’s not there, doing whatever she wants to do, when she wants to do it, and [Castle] is just not a welcome visitor all along, to just hang out, and do his thing.  They have accountability now.  Because they do, that will affect their relationship.  And especially Beckett watching someone not be so open armed to Castle.  Perhaps being in a position, having to defend him, maybe? So there are different dynamics that could happen, which are interesting.  I think that the Gates character as, as you call it, a mechanism to see where their relationship goes, is actually not something that’s so bad, and not so far reached or far fetched.

Why do you think now, in Season 4, is a time for people to get involved in CASTLE?
Ok, well, this is the obvious reason.  Because there is a new character in town [laughs] and she really wants her entire fan base to now tune into CASTLE [laughs].  But besides that, I had a wonderful opportunity of watching every episode from every season, prior to starting work, and you know what?  It really is a good show! It is a good show!  I describe it kind of like a MOONLIGHTING quality with an NYPD BLUE underbelly.  And now, it’s moving to another level, because you don’t just want to see, do they get together, or don’t they get together?  You want to see them thrown into real life situations, and I think CASTLE has upped its game entirely this season.  The writing is really exciting.  The cast, now, with a different makeup, different chemistry, different chemical makeup because you have a new ingredient.