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INTERVIEW: Melissa Rauch Is Bringing Harry Stone’s Legacy to Life in ‘Night Court’

Melissa Rauch as Abby Stone in Night court

Night Court is a show from the 80s and 90s that became a Nick at Nite staple. For someone like me, I grew up watching it with my dad at night. And I loved Harry Stone (played by Harry Anderson) and his relationship with Dan Fielding (John Larroquette).

For someone like me, I thought it might be hard to watch the new Night Court airing on NBC because I remember the series so vividly as something I did with my dad (who passed away in 2021). But watching the new series just was a celebration of the show as a whole and that feeling that the original Night Court brought to fans. It’s about a judge who wants to see the good in everyone around him, including those working in the night court, and star Melissa Rauch brings to life Harry Stone’s daughter Judge Abby Stone to life in a perfect way.

I was lucky enough to do the press junket for the series and everyone I spoke to loved getting to bring this series back to fans, especially Rauch who was open about her own love of the series. “It’s so important to me as a fan of the original and such a fan of both the character that Harry Anderson played and him as a person. I never had the pleasure of meeting him. But from I’ve just heard such wonderful, wonderful things about him over the years and of course John speaks so, so fondly of him. It was so important to us that we get this right and pay our respects to the original in a really special way while not, of course oversaturating audiences with that. When we were sort of crafting what this character would be, we wanted to make sure that she was carrying his legacy.”

Dan and Abby’s dynamic

Why the show works, in my opinion, is because Dan and Abby have a similar dynamic to that of Dan and Harry. Abby understands that who Dan is and he looks to her in the same way that he viewed her father and it gives the show heart. “I think there was a sort of a meta element of making sure that Abby was doing it and making sure that we were doing it as creators of this new original,” Rauch said about the character and her connection to the original series. “Abby very much is following in her father’s footsteps and he’s sort of the north star for her in and how she runs her courtroom. And that every person who came through those doors was a person to Harry Stone. He saw people for more than their crime. They were people that he wanted to get to know and wanted to help. And that’s very much how she operates. And even though she’s very much her own person, that’s sort of her guiding light.” And then also I think there’s a lot of what her mission is now is sort of what Harry was so rooted in there.”

One of the things about the series that really does work for me is how Rauch has a similar cadence to what Anderson did. Which makes it believable that this is his daughter taking on his mantle. When I told Rauch this as a way of asking her what drew her to the show in the first place, she was just so excited that I recognized and appreciated the connection. But then explained how she, at first, didn’t want to play Abby but eventually thought that if she gave up the role and saw someone else saying her lines, she’d regret it.

“I kept on reading these scenes and feeling such an attachment to them,” she said. “And then I kept thinking about like getting to see another actress do this role and I’m not really guided by jealousy in any way. I’m very much like eyes on my own paper. It’s not really like a driving emotion of mine. But I was like, ‘I’m gonna watch someone else do this and I’m gonna be kicking myself.’ So then, then I started thinking about it more seriously and I remember as we were working on rewrites and I was reading through a draft of the script and I was alone in my kitchen late at night and for the first time I said some of the lines out loud in the scene with her and I was like, ‘oh, this feels good, I can’t not do this.’ And then just really thinking about my love for this show and how the little me version my head would’ve exploded to think that I would get to play this role. I can’t let 10 year old me down.”

And we’re all better for Rauch taking on the role of Abby Stone. Night Court is currently airing and a beautiful nod to the original show while just bring a fun light to comedy television and I love it a lot.

(featured image: NBC)

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Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast.