Bates gives ‘Harry’ a gender spin

Role on NBC drama was originally written for a man

David E. Kelley wrote the quick-witted, no-nonsense lawyer Harry Korn for a leading man. But after sending out the pilot script of his dramedy “Harry’s Law,” he couldn’t find the right male curmudgeon for the part.

Then Oscar-winner Kathy Bates came to mind.

“She was almost an exact fit for the character,” Kelley says. “We tweaked it a bit, but that’s about it. The big difference is when she has to go to the bathroom, she uses the ladies’ room.”

In fact, Bates felt such an immediate connection to Harry, Kelley says, that she didn’t want anything changed, including the name. (The revised draft had renamed the character Harriet.)

Bates’ response is understandable. Harry’s rumpled, unapologetic persona plays to the 62-year-old actress’ strength — the ability to play plain-talking women comfortable in their own skin.

“Kathy and the character are one,” Kelley says. “She brings so much of herself to Harry, and I think that’s the reason the show has been so well-received.”

Indeed, after NBC initially committed to showing only six of the 12 produced episodes, the network reversed course when “Harry” became its most-watched scripted program of the season. NBC topper Robert Greenblatt brought the show back for a second season, where it will move to the 9 p.m. Wednesday timeslot.

Bates also continues to occasionally guest on the NBC comedy “The Office,” playing the demanding CEO of the company that purchased Dunder Mifflin.

“Her comedic skills are every bit as good as her dramatic ones,” Kelley says. “She’s kind of everything she’s cracked up to be.”

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