Television
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Acting with 'Conviction'

TelevisionEntertainmentJulianne NicholsonLaw & Order (tv program)J. August Richards

Though it comes from "Law & Order" mastermind Dick Wolf, the cases in NBC's new legal drama "Conviction" won't always have life-or-death stakes. Here's how Julianne Nicholson, who plays one of the show's young assistant district attorneys, puts it:

"I may have a silly case one week -- the other day I was walking around, basically holding a mannequin by her butt -- and the next week it'll be, a girl has jumped off a building."

That means, in turn, that Nicholson has just as broad a canvas to explore her character, rookie prosecutor Christina Finn -- not to mention the fact that unlike the "Law & Order" shows, "Conviction" follows its characters outside the office as well.

"I don't think I would have wanted to do the show if it was just at the workplace," she says. "When you can see people in different parts of their lives, it's so much more informative as to who they are. And how they behave at the office is different than how they behave on a blind date -- which I have."

Nicholson started work on the series within a couple weeks of getting the part, so she didn't have a great deal of time to spend following a real-life counterpart at the Manhattan DA's office. The show's writers, however, did set up a couple of meetings between the cast -- which also includes Eric Balfour, Milena Govich, J. August Richards and Jordan Bridges -- and a group of ADAs.

"They had us all go out a couple of times, just for drinks," she says. "Which is kind of the best way to do it, because you could just -- it came up in conversation, and we were just having a great night out with people we didn't know. ... It was so much fun to really find out about what these people do. To be around people who have that passion for what they do is really infectious."

"Conviction" is Nicholson's first series since CBS' "Presidio Med" in 2002 (she's since done the feature films "Kinsey" and "Seeing Other People," among others), and she says she's still getting used to the faster pace of work in television. "But I really like it," she says quickly. "I like knowing where I'm going to be day to day, and I like working on the same character for a longer period of time."

In the show's premiere last week, Christina tried her first case and won almost in spite of herself, leaving evidence unguarded in the courtroom and looking thoroughly flustered in the face of a wise-cracking defendant. The character has gained a little confidence since then, Nicholson says.

"The more you do it, definitely the easier it becomes. I think that's what's crazy and exciting about her job -- and ours, I guess. Each case is different. There's no format to follow that guarantees a win. You just have to kind of wing it each day and do your best, and hope it works out all right."

Like the case with the mannequin, for instance. "I think it's better if you just see it," Nicholson says with a laugh. "But she's really hot; I will say that. It's an extremely attractive mannequin."
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"Conviction" airs at 10 p.m. ET Fridays on NBC.

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