Steve Harvey lays down the law in ABC’s new unscripted series Judge Steve Harvey which premiered on January 4, 2022. Harvey serves as executive producer and stars in the courtroom comedy that finds real people presenting their cases and agreeing to accept whatever verdict he hands down. The fact Steve Harvey doesn’t have a legal background doesn’t matter; Harvey relies on common sense when dishing out decisions.
Harvey joined showrunner and executive producer Myeshia Mizuno for ABC’s virtual TCA winter presentation and talked about the origin of his new series which airs on Tuesdays at 8pm ET/PT.
“I came up with this idea about 12 years ago and I just never told anybody. I’ve never sat in a pitch room about it. I never met with a network about it. I never discussed it with my team, my production company. Nothing. I just had this idea,” explained Harvey. “We were on a Zoom call during COVID with ABC and it was about, I guess, eight execs from ABC and they were very high-level people. They had got on the phone to pitch a scripted show for me, a sitcom. They got through talking and it was a great idea, but I wasn’t that enthusiastic about doing a sitcom anymore. And so the president of ABC said to me, ‘Well, Steve, what would you like to do if you could do anything?’”
“I said, ‘Well, I always wanted to be a judge on TV.’ The Zoom got kind of quiet because they went like, ‘A judge?’ Everybody’s looking at me, trying to figure out where that came from. And when I told them I wanted it to be funny…I wanted to be insightful…I wanted it to be not about the verdict but about the story…the next day they greenlit it,” said Harvey.
The next step was to find an executive producer for the project, and a friend of Harvey’s suggested Myeshia Mizuno. Harvey reached out to Mizuno and after speaking with her for 15 minutes, he knew he’d found the right person to guide the series as showrunner.
“Once she talks, you have to listen,” said Harvey. “And I was paying attention because it was like talking to my sister. She reminds me a lot of my sister. She’s very authoritative and when she got through with that conversation, I started and ended the search right there. I never interviewed another person. I never talked to another executive producer. I never took another meeting. I knew that she was the one, and I was 100% correct and here she is.”
Mizuno believes the role of judge is a natural progression for Harvey. “One of the wonderful things about Mr. Harvey is him being able to speak on so many things and being able to relate to all types of people. And that’s why we know this show is going to be a success – the combination of what Mr. Harvey brings and just the plethora of stories that real people have,” said Mizuno.
“You know, reality is stranger than fiction and we see that coming into the courtroom with so many stories and the things these people say and believe and understand or think. And it’s all very relatable,” added Mizuno. “The biggest thing is, I think, people can enjoy watching it and watching it as a family and relate to the stories, relate to the people, see themselves or Aunt Becky or Uncle Bob or whomever in these litigants.”
Asked about his favorite case thus far, Steve Harvey said he’s intrigued by every case that’s been presented before him on the series. “There’s a level of excitement with all of them. I think the two things that stick out for me are when family comes to court and when friends come to court. That’s always kind of like, ‘Wow.’ I become fascinated and caught up in the how we got here.
And that’s the crazy part of this show because I think that’s what makes it different from most shows. I’m so intrigued by the story that I allow the litigants to say things that I know no other court show would allow them to say. ‘That has nothing to do with it.’ Well, to me, it has everything to do with it, so let’s hear it,” said Harvey.
Mizuno’s vast experience as a producer on legal series includes working on Judge Judy, Divorce Court, Paternity Court, and Couples Court. She also created Money Court for CNBC, so when Mizuno claims court is in her blood, you can believe it’s true. Mizuno knows how to present a court show and explained it begins with a good case.
“You need the litigants who have a good story and you want someone to have a defense. I think the difference here is, as Mr. Harvey said, allowing them to tell their story. Something like Judy, Judy doesn’t care about your story. She wants the facts – get to the point and get out. And that’s what makes her Judy.
Here, the difference is we take the time to understand the story which I think a lot of times explains why these people get into the situations they get into it. And that, along with Mr. Harvey being able to weave how they’re telling the story and then come to a summation and verdict, is what’s going to set Judge Steve Harvey apart from everything else,” explained Mizuno.
The format and the fact it’s a primetime network show also set Judge Steve Harvey apart from other unscripted courtroom series. “It’s never been done before. We do three cases in an hour, never been done before. But we’re able to hold your attention, and each case has something different. So, it’s a fun hour for everybody to watch,” said Mizuno.