LOREDANA, ESQ, a new reality television series that premieres on the Sundance Channel this week, follows Loredana Nesci – a 1998 UConn alumna who served as a Los Angeles police officer before earning a law degree – as she defends “just regular people,” through the legal system in Connecticut and California.
A Meriden native with no previous acting experience other than the role of an angel in her parochial school’s Christmas play and one acting class at UConn, Nesci says the unscripted TV show “plays out like an episode of Law & Order except the people and cases are real.”
Sundance producers predict audiences will soak up the behind-the-scenes world of criminal defense chronicled in the series’ six episodes, and call Nesci, “wildly entertaining, [she] is anything but what people expect, asking questions about what’s legal and what’s right.”
Nesci discussed being a courtroom “legal diva” with UConn Today, and explained what drives her to represent people who have made bad choices. The interview has been edited for length.
Q. What does it mean to you to have a TV series that shares your story and your name?
A. At first the show was called “Legal Diva” but Sundance felt there were too many Divas already on TV and I was a little bummed. Then the network considered the name “Charged,” but that didn’t capture the essence of the show. When one of the producers called to tell me the title would be “Loredana, Esq.” I didn’t say anything. She asked: “Do you like it?” and I replied, “I LOVE IT!!” I was having a WOW moment. Having a TV show alone is remarkable, but having your name as the title of the show means that I had better deliver the goods!
Q. Where did the “legal diva” label come from? Are you okay with it?
A. The Connecticut Law Tribune referred to me as “Legal Diva.” I don’t mind it. I’m not really a diva. I’ve always been more of a tomboy.
Q. How did your path cross with Sundance?
A. My friend, Laura Keats [creator of Pitbulls and Parolees on Animal Planet and a bunch of other shows], is the mastermind behind this show. She always wanted a legal show, and paired up with production company Go Go Luckey to collaborate on making a sizzle reel that was shown to Sundance. Sundance loved it and made a developmental offer right away. During the summer of 2013, I went to Sundance in New York with my father and son, and met [producers] Nicole DeFusco and Jonathan Grosskopf, who said they felt this was going to be a great show. They love how I interact with my clients. They love the stories, the legal struggles, and they fell in love with my father, “Pa”. [Pa appears in three of the episodes.]
Q. Sundance says you built a thriving law practice defending regular folk “who need it.” What does that mean?
A. Sometimes good people make bad mistakes that are punishable by law. It’s not always right to punish those who break the law. In fact, in certain situations it’s better for society to forgive rather than knock these people down further. For instance, sometimes people commit crimes out of necessity. Some people don’t have money to eat so they steal food. Rather than punish these people we need to help them. I feel that the law should be more flexible in terms of knowing when to prosecute a case and when to do something else. Locking people up for crimes isn’t always the right answer.
Q. How do you talk to clients?
A. When I discuss my clients’ cases with them, I go out of my way to speak in the utmost simple terms because the justice system and procedures can be difficult to understand. The only things I ask of my clients are to be truthful and that they tell me everything, even if they think the information is unimportant. I will be of no use to any client if I don’t know the whole uncensored story.
Q. Has being part of this show changed your life?
A. Being a part of this show has made me a better person. I’ve learned a lot and I certainly have a deep respect for people in the television and film industry, because the hours are long and the work is exhausting. I had to rearrange my life and my practice to accommodate the film crew. The show is shot at my home and my office, among other locations. I’ve met new people. I have taken on a whole other element to my life, and I look forward to meeting new clients who want to share their stories on the show.
Q. Where will you be when the show debuts? Do you have a favorite episode?
A. I will be at my house with a small group of friends. I haven’t seen any of the episodes yet, so I can’t say I have any favorites right now.
LOREDANA, ESQ premieres on Monday, March 17, at 9 p.m. ET.
Read more about Nesci in this article in the Meriden Record Journal.