Erica Ash on giving the underdog a voice in BET's In Contempt


Cape Town – Erica Ash (Survivor’s Remorse) plays firebrand public defender Gwen Sullivan in BET’s first law procedural In Contempt

Not only is it a first for BET but also in the law procedural genre which either focuses on the high powered defense attorney or the public prosecutor. 

In Contempt takes viewers into the world of the public defender. 

For Erica this is what attracted her to the series: “I like being the first.”

“This is the first law procedural on BET which I am very proud of and this is the first time you are getting the chance to truly see public defenders represented,” she says during a telephone interview with Channel24. 

What also attracted Erica to the series is that it is really well written and very poignant in terms of what is happening in American society, in terms of police brutality and African Americans. 

“I really appreciated that the character was a public defender and that it lifts the curtain on the public defender. A lot of the times people are under the impression that the public defender doesn’t care and that they just want to hurry along and get the cases done – and that’s not true. I think it is time that public defenders get the chance to be shown in a different light and to see how hard they actually work for their clients,” says Erica.


To prepare for the role Erica spent some time at the Atlanta public defender’s office where she got a chance to spend the day with them and talk about some of the challenges they face. 

She was also given a lot of interviews and articles to read and watch to see exactly how they work, which she describes as very intense. 

“Through the articles and live interactions with public defenders in Atlanta I was very well prepared. Our show runner Terri Kopp was a public defender in New York and she gave me a lot of insight. Whenever I had questions she was hands on to help me figure out exactly how to approach this character,” say Erica.

While In Contempt has a strong focus on the US justice system Erica believes that it has a universal message. 

“I think the message is that there are still people who care about getting justice. Watch out if you are the person who is breaking the law – whether you are a police officer or someone who is in the court system who thinks that you are protected by your badge or rank. There are people who are working hard to eradicate injustice.”

She continues: “I think being fair and honest and using the justice system for what it was meant for and giving everyone a fair trial. Our show promotes that.”

If Erica wasn’t the star of the series it would be her favourite show, and she’s not being biased. 

“What In Contempt has over a show like Law & Order is its diversity which is very necessary to see. I think seeing it from the side of the underdog is much more entertaining. I like to see the underdog represented, I like to see difficult cases and see lawyers working through those difficult cases and how people can handle trials and get to the triumph and that’s what this series shows,” says Erica. 


Tune in for all the legal drama on Mondays at 21:30 on BET (DStv 129).

(Photos: BET/Total Exposure)

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