Since Gates entered the CASTLE world in 2011, fans have only gotten little glimpses of the woman behind the title. But with Monday’s brand new episode, “The Greater Good,” viewers will finally get to explore a little bit of Gates’ complicated family dynamic.
To get a little bit of a tease about the hour, I spoke with CASTLE star Penny Johnson Jerald (Gates) about learning more about her character, what she does with the new info, which upcoming episode nearly caused her to injure herself while reading it, and more…
I’m excited we’re finally learning more about Gates! What can you tease about what the episode will reveal?
Penny Johnson Jerald: I’ll tell you one thing: you’re not the only one who is excited. I have been waiting for this since day one. And each time I learn a little bit more about Gates, it makes me even more excited as a fan of the show as well.
I am going to have a sister! How about that?
A sister we knew nothing about!
PJJ: Let me tell you, I knew nothing about me having a sister. I had a [still-unseen] husband first, but it’s so exciting to have a sister. I think they did the best casting ever with Salli Richardson. It’s very exciting to work together with her. They couldn’t have gotten a better person.
Did they give you a heads-up at some point that this episode was coming, or were you just surprised when you read the script and realized what was going on?
PJJ: [Laughs] I’m going to answer this really honestly: I acted like I was surprised when I got it, but someone who is pretty far up the ladder hinted [at it]. They kind of asked me what I thought of a particular actress, and I said, “Oh, people have said all along she could be my sister in the business.” And then he smiled. And I said, “What? I have a sister?” And I went, “Okay, I won’t tell a soul!”…so I was looking forward to it, but I didn’t know where it would land when they cast my sister, and to what extent our relationship would be like.
What can you tease about the sisters’ reunion?
PJJ: Salli and Penny have dynamic chemistry. And not because I want to pat myself on the back, but I’ve been told, “Wow, you guys really have great chemistry on-screen.” And that’s a high compliment, because usually that chemistry is with a male, and not a female.
Working on it, we laughed at some of the things we could maybe have in common, so we could share the sister portion of the story. Like, Gates wears glasses — is Salli ever able to put those glasses on?
As far as the plot, there is a murder, as there is on CASTLE. And it’s coming out of [Gates' sister's] office. And we finally meet for the first time in a long time. And when that initial meeting happens, it’s explosive.
Is there room for her to return beyond this episode?
PJJ: If you’re asking if this is a one-off, I never like to say that. I always like to believe that there’s more to come, because we created this fabulous backstory — or at least Salli created [one]. I could see her coming back. I hope she definitely does come back at some point, because of how much fun we had during [filming] the episode.
Now that you’ve gotten this episode, are you talking with the writers about when we might get to learn more about Gates again?
PJJ: I think it’s the beginning of more to come. I have a sister. I want to see this infamous husband. I have children — at least I look at pictures of them in my office. It probably won’t happen this season, since we’re wrapping it up and looking at something wonderful and adventurous to happen between the Castle and Beckett characters.
But hopefully next year, we’ll see something [more] about Gates. Every time I learn something, like I have a sister, or I like dolls, or this insight into who I am, it’s making Gates more and more human. That’s what I’ve been trying to get at her from the beginning. And I think it’s happening in a great way.
Are all these little tidbits changing how you play her?
PJJ: I’m like an elephant; I don’t forget anything. Even if the writers forget something — which sometimes they do, because they have everybody to be concerned with, so truly, I have to [only] be concerned with myself — but I do [remember]. I keep all of those stories you’ve been exposed to in my diary. I keep a diary so if I’m doing a scene and there’s a reference to something, I can go, “Didn’t that happen in…?” Or “Don’t I…?” It’s a reminder of just another layer of Gates. I think it’s working, because the fans enjoy her, and how she’s unfolding and becoming this real, whole person.
So to answer your question, yes. I borrow from every script I get the information from. And it does impact what I do at that moment.
It’s great that you’re so excited for this — from what I’ve been hearing, the fans are excited to learn more about her, too.
PJJ: I had a ball. They were like, “What is she on?”
I blame it on Stana [Katic (Beckett)]. She has this coffee that’s unbelievable, so I call it the Crack Coffee. Not only did I have that every day, it is wonderful to be working every day, all day long. I get pleasure out of really working for my paycheck. I think Monday night, it will deliver.
I know you can’t say too much about what you’re filming right now, but is there anything you can tease about what is coming up?
PJJ: [Laughs] I can tell you about the episode we shot after [Monday's episode]. I learned something else about myself in that episode, and boy, was it fun! It was great to be able to go from this tense reunion with [her] sister to something that was like, let the hair down, have some fun with [in the following hour].
In the episode we’re about to start [filming] tomorrow, boy, they sure know how to wrap up a season. I mean, I could hardly take it reading it while I was on the treadmill; I thought I was going to fall off this morning! I think it’s all good. Really exciting.