The British actor, set to star in the upcoming Suits spin-off, spoke to PEOPLE about his role in Pearson as the “conflicted” cop Nick D’Amato.
“We are very aware of the fanbase and are very excited to show who the true Jessica Pearson is,” the 39-year-old told PEOPLE. “It’s exciting and humbling that we’re part of the mantle and it’s exciting because we’re doing something different too.”
The show follows Jessica Pearson — the powerhouse co-founder of Pearson Hardman, played by Gina Torres — as she explores a career in politics in her native Chicago.
“She gets involved in a world very different to Suits,” Kassianides says. “It follows her personal journey and her world a lot more in detail: her family and her emotional side.”
As for his own character, the Southwest London-born actor says his role is quite nuanced. While Kassianides says he’s used to playing a “bad guy” and that he tries to add a “3D quality” to every character (as he did in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) — this role is quite different.
“It’s the most dense role I’ve had to play in a long time,” he said of the D’Amato, the lead cop of the city mayor’s security detail. “I always try to create empathy around any character I bring.”
“No two roles or situations are the same — the characters you play in your career might be similar on the page, but the director or the production is always different,” he added.
In the upcoming series, Pearson and D’Amato collide after Kassianides’ character becomes very distrusting of Pearson’s presence.
“He’s very loyal and has a strong moral code but he is shouldering a huge secret in this season that affects himself and everybody,” Kassianides described his character. “[Pearson] is aware of a big secret that surrounds us and the two of us side each other up.”
While Pearson is anticipated to wow fans with this new approach on Torres’ character, the star actress said she originally “had absolutely no desire to revisit the character.”
“I thought I was done, and then some time went by, and I started thinking about her, and I started thinking about what she might be doing, and it just happened to coincide with the 2016 election,” the 50-year-old told TV Line.
And for Kassianides, working with Torres on this show has been one of the most “wonderful” experiences, calling the actress a friend.
“Gina is such a class act,” he gushed. “She created this energy on set with a lot of respect. You want to deliver the best work you can.”
Along with the respect-filled nature on set, Kassianides recalls some silly moments on set — especially on the makeup chair.
“A lot of funny stuff happens when you’re in a makeup chair,” he said. “You might have a scene where someone is getting a certain amount of makeup on them — I don’t want to give any spoilers away — but you might be getting made up a certain way that’s hilarious and compromising in certain situations.”
“You meet someone you’ve never met before and you’re like ‘hi hi, yep this is me,’” he added.
The show approaches issues related to politics in a “very mature and responsible way,” said Kassianides. “At the same time though, it’s entertainment and I think that’s first and foremost the object of a show.”
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“Politics, it was like must-watch TV,” Torres told TV Line about the 2016 election and how it inspired the spin-off. “I started thinking about Jessica, what she might do in the political arena, because of her skill set, because of what she’s so good at, and that was the seed that gave us this.”
Now, Pearson will create a world of its own post-Suits and Kassianides is stoked to be a part of it after having watched all of the original show himself.
“I’m really excited to hear what they think of my character because he is quite mysterious,” he said. “You get to know him as the show unfolds. The [Suits] fans are so loyal and they really create what we as actors dream of having in terms of an audience.”
Pearson premieres on July 17 at 10 p.m. ET on USA Network.