Television

Lorraine Toussaint Gives the Backstory for Heartbreaking Vi-Centric ‘Equalizer’


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The Equalizer, as it has done before, shines a light on an important social issue in the April 23 episode: domestic violence. At the center of it is Aunt Vi (Lorraine Toussaint), trying to help her masseuse in “No Way Out,” which does also get personal for her.

“Our writers are very collaborative and I’m always so grateful for their willingness to be so collaborative,” Toussaint shares with TV Insider. “We kept refining the scripts more and more so that it spoke directly to an experience that Aunt Vi had, because I was most afraid that the episode would come off as being somewhat inappropriately invasive of the other woman’s life.”

Vi is the one to notice the signs in Angie — as you can see in our exclusive sneak peek above — but it’s important to remember that this is her masseuse, not her friend. “Vi is definitely pushing up against boundaries, personal boundaries, by getting involved in the way in which she does get involved with this woman,” Toussaint previews.

As a result of building to an important moment for Vi, this is somewhat of a different episode of the CBS drama. “The arc towards her getting involved was not so equalizing,” Toussaint explains. “She ends up kind of advocating for this woman, but she doesn’t start out being an advocate. That is important to me.”

This episode is bringing to the forefront that “domestic abuse and domestic violence crosses all lines,” she points out. “It crosses economic lines, racial lines … It doesn’t matter because this woman is fairly well off. She’s married to an upstanding doctor. There would be no obvious signs that she’s inside of a horribly abusive relationship.”

Furthermore, the star is hoping that viewers take away from the episode to say something if they see something. “The ways in which abuse is perpetuated is in silence and in shame and in darkness,” she says. “And so sometimes it requires us to take a risk and step in and say to someone, ‘Are you OK? Can I help? This doesn’t look right.’ And maybe putting ourselves a little bit on the line because sometimes honestly that’s what’s needed to save a life.”

She continues, “breaking that code of silence is everything. Sometimes the abused just needs to know that they’re not alone when they speak up or when they stand up or when they go to the authorities. Sometimes they just need a hand to hold because it can be so scary and an important component of creating the environment of abuse is isolation. And so breaking that code of isolation is very important.”

Robyn’s (Queen Latifah) two worlds continue to collide, with Vi enlisting the help of the team in this episode. “There’s been a real directive, I think, to a great deal from our audiences who wanted to see how these two worlds collide and how these two worlds cooperate. And I think that our writers have been really so clever in the way in which they’ve brought these two worlds together sometimes to Robyn’s chagrin,” Toussaint says.

Lorraine Toussaint, Queen Latifah, and Tory Kittles in 'The Equalizer'

Michael Greenberg/CBS

But, she cautions, there might be reason to worry about that: “I love how this season especially these worlds have come together. It’s going to be escalating as we move [forward] in wonderful ways and really scary ways, too.”

On a lighter note, “I’m Harry’s [Adam Goldberg] favorite pastry chef now,” Toussaint laughs. “I said to the writers, whenever I’m in Harry’s presence, there has to be some component of food because I just have him in the palm of my hand.”

The Equalizer, Sundays, 8/7c, CBS

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