‘The Equalizer’: Lorraine Toussaint on Why It Was Important to Put Vi in Physical Danger

Lorraine Toussaint and Queen Latifah in 'The Equalizer'
Spoiler Alert
Michael Greenberg/CBS

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for The Equalizer Season 3 Episode 15, “No Way Out.”]

With this episode of The Equalizer, the hope is that viewers leave it with the knowledge, “If you see something, say something.” That’s exactly what Aunt Vi (Lorraine Toussaint) does when she notices bruises on her masseuse’s arm.

But Angie’s not ready to face the reality of her situation (even after Vi opens up about a “night of terror” in her own past) until it’s nearly too late; her husband hits their son as well, then grabs her as she’s about to leave him. Vi, Robyn (Queen Latifah), and the team save her life (twice!). But Vi isn’t able to pull the trigger when facing Angie’s abusive husband, and she admits to Robyn she worries about protecting her and Delilah. Robyn assures her she does protect them, and being unable to kill doesn’t make her weak but rather human.

Toussaint takes us inside the episode and teases what’s ahead (including some fun for her character’s love life).

Vi opens up to Angie about her own history in one of the most heartbreaking scenes of the episode.

Lorraine Toussaint: I wanted the writers to take it to the edge. And as a woman, I don’t actually know any woman in my life that hasn’t, in some way, shape, or form, had to deal with abuse of some kind. I think that that is part and parcel of being a woman. Having to, at some point in your life, deal with some form of abuse, be it emotional, physical, sexual, is part of the burden of being a woman in this society still. In all of these episodes, I try to tell as much truth as possible through the character of Vi and use Vi as a vehicle for all sorts of truths in our lives. Some of them are joyous, and some of them are painful, and I don’t shy away from those. And so I hope that it touches the audiences as having kernels of real truth because I certainly intended it and invested in that scene in a truthful way.

You get right in the middle of the action in this episode! Talk about having Vi in that position because she’s not usually the family member in those kinds of scenes, and it’s in such an emotional episode for her.

Right. That was interesting because I also really loved the fact that the writers were putting Vi in physical danger so we turned the volume up on that a bit because I think it was important to show that an abuser is an abuser is an abuser is an abuser, and it is rarely relegated to the person at home. It’s often relegated to the children at home or to the in-laws or to a spouse’s mother so that it really does extend out. And I know how much Vi is beloved by our audiences. I’ve certainly spoken to enough people who come up to me on the street and say, “I want an Aunt Vi,” and I say right back to them, “I want an Aunt Vi, too.” And so, to have this beloved character be in physical danger, the writers certainly thought that it would bring that message home.

Lorraine Toussaint in 'The Equalizer'

Michael Greenberg/CBS

In the aftermath of that, we get that great last scene with Vi and Robyn. So if Robyn hadn’t shown up, would Vi have been able to pull the trigger?

I don’t know. I really like what the episode says, which is it’s not easy — and especially in the wake of all of the gun violence that we are dealing with in this country, in our schools, in the workplace, and pulling a trigger is somehow sort of trending in the most horrific and macabre way — to pull a trigger. It shouldn’t be easy to pull a trigger, even in as dire circumstances as Vi finds herself. Taking another person’s life should stop you in your tracks. And I really love the fact that it did, that with all that training that she’s been doing on the side when she comes face-to-face with a human being, even a crazed, violent human being, that it gave her pause to take another human being’s life. I like that message. I really do.

And now she’s dealing with her own mortality. Are we going to see that affecting her going forward?

I think we are. I think you begin to see more and more of the complexity that makes up Vi, that brought her to — She’s kind of a mystery character. She’s just always been there. Going forward, we’re going to discover a bit more about her past and the life that she’s lived that has brought her to the McCall home. She’s lived quite a colorful life and seems to have all this wisdom — not because she’s wise, but mostly because she’s lived and she’s made a lot of mistakes. And so she’s come to this knowledge, this inner knowledge, and this “wisdom” the hard way. You’re going to see a lot of that sort of being revealed as the seasons evolve.

Is there anything coming up with Vi and Trish (Gloria Reuben)? I love that relationship.

Me too. Definitely, we’re going to see more Vi and Trish. Absolutely.

What can you tease?

It’s going to get spicier. [Laughs] We’re going to push the envelope with Vi and Trish, which I personally love. Yeah, I think there’s some fun scenes coming down the road for Vi and Trish.

The Equalizer, Sundays, 8/7c, CBS