Warning: Spoilers for Reasonable Doubt‘s first two episodes ahead.
Between sex, drama, and a messy murder investigation, Hulu‘s Reasonable Doubt has no shortage of engaging hooks. The series is ripe with scandalous storylines, but once you start watching, you’ll realize they aren’t the show’s main selling point — Emayatzy Corinealdi is.
Corinealdi plays protagonist Jax Stewart, a sharp Los Angeles attorney, a mother of two, a wife trying to repair a strained marriage, and a daughter who has a complicated relationship with her mom. Outside of those demanding roles, Jax is also a woman with her own wants, needs, and beliefs — a truth that’s continually emphasized in Corinealdi’s nuanced performance.
Since kicking off her career in the 2000s, Corinealdi has starred in films such as 2012’s Middle of Nowhere, 2015’s Miles Ahead, and 2016’s Roots. She’s appeared in TV shows including Hand of God, The Red Line, and Ballers. And you may also recognize her from Jay-Z’s “Family Feud” music video. Over the past two decades, she’s shown extraordinary range as an actor. And Reasonable Doubt allows her to tackle a variety of genres to showcase Jax’s strength, humor, empathy, pain, and inner conflict.
The nine-episode Disney Onyx Collective series, executive produced by Kerry Washington, may seem like a smaller stage for Corinealdi’s acting chops, but the star power she exudes as Jax Stewart is massive.
Corinealdi captures Jax’s many different modes with ease, effortlessly transitioning from confident, cutthroat legal expert to gentle, TikTok-dancing mom. Jax is incredibly in-tune with her sexuality, and Corinealdi brings heated passion and yearning to the show’s many sexy scenes. But she also turns up the heat during arguments, delivering lines like, “I didn’t get married to sleep alone” or “What made me so unappealing last time? Was it my melanin or my genitals?” with believable pain, frustration, and fervor.
At work, Jax is often an unflappable force. She’s straightforward, always one step ahead, and isn’t afraid to compromise her morals to be successful or cross an ethical line to get what she wants. It’s clear that Jax can hold her own, but Corinealdi’s subtitles help expose her character’s struggle to compartmentalize under sensitive circumstances. Corinealdi crafts a complex character who quietly grapples with, and strives to grow from, past traumas, like losing Damon’s case. Most of the time, Jax appears overly put together. But that unsustainable perfection ultimately fuels her messiest missteps.
One of the greatest assets Corinealdi brings to Reasonable Doubt is her versatility. Jax commands attention and has no time for nonsense in the court room, but she also giggles with girlfriends, raps along to the radio, and sneakily indulges in a glass of red and a smoke before bed. A perfectly cast Corinealdi portrays Jax’s best and worst selves with equal effort and excellence, making a deeply flawed character likable. Jax is a beautiful badass, in large part thanks to Corinealdi’s mesmerizing performance, and you won’t want to take your eyes off her.
New episodes of Reasonable Doubt hit Hulu on Tuesdays.