SPOILER ALERT: The story includes details about the opening two episodes of The Good Fight.
The Good Fight, Robert and Michelle King’s spinoff series from their CBS legal drama The Good Wife, had a two-hour premiere tonight on CBS All Access, with the first hour also previewing on the broadcast network to drum up interest for the fledgling streaming service’s first original scripted offering. It stars Christine Baranski, reprising her role as super lawyer Diane Lockhart, another Good Wife standout, Cush Jumbo’s plucky young attorney Lucca Quinn, and a new character, freshly-minted lawyer Maia Rindell, played by Rose Leslie.
Like The Good Wife, The Good Fight starts off with a new associate on her first day at Lockhart’s firm who gets dragged into a major scandal by a family member. Instead of Alicia standing by her husband as he faced corruption and sex charges, it is Maia, whose father is accused in running a massive Ponzi scheme whose victims include Maia’s godmother, Diane, just as she is in the process of leaving her firm for a quiet retirement in France. With her money gone and no one willing to hire her, Diane joins Quinn’s new, majority African American-owned, firm.
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The Good Fight was conceived based on the projections by most polls that Hillary Clinton, of whom Diane had been a staunch supporter, would be the next U.S. president. The first episode was in the middle of shooting when Donald Trump won the election in a stunning upset. The Good Wife creators and The Good Fight co-creators/showrunners Robert and Michelle King wrote a new opening scene, in which Diane is reacting to Trump’s swearing-in. In an interview with Deadline, the two reveal that they shot a second Trump-related scene for the first episode, featuring Diane’s hard-core Republican husband Kurt, which ended up on the cutting floor. They also discuss Maia’s sexuality and the breakdown of Diane and Kurt’s marriage following the events in The Good Wife finale where Alicia accused Kurt of having an affair to save her husband, which led to the infamous slap she got from Diane in the finale’s final seconds. The Kings also address whether the slap and the fallout between Diane would be addressed on The Good Fight, will Alicia, Cary, Eli and other favorites from The Good Wife visit The Good Fight, what’s in store for Eli’s resourceful daughter Marissa, hired as Diane’s new assistant, will The Good Fight push the digital content envelope and more.
DEADLINE: The title, The Good Fight. The Good Wife was referring to Alicia who stood by her husband in his scandal. What is “the good fight” referring to?
ROBERT & MICHELLE KING: The title, The Good Fight, refers to two things. One: the progressive fight against injustice and for the underdog. Two: the irony of progressives with a heightened sense of purpose as they fight against injustice and for the underdog. Just as the title for The Good Wife was meant to be both true and ironic, here it’s the same.
DEADLINE: There was a fleeting reference to Alicia in the first episode. When will the events in The Good Wife finale, including the infamous slap, be addressed on The Good Fight? Will Alicia make an appearance?
ROBERT & MICHELLE KING: Some events will be addressed – for example how Diane was impacted by the slap. Will she forgive her estranged husband, Kurt McVeigh? Has it made Diane more jaded, more suspicious? Regarding Alicia… we discussed with Julianna the idea of visiting, but we all agreed: no matter what we did, that would then become the true end to the Good Wife story, and that’s unfortunate.
DEADLINE: What are the differences in the way you approached creating writing The Good Fight knowing that it will be on a streaming platform, not a broadcast network? Why did you opt not to push the limits in terms of language (save for a couple of F-words), sex and nudity, at least in the first couple of episodes?
ROBERT & MICHELLE KING: We are fans of TV. We watch everything. And for a while there it felt like premium cable tended to use aspects of nudity and language more as a way to brand than to tell a story. There are always those eye-rolling moments when you know an orgy scene has been slapped on top of an episode to show it’s not really TV. We wanted to avoid that. We’re using nudity and language when appropriate, but sometimes the sexiest thing is people clothed. Sometimes the funniest thing is nudity. For example, we’re pursuing a case about nudity clauses in contracts, and that will require nudity, but nudity will be used to a point.
DEADLINE: Will The Good Fight end each episode with a cliffhanger/OMG moment like the the first two? That is a trick used by streaming services to stimulate binge viewing.
ROBERT & MICHELLE KING: Not really. Sometimes, we will. But we think the more interesting trick is to explode the surprise two-thirds through an episode, and then see the repercussions through the last third. Viewers are hopefully involved enough that they want to come back; and you also don’t feel like an asshole tugging a viewer along with a thread attached to a dollar bill.
DEADLINE: Why did you decide to make Maia gay? Is it a way to differentiate her from Alicia as both shows begin in a similar way, with Alicia and Maia starting as new associates under Diane after a family scandal, or was it a way to build on The Good Wife‘s legacy of introducing a gay character with Alicia’s brother?
ROBERT & MICHELLE KING: We decided to make Maia gay near the beginning of the process; I think it was baked right into the first outline and pitch. You’re right, a lot of it had to do with differentiating her from Alicia. But we also wanted to play an aspect of gay life that was interesting to us: not making it exotic or a provocation. Or that being gay made you propaganda saints. This was a relationship that wasn’t good or bad. It just was. And it was just as subject to bad faith as any relationship. That felt interesting.
DEADLINE: It was too late for you to completely rework the pilot episode following Donald Trump’s win beyond adding the brief opening scene. Will the new political realities be addressed in a more significant way in future episodes?
ROBERT & MICHELLE KING: We actually rewrote and shot another scene between Diane and McVeigh in which she bitterly congratulates him for his candidate winning, and how Sarah Palin can now win her ambassadorship. It was a good scene – showing how politics, in a post-Trump world, infected the most apolitical relationship – but it tended to slow down the first act. Future episodes have been significantly changed. We threw out most of what we developed – mostly because the world changed on us, and we wanted to keep up (we did something similar after the Snowden revelations) – so the episodes address the changes in the culture with the new administration.
DEADLINE: Why did you decide to break up Diane and Kurt? The Good Wife finale left the affair part ambiguous, giving fans hope that the couple may survive.
ROBERT & MICHELLE KING: Diane is best when she’s an underdog. We wanted her to start this show with literally nothing. And it seemed to make sense, coming out of the events of The Good Wife, that she would be estranged from McVeigh. It also allowed us to address the idea of a good marriage in this show. We needed to start McVeigh and Diane on the rocks in order to try to rehabilitate their marriage.
DEADLINE: Will Diane, Lucca and Maia interact with David Lee, Howard Lyman and others from the old firm? Will we find out what happened to Cary and see him again?
ROBERT & MICHELLE KING: Not so much in the first season. We didn’t want the new firm to be so dependent on the characters in the old firm. If there is a second season, we want to bring them back into our orbit.
DEADLINE: Was the Rindell Ponzi scheme a setup for the series or what happened to the money would be an ongoing mystery?
ROBERT & MICHELLE KING: It won’t be about the money. It will be more about family. We liked the idea of collateral damage in scandals. What happens to the people who don’t cause a scandal, but are buffeted by the repercussions. Here, the issue isn’t being a spouse – as with Alicia – it’s being a child. We read a lot about the Madoff sons in preparation for this show, and they seemed more interesting than Madoff. Are you complicit if you make yourself ignorant?
DEADLINE: Marissa showed skills of an investigator. When will she get the promotion, and will her dad stop by?
ROBERT & MICHELLE KING: We wanted to start Marissa as an investigator at the beginning of the year, but it felt like too big of a jump. We liked the idea of her feeling bored and moving into things. As regards Eli Gold, yes, oh yes, make it happen. We love him. Alan is in the CBS universe so anything can happen.
DEADLINE: What kind of cases will Diane’s new firm handle? Its owners seem very focused on financial return, which would suggest more lucrative class action suits against corporations that are not always that compelling to watch.
ROBERT & MICHELLE KING: We’ve been researching a lot about majority-owned African-American law firms. And although there is definitely an altruistic aspect, there was also great pragmatism. These firms are first in line for sole-bid contracts with the government for example. We liked that this firm has an uncomfortable balance between the idealistic and the cynical. The cases will be the same. How do you make money as you’re fighting the good fight? Can those two impulses coincide?
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