Christine Baranski is still fighting the good fight on CBS All Access.
There’s no denying that the world has changed since November.
Whether it’s changed for better or worse depends entirely on your perspective — but for The Good Fight’s executive producers, Robert and Michelle King, Donald Trump’s election has certainly provided endless storytelling opportunities for the new legal drama.
The series is a spinoff of CBS’ The Good Wife, which streams new episodes Sundays on CBS All Access. It centers around Good Wife favorite Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), who is planning an early retirement in France before a Ponzi scheme seemingly masterminded by two of her oldest friends decimates her savings and destroys her reputation.
With Chicago’s white liberal elite turning their backs on her thanks to their own financial ruin, Diane is offered a position at one of the city’s majority African-American law firms, Reddick, Boseman and Kolstad, since the Madoff-esque investment scheme wasn’t interested in wooing black investors and thus its partners and clients don’t have an ax to grind.
"We didn’t really know how appropriate it was to the times until the new administration came in, and then all these pieces that felt a little random and maybe weren’t going to gel, suddenly made sense as a way to comment on whatever the new culture was going to be," Robert King said during a "For Your Consideration" event honoring the series on Tuesday night. "You’re always looking for lucky events — and I hate to talk about world events that way — they were maybe not lucky for the world, but they were maybe kind of lucky for the show."
The first episode of The Good Fight was already written before election night, meaning that the Kings had to do a hasty rewrite after Trump’s victory.
Back when the polls and media were still expecting Hillary Clinton to win, the pilot began with Diane "saying that every glass ceiling had been broken by women," Robert King revealed, "and that obviously didn’t turn out to be true, so we went back and revised it. She was retiring for that reason, then we decided it was better that she was one of those liberals who’s [like] ‘let’s move out of America because it’s so crazy.’ That seemed like a better way to go."
Baranski noted that it was easy to tap into Diane’s sense of loss in the early episodes, because of what was going on in the political sphere.
"It was just uncanny to be filming this pilot before, during and after the inauguration — because psychically what Diane goes through is this complete fall, and a profound sense of disorientation about her life, and having to just scramble up, and I think that was what was happening in the country," she said.
"We were blindsided. We were shaken to our foundation with what had happened. No matter how you voted, it was still a traumatic event," she added. "I think in some ways the show reflects that profound disequilibrium we’re all feeling right now. People, they’re not on terrafirma, and certainly the character of Diane who was always such a graceful woman, who could keep her balance, is just thrown off, as many people have been who have lost money, who have lost jobs or had to reconfigure their life totally."
The Good Fight, much like its predecessor, effortlessly balances legal drama with politics, but King pointed out that "the challenge is Trump fatigue, because … I’m a news junkie, the late night [television landscape] is so hyped up to such a level. The worry is, people will want entertainment that is a little free from it."
The way the writers try to avoid exhausting their audience with real-world issues is "trying to look at it culturally, not as a chance for tirades," King said. "Tirades are boring no matter where they are, from the right or left; they’re usually about preaching to people who already agree with you."
To illustrate that they hope to explore all sides of the political spectrum, the Kings used the example of Michael Boatman’s character, Julius Cain — the only attorney at his majority African-American firm who voted for Trump — who is forced to admit his political affiliation because it could provide a legal advantage to the firm in securing a client.
The Kings are equal opportunity when it comes to pointing out the biases of liberals and conservatives — as Robert King previously told The Ringer, "I think the show is about the racism of liberals. I think it’s an easy thing to point to the racism of rednecks and conservatives and the people in the South and so on; I thought what was interesting is that Chicago is such a liberal town, and there is so much kind of limousine liberal racism."
At the FYC event, the Kings and Baranski observed that the country has felt divided along political lines for years now, dating back to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
"It’s not just Trump. We’re in a very partisan time where politics starts to rule everything and kind of pushes out all joy," Robert King pointed out. "It’s a very odd time to be saying this, because we should all be aware of what’s going on now. But on the other hand, it can chase every good idea out of your mind, every bit of poetry, every lovely sunset… suddenly everything involves politics."
King said that instead of addressing political views directly, they wanted to interrogate the culture behind those ideas. "You’re very aware when you watch network TV, that it’s usually trying to push your liberal buttons. Whenever there’s a priest on TV it’s like, ‘oh he’s the guilty one because he molested a boy or something,’ these liberal writers always shoving the same thoughts," he said. "It feels like there’s a way to talk about things that don’t push buttons, that allow people to find a chance to push things aside and really understand what an issue means. Not an issue in the way the left or the right spouts on about it. You have to dive deeper into politics to chase politics away, maybe."
The show only has two episodes left in its freshman season, but the Kings are already looking ahead to next year. When a fan asked if there were any topics or concepts they were hesitant to tackle, Robert King confirmed that there were — but they intended to tackle them anyway in Season 2.
There is one that’s been tough. Well, there’s been one creatively and one thematically," he revealed. "The creative one is, we were trying to do an episode this year that didn’t have a word of dialogue in it… not trying to be boring, trying to be exciting, but wouldn’t have a single line of dialogue in it. We’re going to save that ’til next year because it was too hard to do this year. The other one is more the subject matter, it will be if CBS will allow it."
Considering that the show has already tackled police brutality, the alt-right, and a network censoring its content so as not to anger the new president, it’s hard to imagine what would be off limits — but we’re looking forward to seeing The Good Fight test those boundaries.