Gary Cole Talks 'Good Wife' Spinoff, Donald Trump-Inspired 'Law & Order: SVU' Episode

The actor discusses Kurt and Diane's 'Good Wife' marital troubles and playing a character loosely inspired by the president-elect on 'SVU': "I don't know that anyone's ever going to see this."
Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

Gary Cole can't seem to escape politics.

There's his series regular role on the Emmy-winning political satire Veep. And his recent role playing a presidential candidate seemingly inspired by now-president-elect Donald Trump on Law & Order: SVU. But it was never more true than on the day after the presidential election when Cole traveled to New York to work on the upcoming Good Wife spinoff.

"We were at 7th Ave. and 50th St. and from where we were you could actually hear the marchers coming up 6th Ave. that night. I think they came up and then turned over to Trump Tower," Cole tells The Hollywood Reporter. "The whole thing was pretty surreal."

It was a surprising but oddly fitting turn of events seeing as Cole was stepping back into a role greatly defined by partisan politics. Since season one of The Good Wife, Cole had portrayed Kurt McVeigh, a staunch conservative and gun enthusiast in a relationship with Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), a liberal feminist known for having rubbed elbows with Hillary Clinton (see: the pilot episode of the original CBS drama). "He probably didn't vote for Hillary, but whether he voted for Trump, I don't know. He might have slept in that day," Cole says with a laugh when asked about Kurt's preferences.

The return of Kurt McVeigh, and the entire Good Wife universe comes months after the original CBS drama had seemingly closed up shop for good. "I had heard rumors that maybe this was happening, but I didn’t know. I had no idea what this show was or would I be involved?," he says. "I thought I was saying goodbye to Christine and to the show and then I wind up right back in midtown Manhattan doing scenes with Christine once again, which is always a joy for me."

The Good Fight, premiering Feb. 19, sees Baranski graduate from strong supporting role to leading lady. But even though the spinoff centers on her character, Cole's return was put into question by the series finale, in which Alicia (Julianna Margulies) accused Kurt in court of having an affair with a younger woman so that Alicia could help exonerate her estranged husband Peter (Chris Noth). The move led to that infamous finale moment, in which Diane slaps Alicia across the face the way she had once slapped her bad husband in the pilot, and also put Diane's marriage to Kurt in limbo.

"Everything was designed to get to that because that image was very, very powerful," he says.  "It had more to do with the show as a whole more than it had to do with Diane and Kurt's relationship isolated from that. I think the purpose of that, that they were splintered, was that everything was splintering. Everybody's lives were being disrupted and it didn’t come to any good conclusion."

The spinoff picks up a year following the events of the finale, in which Diane's world is rocked once again when she is forced out of Lockhart & Lee after an enormous financial scam destroys the reputation of her goddaughter Maia (Game of Thrones' Rose Leslie) and wipes out Diane's savings.

Cole won't say whether Kurt really did cheat  "I don't even choose to answer those questions"  and is equally tight-lipped about the state of Diane's marriage when The Good Fight picks up. "I don't know where she's headed or where this relationship is headed. The scenes we had were basically our introduction into this new situation she has," he says. "They are connected so whatever state their relationship is in, if it's splitting apart or if it’s under stress or whatever it is, it's just another part of her life that they can look at."

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Although Cole said he noticed few differences between the new spinoff and the original series, on which he appeared in 14 episodes over the show's seven seasons, the move to streamer CBS All Access has allowed for "a little bit of vocabulary that you wouldn't see in a script for CBS the network. But there didn’t seem to be a big difference between what you'd see for the old show as opposed to this other than a few choice four-letter words."

The Good Fight is just one of several roles the veteran actor has been juggling over the past few months. He also stars in PBS' Civil War drama Mercy Street and has been work at the upcoming sixth season of Veep, which picks up after Selina Meyers' White House ouster.

"What happens is what happens authentically in administrations that have to leave  they begin to fragment and they're not the merry band of brothers that they were roaming around the west wing. That changes, people do other things," Cole says. "The writers, who are the mad geniuses that they are, have concocted ways to get people crossing paths with each other, sometimes in large groups, sometimes more isolated and so all of the environments are different."

However, the most interesting recent credit on Cole's IMDB might be his guest appearance on Law & Order: SVU. Cole was tapped early in the season to play a politician whose campaign goes haywire when several women go public with damaging accusations.

"All you had to do was read the script and know that it was based on him," he says. "The background that this candidate has: a businessman with no virtual government experience, a real estate tycoon. You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out where they're getting this from."

However, Cole stressed that, like the many other headlines the Law & Order franchise has ripped from over the years, the storyline is a "fictional" interpretation. "This is not a biography. This is not a biopic," he states. "It just happens that this particular circumstance is white-hot publicity because this guy was [then] running for president for real so of course its going to attract a lot of coverage."

Even so, the episode has been delayed twice. Originally set to air on Oct. 26, it was then moved to Nov. 16 – a week after the election. But after Trump's victory, it was unscheduled again with no airdate yet in sight.

"The fact is, probably, I don't know that anyone's ever going to see this anyway," he says. "I don't know that the outcome was expected. I think maybe the thinking was that the outcome was not going to be this outcome and they would show it at some point, but now you're in a whole different ballgame."

The Good Fight premieres Feb. 19 on CBS before moving to CBS All Access. Veep returns later this year.

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