'Good Wife' Creators Reveal Dream Guest Stars (and the One That Got Away)
Michelle and Robert King, who are stepping away as showrunners on the CBS stalwart and will be honored by the Casting Society of America Jan. 21, also tell THR which guest actor caused disagreement between them and star/producer Julianna Margulies.
This story first appeared in the Jan. 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
The call sheet on The Good Wife regularly is one of the most star-studded on TV. The CBS stalwart and critical darling has become a favorite of veterans (Michael J. Fox) and newcomers (Cush Jumbo) alike thanks in large part to husband-wife team Robert and Michelle King, who will receive the New York Apple Award from the Casting Society of America at its 31st Artios Awards. A few days before announcing Jan. 12 that they'll step away as showrunners on the series after the seventh season to focus on their CBS summer comic thriller BrainDead (no replacement has been announced, but CBS' Glenn Geller singled out the show's executive producer Craig Turk as part of its "deep bench"), the Kings revealed some secrets behind The Good Wife's success.
A big bet
Fox has earned four Emmy guest actor nominations for playing courtroom antagonist Louis Canning, but producers initially were unsure whether he would return. "We just didn't know how he would connect with the part because the part was making fun of a guy who kind of uses his [Parkinson's disease] to get sympathy in court," says Robert. "But what we found was that it allowed all of his comic instincts to come through because you accepted the condition as part of the essential nature of the role."
The new kid
The Good Wife has proved a magnet for big names, but the Kings say there's no pressure from CBS to stunt-cast. "If anything, they'll be excited that we're getting somebody they haven't seen a whole lot on their air," says Michelle. Case in point: "[Casting director] Mark Saks initially came to us and said, 'OK, there's an actress you've probably never heard of but you really must know — Cush Jumbo.' Then a couple weeks later we got an email from Christine Baranski saying: 'I just saw a one-woman show [Josephine and I] with this actress named Cush Jumbo, and she was so amazing. We really should be talking about her for the show,' " says Michelle. Adds Robert: "The only thing we had to do was educate CBS people on who she was because she was kind of unknown. She had done maybe one TV show in England."
Their most contentious debate
The Kings and star-producer Julianna Margulies did not see eye to eye about casting a quirky film director as the love interest for Melissa George's character (and father of her unborn baby). "It had nothing to do with Peter Bogdanovich himself. He's a wonderful man, and he stepped in with almost no heads-up," says Robert. "But I think Julianna and the show were at a disagreement about whether the plotline should go there. I liked the silliness, and other people did not."
Who's on their wish list
"Every single person in Hamilton, and they are not available," says Michelle. Adds Robert: "The guy who played Thomas Jefferson [Daveed Diggs], we wanted in a role. They're very busy these days, but we can work around schedules. So we're just trying to get some of them." Another top pick? Meryl Streep, whose daughter Mamie Gummer has a recurring role as defense attorney Nancy Crozier. "We left an opening there because we refer to Nancy Crozier's mother on the show," says Robert.
The guest star that got away
Early in the show's run, Broadway veteran Linda Emond appeared as a military judge — a role that has proved hard to bring back because "it would be insane if [Margulies'] Alicia [Florrick] keeps going to military court," says Robert. "We even thought about giving [the military judge] a sister that could be a judge in civil court that Linda Emond would play."
The Kings have been hard at work on BrainDead, described as The West Wing meets The Strain. "The competition is very thick now, and it is much harder to find regulars than the first time around on Good Wife," says Robert, especially with younger platforms such as Netflix and Amazon producing shows with fewer episodes. "That might be becoming some version of the new norm," he adds. "I don't know how networks will adjust to that world because it financially doesn't make much sense. But when you're struggling for actors, it's one of the selling points." Expect familiar faces from Good Wife to pop up on BrainDead, possibly even as the same characters. Says Robert, "They live in the same world of politics, so there is a connection."