11:18am PT by Kate Stanhope
'The Good Wife' Creators on Final Season Decision, Spinoffs and an Archie Panjabi Return
CBS threw viewers a big curve ball Sunday when the network used its Super Bowl 50 platform to announce the final season of critical darling The Good Wife.
And it wasn't just the show's die-hard fan base that was surprised by the promo.
"CBS was still considering the possibility of continuing on so we only heard about the Super Bowl possibility within the last week," co-creator Robert King told reporters Monday on a conference call to discuss how that shocking announcement came to be.
It was only recently that the idea of announcing that this would be the final season was first floated. "It was first pitched as perhaps a possibility and started to solidify," co-creator and co-showrunner Michelle King said.
Although the method of delivery was surprising, the news that this season will be it's last is far less so. The Kings had spoken in the past about a seven-season for the series, and are already hard at work on their next project, the comic-thriller BrainDead which premieres this summer on CBS. In January, new entertainment president Glenn Geller announced that the Kings would be stepping down as showrunners of The Good Wife after this season but sounded optimistic about the show's future, pointing to the "deep bench" of writers on the series and particularly to exec producer Craig Turk as a possible successor.
"We knew that we could control our fate but we were very aware that we did not control the fate of the series," Michelle said. "That that was the studio and the network to decide, so we felt very fortunate and flattered that we're being allowed to end the show with the other writers and the other producers the way we hoped it would end."
"We didn’t know whether this was a Grey's Anatomy thing where it would continue on with a whole new slew of doctors," added Robert. "The writers get added energy in knowing what they're writing towards."
The decision, Robert believes, was CBS' way "to honor the show."
Also complicating matters were comments from star and producer Julianna Margulies, who turned heads when she said she would be "unemployed come April" while paying tribute to the Kings at the Casting Society of America Artios Awards last month.
"I think she was kind of up in the air because the difficulty with a series coming to an end is there's a lot of livelihoods attached to it, but I think she was torn," Robert said, adding that she "wanted to make sure everything ended correctly."
Margulies would have needed to sign a new contract for a potential eighth season. "I don’t think it actually really got that far formally. There were conversations with the network, with the studio, with Julianna," Michelle said. "Really, everybody came to the same decision that to be able to go out all together is really what we all wanted."
Over the years, the show has become known for it's wide cast of colorful characters reaching far beyond the series regulars. When asked about a potential spinoff, the Kings pointed to popular recurring characters played by Carrie Preston and Martha Plimpton, who both won Emmys for their work on the show.
"What would be fun is if you could find a way to spin off an ensemble that maybe wasn’t at the center stage of Good Wife," Robert said.
Added Michelle: "At this point, nothing's off the table. But there's nothing formal, and sure, maybe. We're not saying no to anything at this point."
The final episodes will welcome back other recurring favorites like Gary Cole, who plays Diane's (Christine Baranski) husband Kurt McVeigh and possibly Jess Weixler, who played investigator Robyn. "We're trying as hard as we can to make something work there," Robert said of bringing back the latter.
However, the producers ruled out possible returns by former series regulars Josh Charles — "Will Gardner's dead so that's sort of problematic right there," Michelle said — and Archie Panjabi, whose character Kalinda left town at the end of season six. "It wouldn't make sense for her to come back," Michelle said.
Now that the final season is set in stone, the Kings said they are writing towards the ending they always imagined for Alicia Florrick. "I would say that the story won't change from what we were intending but it allows us to be a little bit more definitive," Michelle said. We're writing now "in pen instead of pencil."
More than anything, the Kings are happy to be going out on their terms and on their timing. Said Michelle, "Everybody, frankly, feels like the show is going out on a high."
The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBS.