'The Good Wife's' New Addition Tackles Comparisons: "Kalinda Was Then and This Is Now"

"The minute I started reading about Lucca, it was really clear to me that they were two different entities," new series regular Cush Jumbo tells THR about her character.
Paul Sarkis/CBS

Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) and her boots of justice are long gone from The Good Wife, but when the CBS legal drama returns for season seven on Sunday, there's a mysterious new woman in Alicia's life. This time, however, she won't stay mysterious for long.

"I don’t think there are so many mysteries there. There's not so many things she's trying to hide," Cush Jumbo tells The Hollywood Reporter of her character, lawyer Lucca Quinn. "She is who she is and she's not hiding that from anybody."

The London native, fresh off a successful run playing jazz singer Josephine Baker in her own one-woman play Josephine and I, is one of two new series regulars coming aboard this season along with Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Jumbo spoke with THR about how she got the gig, what she knows about Lucca so far and why she and Alicia (Julianna Margulies) make a "good combination."

How did you first hear about the role?

The Good Wife has actually been something, ironically, that I've watched since episode one, season one in the U.K. because it came up when I was in drama school. I always watched it. It was kind of like an actor's show. There were always really good guests popping up on it, the storylines were really good and I knew a lot of actors in the U.K. that watched it. It was a favorite of ours.  

Then, I was doing a show at the Public [Theatre] about Josephine Baker and [creators] Robert and Michelle [King] came to see it. I met them after the show — I didn’t know they were coming, but I obviously knew who they were because I love the show and we just chatting about the show and then the conversations began from there really. It really came out of the blue, but then once the opportunity was there, obviously I jumped on it because I love the show and I love the people on it. It just seemed like a no-brainer.

What were those initial conversations with the Kings like about the character? How did they first describe her to you?

They only knew at the beginning that she was going to be a female and she was going to be a new lawyer and they didn’t know if that was going to be in the sphere of Lockhart/Agos or in the sphere of Alicia's world. … Honestly, I didn’t see a script until a few days before we actually shot so I got a sense of her character and we talked for a long time. The writers are so amazing because they get a really good sense of who you are and then use that to give them some direction with who they're trying to write. There were conversations about did I fancy being British? Did I fancy being American? Stuff like that, so it all evolved slowly and then suddenly it was two days before I flew, and I still didn’t know what my lines were. Then I got here and I finally knew what my name was, and I finally had a script and she just popped off the page. We just seemed to click with each other. It was one of those processes where maybe that's why they do so well with their characters because they start with the basics of what they need without trying to force it on you and then it develops. What I'm finding is with every episode we do — and obviously the writers watch the dailies that we do — they learn more about who you're building and then write more for that person that you're building so the relationship just gets stronger and stronger and stronger between the person and the character.

Was that nerve-wracking at all to move so far and not even know her name?

If you don’t have a sense of adventure in this job, then you're not going to do very well. You have to be prepared for the unexpected and that’s one of the reasons why you really, really, really have to trust the people you're going to work with because you don’t know what's on the other end. I was just so thrilled that I was going to be part of the show. I absolutely trusted Robert and Michelle. I knew that what was on the other end was going to be good. I just had to wait for it.

How has it been moving to New York?

I love London — its where I'm born and bred, but New York just has such an energy when you're walking around and if you act or you write and you act like I do, its just such a good town for you because people here like people who can do more than one thing. You're not just stuck in the actor box or stuck in the writer box or stuck in the that musical theater box. And that's like the people we get on the show, because we have theater actors, we have musical theater actors, we have comedians, we have all kinds of people coming onto the show.

What aspects of your personality have you seen in Lucca so far?

A lot of the stuff that I've done has been more drama and less comedy. I've had some opportunities to do some comedy, and I've often wanted to do that because it fits with me very comfortably because I talk too much and I'm always saying the wrong thing all the time. But I've noticed that that has started to pop up in the scripts and I thought, 'OK, I didn’t even mean to do that and they've just picked up on those conversations with me.' Lucca is someone will say something and she'll pick up something up on that back of it or she'll tell a story or a joke or she is just kind of quirky. She's a bit of everything and she doesn’t fit into an expectation of what people might expect her to be.

One of the most beloved relationships early in the series was the Alicia-Kalinda relationship. Once you knew you were going to share a lot of scenes with Julianna Margulies, did you feel pressure at all about filling that void?

Obviously as someone who is a big fan of the show, I was a big fan of the relationship as well and I thought it was great, as a lot of people did. But the minute I started reading about Lucca, it was really clear to me that they were two different entities. I knew that people would possibly draw comparisons just because we're both female leads, we're both British actresses, we're both people of color, but it was very clear straight away that there was nothing there that was even similar. There are nice little things that are throwbacks to their time together like the way that Alicia and Kalinda would always drink at the bar together. As you go through this season, you begin to see that Alicia likes to have a drink with everybody. She's a bit of lush so she doesn’t keep that for one person and her relationships have been split in real different directions. I think it's clear pretty quickly that Kalinda was then and this is now. It's really, really interesting as a viewer and an actor in it.

How would you describe Alicia and Lucca's relationship?

Lucca admires Alicia but she's also a challenge to her and you're kind of wondering which way is that going to go with them? Is that going to make them clash? Is that going to make them work really well together? But Lucca also has a real warmth about her, and a kind of openness. I don’t think there are so many mysteries there. There's not so many things she's trying to hide. She is who she is and she's not hiding that from anybody. When you come into the show, she's the only female lawyer working in the bond court alongside these other guys and she's doing the best. She's making the most money, she's the best at it and she can do it the fastest and the judge gives her the most cases. I guess Alicia sees something in Lucca that reminds her of herself and Lucca sees something in Alicia that she'd like to be. They're a good combination in that way.

What other characters will we see Lucca interact with besides Alicia?

Well Jeffrey Dean Morgan's character is a new investigator on the show and he interacts quite a lot with Alicia and Lucca. But the episode we've just done, we were actually in Lockhart/Agos doing some stuff with Christine [Baranski] and Matt [Czuchry], which I won't say too much about. But yeah, you get some really interesting offshoots and crossovers because the worlds seem to be really far apart to start with, and then they really start to collide.

At this point, how much do you know about Lucca's backstory? What kind of conversations have you had about where she comes from and how she got to where she is now?

We haven’t, actually. That's something that I've had in my own head and that's developed since the scripts come in. I never know what we're going to be doing until the next script comes in, but it's amazing that there's stuff in there that I think, 'My God, this is actually what I thought.' I think the main thing with Lucca was that I personally didn’t want her to stand out specifically as a biracial or black lawyer that has struggled and comes from an awful background and has been through so much to rise to the surface and become a successful lawyer. I didn’t want that to be her story because I feel like so often that’s the story with professional people and often was the story when I was doing TV in the U.K. I thought it was really refreshing that she was just there and doing her stuff and she just might be somebody that just worked really hard at school, was really ballsy to pass the boys and did really well and the color of her skin didn’t come into that. So at the very beginning that's all I knew and as we're going along, I literally don’t know what's happening, but oftentimes I certainly don’t disagree because the stories are so good and their sense of her is so good.

Is there anything you gleaned about her background about where she went to school or other details like that?

I don’t think she's from Chicago. I think she's about four years out of law school so she's at a stage where she should be thinking about going into a more important law firm or working underneath some partners and making some choices because she's not fresh out of the box anymore, but I think she enjoys herself a bit too much in bond court and making money. She's at a crossroads with her career which is why its good for Alicia coming along when she does. She just wants a little bit more for herself. I don’t think she wants to follow in the path of young lawyers who have come before, she is someone who cuts her own path out. But I don't think she's committed any murders in her past, she's not dark and shady. Although I have not gleaned anything about her love life yet. I'm still trying to find out about that one.

That was my next question.

I haven’t been able to work out anything about that, not at all. Maybe they think she's too busy causing trouble for everybody else.

The Good Wife's new season premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on CBS.