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The jabs at Donald Trump and his seemingly spiraling state are not subtle in the second season of The Good Fight.
Episode titles for CBS All Access’ The Good Fight are now direct references to his time in office (see: Sunday’s premiere, “Day 408”), and the destructive opening credits have been adjusted to include a TV blaring the president’s face literally exploding, as well as images featuring Putin and rioting white supremacists. Halfway through the season, one that finds the central characters nervous about a Chicago killing spree of lawyers, the storyline even starts exploring the Democratic National Committee making moves for impeachment.
Michelle and Robert King, co-creators of legal drama, recently spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about their show’s focus on “Trump fatigue” — and how they’re feeling quite the opposite. They’re invigorated.
You’ve said the season tackles “Trump fatigue.” Do you ever suffer from that while making a show that takes so many cues from current events?
Michelle: Yes, but it’s all those things that make you want to have a creative outlet where you can deal with it. I think it would be discouraging if we were doing a series set in ancient Greece and couldn’t address any of these things.
Robert: The only thing that’s difficult is to stay current. The news cycle is packed with so many more stories than it used to be. Especially on All Access, we’re even further behind the ball in a way. We started shooting in October and through late April. With The Good Wife, we were close enough to the time of shooting where we could rejigger and not be trapped in a concept. The news is coming so much faster, and you don’t want to be the last one in line to comment on something.
Michelle: Or knowing that the story is going to gallop ahead of you.
Any specific stories you’ve decided to nix for that reason?
Michelle: I would say that we haven’t abandoned ideas, but we’re very aware of trying to hit them from the side and not the front. One example is sexual harassment. You don’t want to do a Harvey Weinstein–type story, because you know that it’s going to move ahead.
Robert: The first season, we were doing a Nate Parker story. We thought it would still be current around the Academy Awards, because that’s when the episode would have shown, but then it became very clear that Birth of a Nation was falling out of favor.
What were you most excited to tackle this season?
Robert: We wanted to explore a serialized and thematic season. Probably the best season of The Good Wife that we wrote was the fifth season. We knew we were going to lose Josh Charles, and the season itself was inspired by the idea of surveillance, following Edward Snowden. A lot of the year was built around those concepts. We wanted to do the same thing by design for this season. That’s what we were most excited about. The first season, we weren’t able to do it as much because we were constantly playing catch-up.
Michelle: And launching a show is hard enough.
Robert: We wanted to do something that was a danger to all of our main characters and had a beginning, middle and end that extended over the 13 episodes. “Kill all the lawyers,” the Shakespeare line, is our attempt to show how we react to the news now — Trump news and everything. You feel like you’re living in a topsy-turvy world, where you’re always afraid of the next beep of the iPhone. In a first episode, a lawyer is run down by his client for over-billing. And in the second, another lawyer is shot by a man who lost his children in a divorce. It’s an existential crisis, in the true meaning of the term — not the frou-frou one. Are they going to survive the year? It’s very much a threat to an occupation and not just someone’s personhood, which is true to the way the current administration is attacking the bar association. Lawyers are hated.
Michelle: They’re seen as enemies. It’s being in a hated profession that is under attack.
How soon in the season do you approach the DNC storyline?
Robert: Not until the seventh episode. Margo Martindale returns for that. She’ll be great. It’s not all one-sided. They become more Trump-like the more they talk about how they’re going to get rid of Trump.
The process is also something many people don’t understand.
Robert: Also the whole idea of going into it with a plan to impeach, as opposed to being a reaction to events. It’s definitely a reaction to events, but it’s about choosing which make the best arguments to get rid of a president.
Michelle: We get to explore the idea of “Is this is something to cheer for, or is it corrupt?”
The premiere is Erica Tazel’s last episode. Can you talk about the decision to move away from that character?
Michelle: First of all, she’s fantastic. And she’s in the first episode of the season. But the character [Barbara] didn’t quite gel the way we anticipated as the focal point of conflict for the Adrian Boseman [Delroy Lindo] character. We had to pivot.
Robert: The writing failed Erica a little bit. It didn’t find the structural fight between Boseman and Barbrara. What we’ve got with Audra McDonald’s character is that structural fight, which will lend itself to people going nose-to-nose.
How did you work around Christine Baranski’s absence while she was making Mamma Mia 2 for the first month?
Michelle: Because we had enough lead-in, we were able to film around her. When she came back, we filmed the scenes in the first two episodes that she hadn’t been in.
Robert: We really got to write with that in mind, because we knew it was happening. The first episode takes place at a funeral, and what we decided to do was have her be delayed in getting to that funeral by Howard Lyman [Jerry Adler], who is now a judge. The things that had some scope, the funeral itself, could be done without her.
Would you have been able to film a sequence like that on a broadcast show?
Robert: Maybe a little. We did once when Christine was shooting Into the Woods. Christine is really the problem here. (Laughs)
Your next series, Showtime’s Your Honor, is also set in Chicago. Any reason why you keep telling stories about that city?
Michelle: Peter Moffat is writing it — and that was a Peter decision. (Laughs) It involves a lot of corruption, and it’s a lovely city in that regard. Of course there are others you could go to, but Chicago works.
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