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Donald Trump’s shocking win over Hillary Clinton in the November presidential election has impacted TV news coverage, late-night shows and even the development cycle in a major way. It’s also something that The Good Fight has embraced in its first season.
“I hate to talk about the world events that way. They were maybe not lucky for the world, but they were lucky for the show,” co-creator and co-showrunner Robert King said Tuesday at a “For Your Consideration” event honoring the CBS TV Studios series.
The spinoff was first green-lighted in May weeks after The Good Wife wrapped its seven-season run on CBS. Although the original series had frequently embraced politics — Christine Baranski’s Diane Lockhart was pictured in the original pilot alongside Clinton — few could have predicted just how much real-world politics would bleed into the offshoot.
The series was just eight days into shooting when the election happened. “We didn’t really know how appropriate it was to the times until the new administration came in,” King said of the series. “Suddenly, it made sense as a way to comment on the new culture.”
King and his wife, co-creator and co-showrunner Michelle King, subsequently revised the pilot to open with Baranski’s Diane watching as Trump is sworn in as president with her mouth hanging open. “Now I find myself watching the news [like that],” Baranski joked as she mimicked the expression.
In the spinoff, which picks up a year after the events of The Good Wife finale, Diane is also shocked and horrified to learn that she has lost all of her retirement savings in a Ponzi scheme and most return to the law at a new firm right as she was about to retire. Baranski drew parallels between Diane’s struggle and the “profound disequilibrium” of many citizens following the election.
“What Diane goes through is this complete fall and a profound sense of disorientation about her life,” she said. “I think that was what was happening in the country. We were blindsided, we were shaken to our foundation with what happened. No matter how you voted, it was still a traumatic event.”
Baranski also opened up about how politics helped define the Diane character in the early years of the original series. “Her politics were very much a part of who the character was,” she said.
Initially hesitant to discuss it in detail, the Emmy winner revealed that Clinton indeed played a major role in helping her crack Diane.
“That was the first autobiography I read when I got offered the role,” Baranski said of Clinton’s book. “Diane was a few years behind Hillary, … which is why she’s deeply affected at the beginning of the pilot by the defeat of Hillary.”
Even the opening credits of the series, which show various objects like a computer, a purse, a desk and a phone exploding, speaks to the larger ideas at play.
“It seemed to fit the themes we were trying to explore,” Robert said, in reference to both politics and Diane’s personal financial struggle, “the anger that the show was trying to tap into when coming around with the new administration.”
Subsequent episodes have also tackled Trump directly. In one episode, Diane’s new firm is worried about losing a government defense contract because of the new administration. Another episode deals with the idea of censorship in the Trump era. However, the Kings stressed such episodes don’t have a particular political agenda.
“We should all be aware of what’s going on,” Robert said. “All this stuff is very important but it can chase every good idea out of your mind. … Suddenly everything involves politics. What Michelle and I want to go for is to address the culture of that.”
Although Baranski joked that the Kings have a crystal ball in their writers room, The Good Fight has also been able to tackle many issues brought on by the new administration because of the quick turnaround for scripts. Although they’re only making 10 episodes of The Good Fight per season (as opposed to 22 per season for The Good Wife), the production schedule has remained the same.
“There a script due every eight days,” Robert said. “Everybody needs to save money with the studio space so it’s not spread out over the year. It’s like 10 episodes but still done in the time you would do 10 of the 22 episodes.”
However, the writers still admitted it’s a fine line of how much to discuss the new administration given how much it’s dominated the news cycle since January. “The challenge is Trump fatigue,” Robert said. “The worry is people will want entertainment that is a little bit free from it.”
Looking ahead to season two, the Kings didn’t reveal what kind of subject matter they hope to tackle (and how much of that will be related to the president), but they revealed the plan to do a particularly ambitious episode that ended up not making it into season one.
“We were going to do an episode that didn’t have a word of dialogue in it,” Robert said. “We’re trying to do it next year.”
Perhaps another dramatic jaw-drop from Diane?
New episodes of The Good Fight are available to stream Sundays on CBS All Access.
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