Spin-offs can breathe new life into your favorite shows, by focusing on a supporting character.
Spin-offs like Frasier, Better Call Saul, Angel, The Jeffersons, and Rhoda are all classics in their own right. Sure, sometimes they go wrong — the less said about Joey, the better — but CBS is betting big on the power of its newest drama to draw subscribers into its streaming service, CBS All Access.
In Fight, Christine Baranski reprises her role of Diane Lockhart, who thought she’d retire until she loses her retirement fund in a Ponzi scheme. Rose Leslie, Delroy Lindo, Erica Tazel, Justin Bartha, and Sarah Steele also star, with Cush Jumbo also reprising her Good Wife role of Lucca Quinn.
Everyone’s talking shared universe now. Marvel’s got one in the movies. The CW has one with its Arrowverse shows. The Kings see the world of The Good Wife and The Good Fight a little differently.
“The show I think I relate more to is The Simpsons,” Robert King said. “You’re never sure when you’ll turn a corner and there’s a character that maybe figured three years ago, except with us it’s real actors. Can we get Matthew Perry back? Can we get Carrie Preston back? It’s also the way we experience life. I may not see a relative for a while and then you see them and [find out] what has happened in the time away.”
The Good Wife finale drove a wedge between Diane and Lucca when Lucca cross-examined Diane’s husband Kurt (Gary Cole) and exposed Kurt’s possible affair. A year later, Diane finds herself working alongside Lucca again.
“They’re polite with each other,” Baranski said. “I think there’s a lot that Diane has processed and let go of. She meets Lucca in a deposition and it’s friendly until it gets a little tense. I think Diane has basically thought Well, it was probably not Lucca’s idea to go after Kurt that way. It was Alicia’s idea, and Lucca went along with it.”
The Good Fight picks up after a year of struggles for many characters. Even before she loses her money, Diane’s professional goals hit a road block, and Lucca found a new opportunity.
“Diane had a goal of running an all female firm at the end of The Good Wife,” Robert King said. “That didn’t work out so well, so she, with David Lee and Howard Lyman, find a merger with two other medium- to large-sized firms in Chicago and become this massive firm at the start of the show. With Lucca, she was running a law firm with Alicia for a while. Then Alicia took a sabbatical, so Lucca has found herself headhunted by this all African-American firm, Reddick, Boseman and Kolstad.”
Diane has to go back to work, also for Reddick, Boseman and Kolstad. She now works under Barbara Kolstad (Tazel), who won’t let her forget it.
“She has a female boss to answer to who lets her know, ‘Not so fast. You’re not a name partner,’” Baranski said. “So she’s got to deal with sitting in the back of the room, and that’s a very new position for her. For seven years, you only saw Diane behind that fabulous desk with the Chicago backdrop.”
Darkness at Noon was a fake cop drama the Florricks sometimes watched.
“It is still on the air, but we’ve not yet tuned in,” Michelle King said.
Robert King revealed that they are considering giving Darkness its own fictional spin-off, like The Good Fight.
“One of the proposals from the writers room was to do a sequel to Darkness at Noon that plays on our show,” he said. “I think it would be the female partner, trying to play the idea of the corrupt, female take-charge woman.”
Reddick, Boseman and Kolstad represents the victims in police brutality cases. Diane used to defend the city, so Boseman (Lindo) had the idea to use Diane to his advantage.
“At the beginning of the pilot, she’s actually in a deposition, and she’s representing Cook County,” Baranski said. “The character played by Delroy Lindo woos Diane into his firm. It’s because he wants her to be on his side. So it’s the only firm that will take her on, but also Diane sees it as an opportunity and embraces it as a whole new world.”
Other Good Wife supporting characters are coming back: the aforementioned Perry and Preston, along with Jane Alexander, Denis O’Hare, John Benjamin Hickey, Michael Boatman, and Rita Wilson. Don’t expect to see pictures of Alicia Florrick in the background, or even her picture in newspapers or on TV.
“Although we haven’t planted props with her face on them, this is a world in which Alicia Florrick exists,” Michelle King said. “So she will be referred to, but she’s not a character in the show, so it’s not as though we’re following her story.”
There was no mention of Diane’s goddaughter in seven years of The Good Wife. However, they never said she didn’t have a goddaughter either. So now’s the perfect time to meet Maia (Leslie).
“I must say, it certainly is a brilliant idea to just start [the show] with mentoring your goddaughter,” Baranski said. “When you see Maia come in and Diane greets her, it just feels very natural that this girl was in law school. She graduated and got a job at the firm, and Diane is handing the baton over to her and welcoming her.”
Gary Cole will reprise his role of Diane’s husband Kurt in The Good Fight, Baranski said. Though events drive them apart, Baranski thinks Kurt will return.
“Diane ostensibly tells him in the pilot, ‘It’s over between us,’” Baranski said. “She actually says, ‘Divorce me. For the sake of your finances, you should divorce me, or they’ll freeze your assets.’ But he’s coming back. I think he’s still in love with her. He wants her back. I think the audience doesn’t want to see him go either.”
On streaming, Diane’s love life can be a tad more revealing than on CBS.
“Diane Lockhart in The Good Wife was a sexual being,” Michelle King said. “Because of network, you could only show so much. The character will continue to be a sexual being. You can show a bit more. Nothing is meant to be gratuitous.”
Robert King said The Good Fight‘s opening theme song may be a modern cover of a ’50s song, if they end up clearing it. The pilot also features “You Were Right About Everything” by Erin McKeown. But can they top using “Mucka Blucka” on The Good Wife?
“We have very quirky musical tastes,” Robert King said. “It’s a mix of classical, pop, and rock & roll. We just don’t want something that’s current. We want something maybe that’s five years old, 10 years old, 15 years old.”
The Good Fight premieres on CBS All Access and CBS on Sunday, February 19