A version of this interview with Christine Baranski first appeared in The Race Begins issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
More than perhaps any other fictional show on TV, “The Good Fight” not only reflects the era in which we live, it’s every bit as obsessed with the man in the Oval Office as Stephen Colbert and Trevor Noah are.
The second season has featured episodes on the potential impeachment of Donald Trump and on the possible existence of the much-rumored “pee tape” — but more than that, it has found the lead character of Diane Lockhart, played by Christine Baranski, in a complete tailspin because she can’t cope with the outcome of the last election.
In “The Good Wife,” Lockhart was a high-powered and highly successful lawyer who worked with star Julianna Margulies’s Alicia Florrick, but in the CBS All Access spinoff, she’s a mess. And Baranski couldn’t be happier about that.
Has your understanding of the character of Diane Lockhart changed since you first played her on “The Good Wife”?
I wouldn’t say it’s changed, but it’s certainly deepened and widened. I have more opportunities to work now, being No. 1 on the call sheet, and being on a show that is focused more on the Diane story. I feel like I’ve had a seven-year warm-up to do the spinoff.
Which immediately took Diane to a very different place.
If you think of the way they began the spinoff, with Diane losing all her money – that wouldn’t have paid off dramatically if you hadn’t seen Diane for seven years be at the top of her game. But then she loses all her money, and in Season 2 we see a character who we’ve known always be the grownup in the room — she always had elegance, sanity, a liberal but very well-reasoned value system and way of life. And you see this character really kind of become unhinged and not be able to cope with the present reality, or lack of reality, that she’s witnessing.
She’s binging on cable news, micro-dosing [on psychedelic drugs] and sleeping with bartenders and walking around the office barefoot. And we’re all feeling unhinged, aren’t we? I’ve been doing interviews today, and between one interview and the next I went on my phone and it seems [White House lawyer] Ty Cobb has resigned. That’s a different story from this morning. We live in an age where we can’t keep up with the news.
It must have been fun to play the unhinged version of the character.
Absolutely. I have said to people, including the Kings, that I never enjoyed the character and the work as much. It was liberating to go to dark and sorrowful places. What happened this season is scary, because the world in which you live seems to be dissolving, and the democracy that you lived in seems on very shaky ground.
There’s paranoia and deep anxiety built into the whole season. They just went headlong into Trumpland, with impeachment episodes and pee-tape episodes. I think it’s been a brilliant season.
Diane always seems to be a survivor.
Well, there are consequences to her unhinged behavior that will take her into Season 3. When the Kings and I were discussing that they were going to set this character loose, and then bring her back into some kind of peacefulness, they mentioned Eastern religion. I said, “Eastern religion is fine, but it’s not going to be exciting for viewers to watch Diane meditate. What about martial arts?”
The next thing I knew, they had me in an aikido studio flipping large men over my shoulders.
Have you yourself become a cable-news junkie?
I start my day with “Morning Joe,” and there’s a TV in my dressing room I so actually watch TV. And I often have gone straight from watching some horrifying news development that makes me furious and angry to filming scenes where my character is furious and angry.
I think it’s the only show that has dared to live really in this political, emotional, psychic national time that we’re in, and put the characters in that time. And it still has subtlety, and is probably funnier than it’s ever been.
Read more of TheWrap Emmy magazine’s The Race Begins issue here.