Warning: If you have not watched Thursday's season premiere of The Good Fight, you are about to enter spoiler territory. You have been warned.
CBS All Access' The Good Fight opens its fourth season with a what-if episode that explores the hypothetical reality of what Hillary Clinton as the first female president would actually look like, as well as the associated consequences that come from that. It's a call-back to the series' very first hour, where staunch liberal Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) is stunned beyond belief that Donald Trump is now America's chosen leader.
What follows is nearly 50 minutes of paranoia-fueled anxiety as Diane finds her footing in this "new reality," stumbling her way -- often creating unexpected comedic gems -- through a #MeToo-less world where troubled men like Harvey Weinstein are off scot-free. The episode, which dropped Thursday on CBS All Access, is just a reminder of how wacky and rule-defying The Good Fight can be. (The alternate reality, of course, ends up being all in Diane's head.)
And season four, which introduces the new mystery of Memo 618 -- a document that seems to wipe away crimes with one swift mention that's somehow tied to the legal system -- continues that march for The Good Wife spinoff. With the premiere episode now streaming, ET hopped on the phone to catch up with actress Sarah Steele, who plays fearless investigator Marissa Gold, about the new season, the groundbreaking first hour, the mysterious Memo 618 and more.
ET: The Good Fight is back! It really seems like you guys are going for it this year with the kooky and wacky story points. Do you feel like the show is raising the bar?
Sarah Steele: Yeah. The way that I see it we started to get very zany in season three, which I love. I think season four keeps that up without ever crossing into it being too much. What I like about it is this whole corporate takeover of the firm... You know, after you do a show for a few seasons, the drama that you can have between the characters, you almost go through everything that can happen and then you need the whole world to be upended. This happened in The Good Wife in season five when Alicia left the firm; they blew up this world that they had built. That's what we've done this season on The Good Fight, I think. They blew up the world they built. Now, it's this other thing where the whole firm is an underdog and the dynamics that used to exist between the people in the firm are now existing on this other plane because our bosses now have bosses.
STR Laurie, the conglomerate that has taken over Reddick Boseman Lockhart is like the upstairs. Literally, they're upstairs.
The upstairs, yeah!
And RBL is the downstairs. How does this new power dynamic shake things up?
What's really cool about it is that you get to see how these different characters and personalities deal with not being in nearly as much control. A huge part of this season is that people with money don't have to abide by the same rules as everyone else. There's a question of how does a law show function if people don't have to abide by the laws anymore? The stakes of that become really different and sort of surreal and weird. How do these different personalities deal with their control unraveling and the world as they know it unraveling?
You alluded to people of a certain stature getting to break the rules and the tangible version of that is this mysterious document, Memo 618, that's introduced in episode two. What can you tell us about how this season-long mystery upends everything?
What can I tell you about that? I think it functions in the way of [representing that] the rules are changing. The rules in these characters' worlds are changing, but we're also breaking these television standards [as The Good Fight]. It's sort of like what's happening to the characters, the showrunners are also doing with the form. It echoes itself, in a way.
The premiere episode is rule-breaking, where we see Diane Lockhart living in an alternate reality where Hillary Clinton is president but the #MeToo movement doesn't exist and men like Harvey Weinstein haven't been brought to their knees. What was it like filming that episode?
It was really fun. That's another thing; you don't know what a show is going to be until you're doing it. This year, [co-creator] Robert [King] was like, "YI'm sitting on these very comedic actresses." Christine Baranski is a comedic genius, you know? My character has always been comedic relief, butCush [Jumbo] is very funny too. Even when we were filming that first episode, there was a scene between me, Cush and Christine. After we shot it, he just was like, "God, the three of you are really just so funny. I really need to be using that more." And I think he is. Because acting is a suspension of disbelief in all ways, to have to really put myself in the shoes of someone for whom Trump was never president and is still living in that old reality of, "Oh no, of course that would never happen," it was interesting and cathartic to look at the world through this other lens.
Marissa has always felt like the one character on the show who finds this whole world amusing and a bit ridiculous.
I know! That's what I love so much about the way [Robert] wrote her encountering this with Diane. She's not like, "Wait, you've gone crazy." She just goes with it, "Oh, OK. Yeah, so you were living in a different world? Cool, interesting. Tell me all about it." I very much love that about her.
Did you have a favorite moment from the first episode?
Oh yeah, certainly the whole list of men that [Diane] reads off, of those [troubled] men and what they did. And me being like, "Oh my god! What?" That was very, very fun to shoot. It just was so funny. I love that I get to be a part of something that's taking this moment and memorializing it in this sort of surreal, comedic way.
Because Marissa is one of the firm's investigators, you get to really interact with everyone in the cast. Is there anyone you're excited about spending more time with this season?
This isn't really from a character perspective, this is more just a Sarah Steele perspective, but for a theater nerd, Audra McDonald is like... I really am pinching myself every day that I get to work with Audra McDonald. It just blows my mind. Our characters getting to have more to do was exciting for me personally, to get to work with her more because I think she's truly one of the greats. Of course, so is Christine. I think there's always in me a little bit of it still feels so new that I get to work with her, even though it's not really. That was really exciting for me.
This is the first season without Rose Leslie. How does not having Maia around affect Marissa? Considering they were friends and so deeply aligned in the first three seasons, is there a bit of a void?
It's really true. It's definitely a bummer, I think both for the character and for me, just because it was really nice to get to explore the side of Marissa that interacts with her peers. Because I started on the show when I was so young and when I only ever interacted with [Alan Cumming] playing my dad [Eli Gold] -- I obviously love him so much, I'm so honored to play his daughter -- there is something that feels, in a way, more adult about getting to interact with your peers, rather than being "the kid." So Rose and Maia was a huge function for us to get to see Marissa's young adult life of going to bars and complaining about your boss and looking up boys. It's definitely a loss that I really felt this season.
We know that Delroy Lindo is leaving the show this season. What do you make of that?
That character [Adrian Boseman] is great, and what he does with it is amazing. He will be sorely missed. I will say, I just trust the Kings to move us into some other weird world -- that the fact that one of the named partners is not going to be there anymore... If I was working with different showrunners, I'd be like, "Well then, they should just cancel the show," you know? But with this, I'm definitely like, "No, it's going to be some other world." There is still such a great cast that's continuing. That character has had a beautiful run, and he's done a beautiful job. If he's wanting to do other things, I support him. He'll be missed and the show will become something different.
There is new blood this season with Hugh Dancy coming aboard as a new associate, Caleb, and he has an interesting dynamic with Marissa right off the bat. What can you say about how he comes into the fray?
First of all, Hugh Dancy is just the loveliest person. It's so funny because last year we had Michael Sheen, and this year we have Hugh. I just keep coming to work being like, "You guys just keep hiring the loveliest British dreamboats for me to hang out with." I think Marissa is intrigued by him and has probably developed something of a crush on him, but also is trying to be professional about it and not let that get in her way of doing her job. They develop this flirty, kind of tricky relationship. By tricky, I don't mean hard, I mean they are tricking each other in various ways. It's not often for Marissa to meet someone equally blunt and difficult to figure out as herself. I think he's a surprising character for her to come into contact with.
The Good Fight always seems to break new ground every season and even every episode. Is there something you've seen on the show that never would've thought you'd ever see? I never thought I would see Diane in a leather dominatrix catsuit for starters...
(Laughs.) That's really good. It's just like, "Oh my God!" It's so delicious, isn't it?
This is a throwback to season three, but I certainly never thought I'd see Michael Sheen singing Jackson 5['s "I'll Be There"] with a rollercoaster and rolling hills in the background. I was like, "What is going on?" But I loved it. I'm so proud of being on something on network adjacent TV that's that weird.
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