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'The Good Fight' creators discuss why they changed course on President Trump in Season 2

'The Good Fight' creators discuss why they changed course on President Trump in Season 2
Audra McDonald, left, and Christine Baranski appear in a Season 2 episode of "The Good Fight." (Patrick Harbron / CBS)

“The Good Fight,” CBS All Access’ “Good Wife” spinoff, has become closely linked with President Trump since its premiere. After all, the series opened with the image of a shell-shocked Diane Lockhart watching Trump’s inauguration with her mouth agape.

However, on an ATX Television Festival panel Sunday in Austin, Texas, series creators Robert and Michelle King revealed they originally planned to move away from Trump, and the administration at large, in Season 2.

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“We started the season saying we would not talk about Trump at all or the current administration,” Robert King said. The current administration was affecting so much of the culture it felt like people were tired of it — but that didn’t work out.”

The original plan for Season 2 ? Focus on tort reform. “We were going to make the most suspenseful tort reform show on TV,” he said.

However, once the team regrouped to start writing, it became clear there was no way of avoiding talking about Trump, either in the writer’s room or on the series. “It had to be on the page,” Michelle King said.

Instead, the recently completed second season went all in. The opening credits were changed to include two TVs — one showing Trump and another Russian President Vladimir Putin — exploding. Every episode was named to correspond to the then-length of the Trump administration, and the fictional firm at the center of the series was even recruited by the Democratic National Committee to try to find a way to impeach Trump. And then there was an entire episode about a character who had visa issues because of her appearance in a video of Trump, mirroring real-life allegations that Russia gathered compromising material in the form of a video of the president in a Moscow hotel.

“With ‘The Good Wife,’ we were able to be a little more even-handed,” Michelle said. “In this show it feels like it’s a little more pointed than what we would have wanted, frankly.”

The husband-and-wife team said the quick turnaround on the series — the Season 2 finale finished shooting three weeks before it premiered – has allowed them to delve into timely topics.

“It’s scary because there’s this window,” Robert said. “You could try to be as current as possible but you’re always a little worried that they’re going to discover the … tape and then you can’t show that episode.”

(The Kings are no stranger to tackling political themes after their 2016 CBS political satire series “BrainDead” that centered on bugs taking over the brains of members of Congress. “It was probably the wrong place and the wrong time. It was a fun show and we enjoyed it,” Michelle said. “Real politics were so strange and are so strange that I think we were out-shown.”)

Speaking about the impeachment episode, the Kings revealed it was originally supposed to be Alan Cumming’s political fixer character Eli Gold leading the charge for the DNC. Instead, Margo Martindale reprised her role from the original, when she played Peter Florrick’s campaign manager. “We just couldn’t make it work because [Cumming] was doing ‘Instinct,’” Robert said.

Other scrapped storylines for Season 2 include a deeper dive into Delroy Lindo’s Adrian Boseman, particularly his mysterious love life, and a look at conservative writer Kevin D. Williamson, who was hired and then fired by the Atlantic last year after his hiring sparked outrage among the publication’s largely liberal readership.

“I think there’s a story there about the left trying to turn itself into a mirror of the right,” Robert said.

Looking ahead to next season, the Kings said they plan to take a tougher look at the media. “We have a reality star president and it felt if we were honest with ourselves, part of the problem is TV itself,” Robert said. “Part of the next year would be very meta.”

What remains to be seen for Season 3 is which way the midterm elections will go, and just how that will bleed into the series. The writer’s room opens at the end of August, roughly 2 ½ months prior. “We may get a stronger sense as we go into it,” Robert said.

Added Michelle: “It will be interesting.”

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