Charlie Rose cut straight to the chase on Wednesday night in his discussion with “The Good Wife” gang.
“We’re going to start with one question: what the hell happened to Will and why?”
Rose, the “CBS This Morning” host, posed the question to “Good Wife”creators/exec producers Robert and Michelle King and stars Julianna Margulies and Josh Charles during the panel at the Ed Sullivan Theater. Rose was referring, of course, to the surprise shooting death of Charles’ Will Gardner character on Sunday’s episode.
Will’s demise was actually a carefully constructed storyline nearly one year in the making, the Kings revealed. When he informed them last March that he wouldn’t be renewing his contract, there was a real desire to complete his character’s trajectory in a way that felt organic to the show. Were Charles to leave at the end of that season, the writers wouldn’t have time to incorporate his departure into the existing storylines.
Knowing this, Margulies and others worked hard to convince Charles to stay just a bit longer.
“It kind of meant his character was going to just disappear or someone was going to just talk about him leaving,” she said. “I couldn’t accept that. I thought, you know, he’s been such an integral part of the show, such an integral part of my character and I felt like if this is going to happen, let’s do it right.”
Charles agreed to stay for 15 episodes into the fifth season, which was structured so a plot line that involved the formation of a competing law firm occupied the arc of the first half. The season’s final seven episodes, Robert King says, will surround the aftermath of the death and “dealing with Alicia’s dismay about life, dismay about her career, is she doing the right thing, has she gotten off on the wrong track somewhere?”
That Will would die was a decision that was made very deliberately. “It felt like anything else would have been a little bit too easy. And would have stayed out there. We all would have wanted Alicia to have Will had he been only across the country or disbarred,” Michelle King said. “What this also is it was something more interesting for Alicia. To see the next step for Alicia, which is really what this show is always about.”
Charles was eager to clarify his perspective on leaving, which he said felt like the natural next step for him.
“My contract was up and so there’s a time to think about renewing and that was proposed to me and I thought long and hard about it. And it coincided with the same time I was proposing to my wife and I’m now married and I did a lot of soul searching,” he said. :And I think, look, it’s a very long season doing a network television show and I just think somewhere at year four, I just felt like, I kind of felt burnt out.”
There’s been a lot of chatter about this being the best season yet of “The Good Wife,” as its storytelling became more adventurous and unpredictable. “I think has been a little bit of a special season. Perhaps because we were taking bigger chances. The splitting up of the firm, losing Will, those were bigger moves than we’ve ever attempted in the past,” Michelle King said.
Viewers immediately responded to this week’s big move, with the episode becoming fodder for everything from fan tweets to an impassioned New York Times op-ed from Delia Ephron. (“Will Gardner died last Sunday,” the author wrote. “I was so upset I couldn’t sleep, took half a Valium at 3 a.m., overslept, took the wrong subway the next morning and ended up in Herald Square.”) Those grieving should plan to have tissues on hand for this Sunday’s episode, titled “The Last Call,” which depicts the death’s impact on each character.
“We decided that the real event would be in two parts – the shock of someone’s death, the sudden death of someone was the, I would say, the first thing that happens when someone you love dies is that. But then there is this immediate aftermath,” said Robert King. “First you throw the rock in the pond but what’s interesting are the ripples that it causes.”