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How a ‘Reality TV President’ Changed the Trajectory of ‘The Good Fight’

The Good Fight” co-creators Michelle King and Robert King titled each episode of the second season of their CBS All Access legal drama after the number of days it has been since Donald Trump took the president’s office. But, Robert King admitted at the ATX Television Festival Sunday that they started the season saying [they] “would not talk about Trump at all.”

In a conversation moderated by Variety‘s own executive editor of TV, Debra Birnbaum, Robert King said that originally it was supposed to be “an optimistic season.”

“Our worry was not even to be good little boys and girls, but the current administration, it felt like it was affecting everything,” he said, noting they were looking to provide a bit of a break.

Ultimately, though, because the show is set in present day, and because conversations about the administration were dominating discussions in their writers’ room, the Kings decided to go all-in after all.

“I have no idea what the second season would have looked like [if Trump didn’t win],” Michelle King admitted.

Robert King noted that Trump is a “reality star who uses TV understanding to infect the culture,” which was rich story to mine. But, they stressed, it came from a place of character first.

“We just decided to hang a lantern on it,” he pointed out. “That is the character of Diane’s, played by Christine Baranski, problem — how it’s infecting the culture. …It’s not really about him. It’s about someone like Diane, who comes from a liberal family, dealing with it.”

In the second season, Diane began microdosing mushrooms as a way to deal with her frustrations about the way the world was working. But in her doing so, she began to lose a little grip on her reality and wonder if things she saw Trump say and do on television were real.

“Diane is not someone who if you said, ‘Here’s cocaine, she’d go snort it in the bathroom.’ She’s too elegant — Christine Baranski is too elegant. But if you give her a little vial of something… Diane was done with reality [and] needed to put it aside,” he said. “We kind of wanted to go towards this place [of a] faulty narrative. Is there a pot-bellied pig in the White House?”

Michelle King added that between the first and second seasons of the show, they had some more time to “think about it as a whole, and that made it more one thing, one tone.” And their impulse, she continued, was to satirize the politics because “the characters don’t take themselves too seriously.”

“With ‘The Good Wife’ we were able to be a little more even-handed. Satire goes on both sides, but in this show it feels a little more pointed than what we would have wanted, frankly,” she said.

But that doesn’t mean they will slow down with their political commentary. Because we have a “reality TV president,” Robert King said, “part of the problem is TV itself — not the news but entertainment.”

“In a post-factual world, narrative seems to have the honesty that people find they’re not getting from facts, and that is bulls—. That’s a lie. So next year will be very meta,” he said.

While this season’s opening featured office items exploding, Robert King wants to see that pulled back further, to include “C-stands blowing up and the walls of sets falling down.”

“I think Trump and others in the administration use that sense of the shock and the turn that you want to distract. So I think that’s what we want to do next season.”

The Good Fight” writers’ room will start before the 2018 elections play out, so the Kings admitted they don’t yet know how those specific real-world politics may come into play.

However, the idea of “the danger of the left [being] the danger of the right, which is an echo chamber” is an area of interest to Robert King, primarily in looking at the Atlantic’s firing of Kevin Williamson.

The Kings also shared that their writers’ room is made up of three women and four men (not counting themselves), including African-American writers, LGBTQ writers, and writers that have different regional backgrounds, as well as religious views. They also pointed out that their crew is 45% female which is “not typical for a crew, especially a New York crew,” said Robert King. Where they did say they didn’t have as much diversity was in the political beliefs of their writers.

“You go try to find some New York writers that are not on the left!” Michelle King said.

Michelle King added that it is always preferable to have writers with different beliefs to fuel the different points of views of the characters, but she also noted that “one doesn’t ask that in an interview” because it would be “inappropriate.” Compiling a group of people from different walks of life organically lends itself to those with “very different views” when you “start narrowing it down to ‘How do you feel about gun control, how do you feel about abortion?'” she pointed out.

This also allowed for a better reflection of well-rounded characters in the story and on the screen.

“You don’t need to worry if you made one of them a Trump supporter. Suddenly it gave them — and our writers — the ability to show the expanse,” Robert King said. “You don’t have to worry that, ‘Oh he’s the one, so he has to be good.’ The more you have this not as unique one person because you’re playing [just] to ‘I’ve got to diversify the cast.'”

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