When it was first announced that there'd be a spinoff of The Good Wife, fans of the show had one question: what about Alicia? Although the titular Wife had a worthy exit on the series' 2016 finale, it seemed unfathomable that a new show centered around many of the original's main characters, like Diane, Lucca, and Marissa, would not feature its leading lady, too. Yet The Good Fight Season 1, which came to an end on Sunday, did just that — and according to creators Robert and Michelle King, it's more than likely that Alicia, aka Julianna Margulies, won't ever be on The Good Fight going forward.
"That’s not our intention," says Michelle, speaking with her husband via phone a few days before the show's season finale. "Much as we adore Julianna, and Alicia, the feeling is that we ended that story the way that we all hoped we would, and we didn’t want to put an asterisk on it."
Although the series finale of The Good Wife — in which Alicia stood by estranged husband and sullied governor Peter's side as he resigned from office, only to run off and be slapped across the face by former friend and colleague Diane — was polarizing, to say the least, the hour did feel like a final goodbye to Alicia, after seven seasons of her leading the show. And in its first 13 episodes, The Good Fight has created a compelling world of its own without her, with familiar faces like Diane and Lucca sharing screentime with newcomers like Maia and Barbara and pushing thoughts of an Alicia reappearance into the far, far background.
Yet while the series has certainly succeeded without Alicia, earning significant acclaim from critics, that outcome was no guarantee. Any spinoff of a popular, well-loved show is a gamble, and the showrunners' decision to not feature the original series' primary star and most famous face, even in an occasional cameo or flashback, could've ended with disappointed fans — something the Kings were fully aware of, they tell me.
"I would say I was nervous about everything," Michelle says with a laugh. "So to be sure, [not having Alicia] was on the list. But there were so very many things to be nervous about."
Adds Robert, "The only thing that felt like a relief here is [that] we’re not on a network. If you’re going to bellyflop, you really don’t want to bellyflop on a network at 9 p.m. and have so much attention drawn to it."
The Good Fight's airing on the streaming site CBS All Access, rather than on the primetime channel home of the original Wife, understandably allowed the showrunners to feel less pressure when it came to satisfying fans or appeasing execs. Still, even with that boost, both Kings admit that not having Alicia appear on the new show was indeed a concern — but they were mollified by the fact that barring a few newly-allowed curse words or Trump administration critiques, their two shows shared many similarities.
"We had all the same crew from The Good Wife — we had the same director, Brook Kennedy, who’s also our EP," explains Robert. "So there was enough continuation that if we’re gonna screw this up, it’s not gonna be a massive screw-up — that was our feeling."
Thankfully, the creators don't have to worry any longer, as The Good Fight not only received stellar reviews from critics during its Season 1 run, but was renewed for a second year back in March. The Kings are excited to plan out the new episodes —"What would be good is going into this next year feeling a lot more prepared, feeling like we can build these arcs, and wanting to explore different ways to tell a story," says Robert — but mostly, they're relieved to have that first, high-expectations year behind them.
"Imagine yourself being in college for nine years and having a paper due every nine days. That was what this last nine years for us were like," Robert says with a laugh, explaining that he and Michelle went straight from The Good Wife to BrainDead, their sci-fi dramedy that was cancelled after one season, and then to The Good Fight Season 1. Right now, he adds, "we are kind of just catching our breath... it's summer vacation here."
Fair enough. The Good Fight may have been an undisputed success, even without its predecessor's most familiar face on-board, but after so many years of non-stop creation, the people behind it certainly deserve a break.