Christine Baranski says new show The Good Fight captures "the Trumpian universe"

In The Good Fight, award-winning actress Christine Baranski (left) is a lawyer who is forced to start over after she has her life savings wiped out.
In The Good Fight, award-winning actress Christine Baranski (above) is a lawyer who is forced to start over after she has her life savings wiped out.PHOTO: CBS

Actress Christine Baranski plays an accomplished lawyer who has to start from scratch in The Good Fight, a spin-off from The Good Wife

The hit legal and political drama The Good Wife (2009-2016) was often remarkably prescient - its story of a politician's wife standing by him through sex and corruption scandals foreshadowed similar ordeals suffered by the spouses of public figures such as former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

According to star Christine Baranski, the show's husband-and-wife creators, Robert and Michelle King, have brought that same crystal ball to their new spin-off, The Good Fight, which debuts in Singapore today on Star World (Singtel TV Channel 301 and StarHub TV Channel 501, 10pm).

Baranski's lawyer character Diane, from The Good Wife, undergoes a setback similar to that of another powerful woman in her 60s who thought she was about to have it all - failed American presidential contender Hillary Clinton.

The beginning of the pilot episode sees "Diane in her 60s, ready to retire and at the top of her game", says Baranski.

But a Bernie Madoff-like Ponzi scheme suddenly wipes out her life savings, her old firm squeezes her out and she is forced to start over.

The Kings came up with this arc well before the United States presidential election last November, which most pundits believed Mrs Clinton, 69, would win.

Speaking to The Straits Times and other press in Los Angeles earlier this year, Baranski, 65, say the Kings must have "had a crystal ball in the writers' room because they seem to know what's going to happen" and their "stories often are uncannily contemporary when they air", even though "we were actually shooting the pilot before and during the election".

One scene, in particular, sums up the eerie parallels between the two women. "It was just uncanny to have Diane in an office looking at my photograph with Hillary Clinton, putting it in a box and closing the box, having lost everything," says the star, who has an Emmy for the sitcom Cybill (1995-1998) and two Tonys for her stage work.

"Diane loses everything and, in light of what happened in our good country, it's just remarkable that this show is right on the tip of the zeitgeist."

The series co-stars Rose Leslie, who appeared in Game Of Thrones in 2011 and plays Diane's goddaughter Maia, a junior lawyer who also suffers a personal setback.

Maia and Diane end up moving to another top Chicago law firm where they and their colleagues handle cases dealing with the sort of hot-button legal, political and technological issues showcased on The Good Wife, which won two Best Actress Emmys (2011 and 2014) for star Julianna Margulies.

Writer and producer Robert King explains that the series - which airs on the new CBS All Access streaming service in the US - is able to do ripped-from-the-headlines stories more than cable television because of its faster turnaround, which means "we are writing and shooting the episodes as the news is going on".

Thus there will be episodes about hot topics such as fake news and the rise of the alt-right.

"We look at how much fake news is making it a fuzzier line between what we all accept as true and false, whether it is about global warming or even whether there was a murder last night," says King, 57.

"That kind of thing, when applied to the law, is terrifying because the law needs to know what the facts are. It needs to decide what the facts are. So what do you do when the world becomes this grey area about what is truth and what is fiction?"

In addition, Baranski says the show's characters will "live in a Trumpian universe" that reflects the current political climate in the US.

The episodes will explore what this means for women in particular as it looks at the five female characters who anchor the show and have to reinvent themselves.

"You see their world being changed by the culture and the fact that perhaps they do have to start fighting the good fight again. The fight is not over," says Baranski, who was married to the late actor Matthew Cowles and has two daughters aged 32 and 29.

"It's troubling for our country, but it makes for great terrain for writing. And to be acting it - and to be a woman working on television of any age, certainly at my age - is a wonderful place to be," she says, adding that the show also gives her the chance to "explore the national and the feminine psyche right now".

As the Kings take aim at Trump's America, however, they are not about to let liberals off the hook.

Robert King says The Good Wife was often written as a "satire of the liberal mindset", even though "most of our friends are liberals and it was literally like a third of the country had died" after the shock results of the last election, which many saw as a defeat for liberal values.

But the critique of liberals will continue with The Good Fight which is set, like the original, in a largely liberal-leaning law firm.

This is "partly because I think our instinct is, first and foremost, satiric - there is an irony about all the characters", King says.

For example, "Diane is a liberal whose parents fought for gun control, but she cannot resist holding a gun and that is a satiric view of liberal niceties".

Another source of satire will be the fact that Diane's new firm is predominantly black. "This show has always been interested in racial politics and with trying to take dangerous subjects and treat them comically.

"What felt funny was to think of Christine Baranski in this all African-American firm and what kind of culture clash would come out of that," he says.

"And, because we're now in an African-American firm where everybody lives in his own liberal bubble, are there biases that are just as bad as conservative biases?"

•The Good Fight debuts today on Star World (Singtel TV Channel 301 and StarHub TV Channel 501) at 10pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 07, 2017, with the headline 'Down and out, but still game to fight'. Print Edition | Subscribe