The Writers' Room (2013) s02e05 Episode Script

The Good Wife

There were a whole bunch of these sex scandals that seemed to cascade at one time.
It started right in the pilot with Julianna going backstage with Chris Noth, and slapping him right across the face.
Repeatedly, hard.
He had a handprint.
He seemed to like it.
[Laughter] Tonight, on The Writers' Room Awesome.
Sex scandals, corporate spies, cunning lawyers, and vengeful politicians.
The Good Wife has been nominated for every award under the sun, and won Emmys, Screen Actors Guild awards, Critics Choice awards, Golden Globes, and even a Peabody.
I love watching TV with my friends, but The Good Wife is the kind of show that I really need to just, like, sit down, and shut the world out, and watch.
I think with a title called The Good Wife, guys might not be into it [Laughter] But once you watch it, it becomes so more complicated than that.
It's centered around Alicia Florrick.
Alicia finds out her husband has cheated on her with a prostitute.
Alicia doesn't stand for any crap, including her cheating husband, even though he is the governor.
It's obvious that there's so much research, and so much legal consultation that goes into the show.
That's why I watch it, is the intelligence level.
There's a really thin line between love and hate - on this show.
- She's great.
And there's sort of no middle ground, and I love that, 'cause it makes for really good drama.
It's all things The Good Wife, right now on The Writers' Room.
Outrageous success, horrible mistakes, last-minute changes.
The creators of today's most groundbreaking TV shows tell all, in the place where it all starts Joining me in The Writers' Room today, we have the co-creators and executive producers Robert and Michelle King, executive producer Ted Humphrey, and of course, the wonderful and talented star of The Good Wife, Emmy-winning, Golden Globe-winning, S.
award-winning, lead actress Julianna Margulies.
[Laughs] You are welcome.
I gave you - all of those awards, you know? - Thank you so much.
So take me to the beginning of the inspiration for the pilot.
There were a whole bunch of these sex scandals that seemed to cascade at one time.
- Yes.
- Well, there's a laundry list.
I mean, Eliot Spitzer, I mean, Clintons, John Edwards, - I don't know, Mark Sanford.
- Yeah.
We were looking at them, and what was most interesting-- I mean, these poor women got dragged onto stage next to their husbands, and you would look at these women, and so often, they were extremely smart, accomplished, and ofttimes, attorneys, and you kind of wondered, "okay, what's going on there?" And ofttimes, the marriages would endure.
Isn't it true that you guys were watching one of-- I think it was the Spitzer one, and Michelle looked at Robert and said, "so now, what happens?" - When they leave the podium - Yes.
What happens there? It started right in the pilot with Julianna going - backstage with Chris Noth - Yeah.
And slapping him right across the face.
- Because we all-- - Repeatedly, hard.
Did you-- Were there multiple takes there? - Oh, my God.
- He was red afterwards, - wasn't he? Yeah.
- He had-- He had a handprint.
- He seemed to like it.
- Yeah, did he-- Did he-- [Laughter] Did he keep asking for another? No, he was such a good sport about it.
And he looked at me, and he was like, "do you know how many times I've been slapped on Sex and the City? [Laughter] He goes, "this is nothing.
" It's hard to fake that moment.
- Yeah.
- You have to sort of do it, and he was game, God bless him.
You said that slap actually was a wakeup call for her life.
- Yeah.
- And that's sort of [Snaps] When the series begins.
There's a line in the pilot where she says-- The client asks her, "does this ever get easier?" - Right.
- And it's actually one of my favorite lines in the show, and you say, "no, but you do get better at it.
" And to me, the whole show is about that line.
I mean, the first time I read the script, I remember thinking, "this is exactly the questions I asked when I saw that press conference.
" What happens afterwards? And I wanted to go on that journey.
I knew that this was a character I could grow with, because it started so raw and incredibly vulnerable - Yeah.
- Yet stoic.
And I remember finishing the pilot, and seeing the pilot, and thinking, "this should get picked up, but it won't, - because it's too smart.
" - Really? But I was so happy to have had the experience.
- Yeah.
- And it's a husband and wife writing team that came up with this pilot.
- Yeah.
- I mean, that's genius.
I wish I could write, I can't write, but what I'm always fascinated-- They would come in, they're like, "we're taking these lines out," while we were shooting the pilot, and I would say, "well, why?" And they'd say, "'cause you actually say it better without saying it.
" Nine times out of ten, we really try to stay true to every single word.
As writers, our words can be precious sometimes, and then we realize, we go to some place - where we might have-- - Mine are not.
No, I'm looking at-- I'm looking at you, Ted.
No, but you know what she speaks to because what it is, is the process of a pilot, for sure, is very hard.
You have a lot of hands on deck.
But it's about finding this balance between the actor or actress playing these parts and the writers finding their voice and realizing that sometimes your words, uh, you might have overwritten.
Every week, I am so gratified to see how the incredible cast that we have elevates what we do.
And, yes, it is about you've overwritten a little bit, and then over time you learn not to overwrite - Yeah.
- Because they say with a look what you could say with words.
For me, it was about-- I saw the pilot and I have been in other circumstances where you're sitting around saying, "okay, we don't have any stories to tell," and it's the worst feeling in the world.
- Oof, yeah.
- Ooh.
And so I saw that pilot and I-- Just as you were saying it's a character I could grow with, reading it, I said, "there are many, many stories - to tell.
" - So many stories.
These are great characters that can grow over time and that, you know, this will not-- This is something that can really be great.
Did you write with Julianna in mind, or-- We thought Julianna wouldn't want to do it because she'd just come off another law show.
Even though we didn't think our show was a law show, you-- You know? It's network, and it's always-- You-- - Yes.
- And she plays a lawyer, so, yeah.
[Laughter] There's some key words in the logline that might ha-- - Might present that.
- And once Julianna was on it, we all three had a sit-down about what really grabbed you and what didn't, and you know, the way people recover from breakups and things like that, and then that was kind of brought into it.
Let's just say, just for fun that The Good Wife was a cable show.
Do you see or think of any changes that you would imagine? - More profanity.
- More profanity, so it'd be - The [bleep] Good Wife.
- Yeah, I mean, that's the thing I miss, is not -- Not having [bleep] every other word-- But sometimes that is the word.
- Yeah.
- But it's not the constant-- The inundation of it sometimes actually takes the power away from the word, but if you hear someone say "[bleep]" on network, it would be, "whoa.
" There's sometimes where Jules's character, Alicia Florrick, really needs to swear.
And we got into this idea in the fourth year that we could hide it under this honk.
- A beep? - Yeah.
'Cause we even made a joke about it, because sometimes, that is the word.
We've always agreed that we do a lot of sex on the show, but the sex, because we have such good actors, - is always in here.
- Yeah, yeah.
First of all, because it has to be - It has to be, yes.
- But it's sexier to see two people, whether it's Kalinda with one of the either women or men she's with, or Alicia with Will, or Alicia with Peter, it's be-- It's always more interesting to see their faces.
What you do have that a lot of the cable dips into is complicated, sometimes frustrating people.
The first year, there was an episode called "Heart," which was kind of a game-changer for us.
We had a scene where Jules's character, Alicia, kisses Will Gardner, who's played by Josh Charles, and then Alicia left, because she couldn't be there doing that.
And Michelle's suggestion was she should go home and [bleep] her husband.
[Laughter] - Yes.
- Because they're on bad terms.
But she really wants to get laid.
- Yeah.
- She knows she can't lay with-- - She's horny.
- Both: Yeah.
She was-- It was really good, because it was about female sexuality, and-- - Yeah.
- The room wouldn't have gone there, and then it was like, "can we do that?" And then she did.
And she did it in a way-- The way it written-- And I did it exactly as written-- But she literally-- He's, like, trying to be the guy, and she's like, "oh, no.
" And she just pushes him down - and just lifts up her skirt.
- Yeah, yup.
She doesn't even let him see her naked.
- Yup.
- And she [bleep] him, sitting on top of him, and then she leaves.
He wants to turn it into a lovey-dovey thing the next day, and she won't have anything of it.
She's like, "yeah, yeah, that was"-- Right, he's like, "so am I back the bedroom?" She's like, "no.
" [Laughter] - What was-- - It's awesome.
- Yeah.
- What network gives you is the opportunity to see the reaction - to what you've done quickly.
- Yeah.
And we have had things where we have just said, "oh, that doesn't work," or "that works great.
" So either "let's do more of it," or "let's cut it off right here," and you know, I think cable, when you're doing the entire season before even one airs, you just don't have that opportunity.
The beauty is, cable, you only have 10 to 12 episodes to say everything.
We actually have the luxury of time.
My character doesn't spew her guts out every week, my character doesn't smash her head against the wall, so when she finally does, I've had four years of an audience holding on, knowing what's going on inside, so it's so much more strangely effective.
When you're in the writers' room, what do you start with? Do you start with a case? The one thing we never do is look at what's going on in their lives, and then look for a case - that thematically resonates.
- To fit that, yes.
We never do that.
We always start with the assumption that Alicia is a real person, she's living her life, and cases are gonna walk in the door, and they're not gonna walk in the door because they're thematically relevant.
They're gonna walk in the door because a client needs service.
I mean, I worked in a law firm, and one of the things that I love about the sh-- I did that briefly for two years, before I came to my senses, but-- Disclaimer.
[Laughter] Yeah, disclaimer.
But one of the things - I love about the show-- - Now I just write about it.
It's not-- I-- It's not realistic really.
- Mm-hmm.
- I mean, you know, because real life is boring, but it is more-- A more realistic depiction of life in a law firm than any other show that I've ever seen that is set in a law firm in that it's all about money and who had the corner office, and you know, that kind of petty stuff.
It's not about high legal ideals.
Sometimes they kind of seep in on the edges, but it's about the day-to-day kind of climbing the totem pole of people's lives, which is very much what life in a law firm is sadly about, so-- Wow.
So when we come back, I'm gonna dig into some insider secrets with our panel here for The Good Wife, when The Writers' Room continues.
Welcome back to The Writers' Room: The Good Wife.
Let me ask you this.
No schmuck bait.
What is that? - I think it's a "Ted-ism.
" - Robert, writers? We don't want to do false jeopardy, and a lot of television shows-- Traditionally, you know, it's like, "is Batman gonna fall into the pot of boiling oil?" Well, you know he's not, because there's not gonna be a show next week if he does, but viewers used to sort of go for that.
It was just the currency of television, and it's not anymore.
And in the pilot, we set up that there was this contest between Alicia and Cary, that at the end of the season, there was only really money to keep one of them, and the other one would have to go.
And we were gonna do some [bleep] where they took a pay cut, and they both got to stay at the firm.
And then we said, "no, that's-- That's schmuck bait.
" What's not schmuck bait is, "let's fire Cary, and let's send him to the State's Attorney's office.
" And it scared us, because we didn't know-- That was breaking the template of the show.
- Yeah.
- We'd never gone to the State's Attorney's office.
We don't even have a set for that.
And it opened up for all of us, I think, that we didn't have to do the same thing all the time.
It directly paved the way to-- In this season, the firm splitting.
In the very beginning, we had a bunch of fans talking about their love of the show, and one of them mentioned the title, The Good Wife.
He says, "I don't know about that, but then I watched it, and I liked it.
" That title is brilliant.
It means so many things.
And it means a different thing - to all of us.
- Yeah.
What drew me to the show was this idea of, "who was this woman?" But what keeps you in the show is the idea of, "what is a good wife?" It's a title that's appropriate, even though I know a lot of people who just won't watch it because of the title.
Well, did you always call it The Good Wife? - No, it was an accident.
- Really? - Like-- - Yeah.
Who was it? David Zucker, who's our executive from Scott Free's company.
Another one of the executive producers.
We had to talk about it on the phone with someone and said, "you know, that good wife show?" We never had a title for it.
- That's how he described it? - Yes.
- So you went that way? - Yeah, and-- And-- But he thought that was the title.
This was after we went in and pitched it.
- Oh, yeah.
- Yeah.
And then he was enthused about it and talked to our agent or the studio or somebody and said, "dah-dah, The Good Wife," which he thought was the name of the show, and suddenly, it was the name of the show.
I think it was the same thing, they described it as "that '70s show," and it became That '70s Show [Laughs] Because they didn't know what they were call it.
I think it was Teenage Wasteland forever, and they were like, "I don't know, - That '70s Show.
Got it.
" - Yeah.
Let me ask you this.
I have a writing partner, but we're just friends, and we're in therapy, so how does it work for-- [Laughs] For the two of you as a real husband and wife writing team? The whole job is a great big chunk of work, and we divvy that up.
In terms of hitting the keys, at this point, you're charging ahead.
What we try to do with Good Wife-- but I think most TV shows, the best TV shows do-- is not have it be about the dialogue, have it be about everything, the way the plot's built, what comes in first, what comes in second, how much you can express silently.
Michelle and I build that together.
After the writer's room, you know, there's always some reconfiguring, and then I might do the dialogue, and then Michelle comes along-- [Mumbles] - And just denies you? - Yeah.
"That's your own private fixation.
" [Laughs] "Please don't expose that to the world.
" And then we, you know, start over again.
After, you know, five seasons, you guys know these people so well.
Although it is interesting, the show tries to change the characters each year and sometimes Like, someone will go off the reservation a bit, and it's like, "oh, that's not what's intended.
" Do you mean as far as like a misstep in the moment - or you just mean-- - A misstep in the moment or a misstep in the writing where we screwed up.
- Okay.
- And it was like, "uh, let's re-shoot and let's go back" - Yeah.
- "And we'll make this good.
" And what's great though too is watching since the pilot how Alicia has gained so much strength.
I mean, maybe she's become a little less moral, but she's also blossomed and become so much stronger.
And it's been terrific-- In season five, there have been some flashback episodes.
[Chuckles] And it is so great to see you - The change, yeah.
- Switch back to that-- - To see-- - Alicia first season.
- To go back to that season.
- Yeah! - Yes.
- And that woman who was so much less certain of herself.
Yeah, and that's what so great about it though, 'cause it's such a slippery slope because, inside, she's the good wife, right? - Yeah.
- But morally, you've seen her over the last couple of years, especially with Peter winning the governorship and she's realizing, "wait, that's gonna actually get me somewhere?" And all of a sudden she has her own firm and it's a little scary and it's a little like walking on eggshells, because deep down inside, I think she's incredibly aware of the wrongdoing Yeah.
But the competitive side of her is, "I want to win.
" So it's a great juxtaposition between trying to stay true to who she thinks she's supposed to be and realizing, "wait, maybe I need to change.
" Is there someone in the room that-- Or is anyone a particular character? Like someone's sometimes an Alicia or someone's more a Will? Michelle's the one who always taps into Alicia.
- Okay.
- Yeah.
- All right.
- Thank you, Michelle.
- Yes, thank you.
- Thank you, Julianna.
I cannot believe how varied-- All these different levels, I get to play sexy, I get to play mom, I get to play lawyer, I get to play coward, I get to play hero, I get to play complete failure.
I mean, it's an actor's dream.
I have one insiders' secret, and I hope this is not too blunt, but on the show, you wear wigs.
Well, the main reason, honestly, was because I wanted her to have a little bit of that waspy look to her, and I'm a Jew with curly hair, and I know that that takes two hours every morning in the makeup chair, and I don't have that kind of time, - and I was a new mommy.
- Yeah.
And I've actually had CBS executives call me to call actors that they want to wig [Laughs] And say, "could you talk her into it and let her know that it's a great thing, - not a bad thing?" - Yeah.
The network, and your relationship with them, what about Standards and Practices, do you ever have run-ins with them? [Laughter] Don't talk to Robert about that.
What's really great about Standards and Practices is that they negotiate with us, 'cause they're fans of the show.
- Mm-hmm.
- Right? - Yeah.
- 'Cause I'm saying something good about Standards and Practices now, 'cause they-- They hold sway over us.
- Everybody listen.
- But, in fact - Yeah, this is it.
- They're actually-- They-- They do know, "okay, this is important to the show," where sometimes we even put notes in the script now.
"This is how it would be shot, S.
-- S.
& P.
Don't worry," or something like that.
Their job is to hold the line, because whatever they give you, they then have to turn around and give How I Met Your Mother.
"Oh, we gave cunnilingus," which they gave us this year.
They gave-- [Laughter] They gave it to you? I know, it's amazing.
"You may have it.
" [Laughter] That didn't come out exactly how you meant it to come out.
Do you want the [bleep] or the cunnilingus? - 'Cause you only get one.
- Nice.
You only get one.
Well, when we come back, The Good Wife writers tell all, and season six spoilers when The Writers' Room continues.
Welcome back to The Writers' Room.
I'm with The Good Wife.
Sometimes, a TV moment is so intense that audiences just want to find out what the writers were thinking.
Let's see one of those scenes right now.
You and Cary are leaving? This is cool.
It's an easy answer.
Falls into the "yes or no" category.
You and Cary are leaving, and you're taking some clients with you? Yes.
And you decided this three weeks ago? Yes.
I'm sorry.
Of course.
That helps.
It's time I try something new.
I took you in.
No one wanted you.
I hired you.
I pushed for you.
Will, this is a business decis-- You were poison! So talk to me about that scene.
Talk to me about the process of getting to that moment.
To defend the scene, we always knew we would get to this moment.
To us, it was always part of Jules's character breaking away, both in morally bad ways, or ambiguous ways, but it was always about her growth into her own person.
I'm so curious about the reset here.
The whole-- But in my-- In my eyes, she cares for him so much that she is risking financial ruin by starting her own firm.
- Yeah.
- She can't be there anymore.
She knows if she's there, she's recommitted to her husband, she's trying to be a family, and if she stays there, she's always gonna want to [bleep] him.
- Yeah.
- I think it's very important, because that passion is who they are together.
- Yeah.
- That's how they feel - about each other.
- Yup.
And then, for her to stand up for herself, I think it's one of the biggest moments in her life.
- Yeah.
- And I think that's the first time in the show you actually ever see them not as boss and employee, but as equals, and not just in the bedroom.
- Wow.
- The only other thing, there's always a-- What's called a Moonlighting problem, which is when you have-- Two characters' chemistry draws 'em together.
Once they kiss, and then once they sleep with each other, the show dies.
You know you obviously have rabid fans who get very dramatic about certain things, but I think they want to weigh in.
So we wanted to ask fans on the street, what was that sort of moment for them that sort of shocked them to their core, whether they got angry about it, or whether they were very excited about it, in a segment we call "Fan on the Street.
" The governor has this goody-two-shoes ethics chief, and she gets pregnant, and she says, "oh, I got a name for the baby.
It's gonna be Peter," and she doesn't want us to tell who it is.
So we create this fake drama about, "oh, is it Peter? Is it gonna be the governor?" [Laughs] "Is he cheating again?" Just for the payoff to be that it's Peter Bogdanovich? I mean, that is ridiculous.
[Laughs] I call bull [bleep] on that.
I mean, that guy said-- He called bull [bleep].
[Laughs] Yeah, but-- - He called bull [bleep].
- I know, and there was a lot of dispute in the room.
We had to answer the question of "did Peter Florrick sleep with the Melissa George character or not?" - Right.
- Melissa George came to our set pregnant, so we had to write that into the story.
So you had to write that in? Unbeknownst to us.
- Thanks, Melissa.
- Yeah, thanks.
- It happens.
- And so it was just like, "oh, can we get Peter Bogdanovich?" [Laughter] We need a Peter.
I wanted Dinklage, but it-- [Laughter] You just need a Peter to finish this story.
I wanted Berg.
I thought Peter Berg.
Do I agree with it? I agree with the guy.
- That's what makes-- - But that's okay.
I felt like it was a cheap, weird out, and I didn't understand it in the context of what our show is.
Michelle and I were on the same page.
- Yeah.
- That being said, everyone I talked to loved it and thought it was hilarious.
And the only thing I can say in defense of the moment, we didn't know how to get out of it.
- Wow.
- Again, all this becoming about because Melissa George was pregnant, - so you know whose fault this is? - Yes.
This is really Melissa George's fault.
- Melissa George? - Melissa George's-- What saves it, it's all about Eli, Alan Cumming, is managing Peter's governorship and political career, and this pregnancy is a looming pitfall.
But in the same moment that that happens in the show, he has just learned of a much bigger pitfall.
- Yeah.
- And the moment plays less on the gag of Peter Bogdanovich, and more on Eli's face, because at that moment, he doesn't care anymore.
He's just learned - of this other problem.
- He's moved on.
He's moved on, and this is just like, "that's what I was worried about?" Okay, well, coming up, season six spoilers when The Writers' Room continues.
Welcome back to The Writers' Room: The Good Wife.
Season six, any spoilers you can throw at us? We have the life of Alicia plotted out.
It's this roadmap that we can spend more time in one area or another.
You know, it's like having a map of the country.
Which town do you want to spend more time? But we do know where we're ending up.
It isn't a open-ended story that goes on and on.
Our mind was always that it was seven years.
I mean, that was, you know, when we thought - we'd only get 12 episodes, so-- - Right.
[Laughter] It's-- You know, it's exciting to think that that's what you're writing for, and that you're exactly where you want to be on that path.
But we wouldn't give that away, because then no one would have to stick around.
Well, I want to thank all of you for being a part of The Writers' Room.
- Thank you.
- It certainly is a joy to sit down with each and every one of you and talk about your wonderful show, and much success in the going future.
We'll all be watching, and-- So thank you to Robert and Michelle King, and thank you to Ted Humphrey, and thank you to Julianna Margulies for joining us on The Writers' Room.
And now, we're gonna talk about my spin-off.
The Good Husband? [Laughter]