Starring in one TV series is a tough enough feat, but Christine Baranski will soon be headlining two different shows. In addition to continuing as Diane Lockhart on The Good Fight, which returns for Season 4 today on CBS All Access, she’ll also be starring in the upcoming HBO series The Gilded Age, from Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes.
After playing Diane for seven seasons on CBS’ The Good Wife, Baranski stepped into the lead for the legal drama’s spinoff, which was CBS All Access’ first scripted original series in 2017 and was named one of Adweek’s 10 best shows of the decade. Season 4 tackles a new reality where the rules of law have broken down.
The Good Fight had to halt production because of the novel coronavirus, but CBS All Access has opted to run the first half of the season now, and will air the second half after production resumes. Prior to the production shutdown, Baranski spoke with Adweek about starring in two TV shows, the brand partnerships she’d be open to and, unexpectedly, tantric sex.
Many actors who have spent 11 seasons playing the same role talk about getting burned out or that there’s nothing left to explore. That doesn’t seem to be the case with you and Diane.
Baranski: No, it’s amazing. I feel like I’m just such a blessed actress to have connected with the Kings [Robert and Michelle King, who created The Good Wife and co-created The Good Fight] all those years ago and develop this character and developed a relationship with them. It feels like a family that I have in terms of the actors and the guest actors that keep coming back. And so many crew members that I’ve worked with for over a decade.
But in terms of the acting, what’s really wonderful is that especially The Good Fight, even more than The Good Wife, is so much about characters living in the moment in time in which we presently find ourselves. The pilot was Diane watching the inauguration of Donald Trump, which is a ride we’ve all been taking. So to have a character like Diane who’s a liberal feminist, highly accomplished lawyer, head of a law firm, going through that journey of what it’s like to live in this moment, dealing with her anger, her frustration, her deep concerns about where it’s all going … I feel like I’m a question mark that people can relate to. I’m a character that people say, “Yeah, I’m also going through that.”
Two seasons ago, Diane was doing aikido. Last season she took up axe throwing. Is there a new hobby for her this season?
Tantric sex. [laughs loudly] I’m joking. She did the aikido and the axe throwing to vent her anger. The anger is being channeled in a different way. I think there’s going to be some exploration between [husband] Kurt and Diane in their life that will be interesting, let me put it that way. I don’t know if it’s tantric sex. I don’t know how that would play—but it is [streaming] after all!
You’re also going to be a series regular on The Gilded Age. How are you able to take on a second TV role, and what kind of red tape did you have to navigate to do that?
Whatever had to be navigated was done very gracefully between CBS and HBO. I was the happy recipient of their agreement that it would be OK. But you have to understand, there’s a lot of time off now that one does only 10 episode [seasons on The Good Fight]. So I had months and months off before I went back to work. [Last] spring I got the call that Julian Fellowes wanted me to play this character. I thought, ‘My God’—for one thing, Julian Fellowes, and then I’ve always wanted to do a period piece on film. I’ve never done that.
There had to be lots of discussions because this is new ground. You’re right, the networks don’t like to share, but we’re living in a different world in which actors now have so much time off. I just think one will only enhance the other. I get to talk about both shows and use my visibility to promote The Good Fight when I’m doing The Gilded Age, and vice versa.
Back when you were on Cybill, you did some ads and other brand partnerships. Is that something you’d be interested in doing now?
I think about that, because I see so many actors attaching their personas to brands. I wouldn’t be averse to it if I really believed in the company and if I thought that my image would contribute in some way. So I guess the answer is yes, I’m open to it.
Because Diane has been such a style icon, a fashion brand would seem to be an organic fit.
It would be. But it would have to be something that would sit well with my conscience. We’re in an age now where we’re really examining the consequences of our decisions. So, it would depend on the company.
Like The Americans, The Good Fight has fallen into that category of being a critically acclaimed show that has been ignored by awards bodies and is still struggling to break through. Are you still hoping it will break through, or have you made peace with that fact that it might not?
I think that we are breaking through. It’s been slow, slower than maybe we had hoped, but we were the virgin voyage for CBS All Access. There are still people who say to me, “How do I find it?” So there’s that. But I’ve said to Michelle King, we’re like the off-Broadway of television: We get to do really cool work, and maybe because we’re not just front and center—we get to be edgy in a way that escapes the scrutiny for the most part of all those people who want to be pissed off about everything and find fault. We get to be edgy, and we’ve gotten away with doing quite a bit. I still think it’s a show that really intelligent, thoughtful people are going to find.
How much longer would you like to see The Good Fight go on for?
The great thing is our raw material is what’s going on in the world. And do you think we’re going to settle down anytime soon? It’s bad news for the country and the world that things are so precarious, but it makes for great writing, raw material, for the Kings. For as long as they’re willing to write the show, I’m willing to be on it.