From The Good Wife creators Robert and Michelle King, Season 3 of the CBS All Access spin-off series The Good Fight follows Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), as she tries to find a way to resist the current presidential administration and everything that it represents without stooping to their level, while Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) and Liz Reddick-Lawrence (Audra McDonald) try to figure out the best way to handle revelations of past indiscretions involving a partner. At the same time, Lucca Quinn (Cush Jumbo) is searching for a balance between her career ambitions and being a new mother, Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie) has to contend with corrupt lawyer Roland Blum (Michael Sheen), and Marissa Gold (Sarah Steele) is entertaining new career avenues.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, British actress Cush Jumbo talked about how surreal it is to see posters for the show with her face on them around New York City, her trust in showrunners Robert and Michelle King, how much she knew about what The Good Fight would be when she originally signed on, the luxury of getting to swear, the significance of working on a TV series where more than half of the regular cast is made up of female and individuals of color, when she’s grown to appreciate about Lucca Quinn, how new motherhood is impacting Lucca’s professional life, and working with this incredible cast.
Collider: First of all, I love this show. I think it’s just so brilliantly written and expertly acted and, at times, really funny.
CUSH JUMBO: Well, thank you very much. It’s really nice to hear people’s actual feedback because we’re making it for months and months, so it’s really cool to start hearing what people think.
I loved the video that you posted on social media, where you were walking around and came across giant posters for the show, one of which was your face. When you come across something like that, is always surreal and strange, or does it ever get old?
JUMBO: It’s always really weird, especially because I currently live in New York City. When I grew up in South London, I always dreamed of living in New York City. I feel like it’s one thing, if there are posters in London for a British show, but when I see posters for The Good Fight in New York, it’s extra surreal because it’s like seeing posters of yourself on Mars, or something. It just makes me really excited, and I’m like, “Oh, my god, I’m a real actor!” So, no, it never gets old. I haven’t approached Meryl Streep’s status yet, where you don’t even think about it anymore. It’s always gonna be exciting.
I would imagine that it’s still odd for Meryl Streep, if a bus drives by with her face on it. That has to be strange, no matter who you are.
JUMBO: That’s what I mean. Who wouldn’t find that weird? I bet she still does, as well. She’s a very grounded lady, so I bet she still finds it strange. I know Christine [Baranski] said that she still finds it crazy when she sees herself on a bus.
When you joined The Good Wife, on a regular broadcast network that had restrictions, could you ever have imagined that you’d be here, on a spin-off where you could swear, explore some really adult subject matter, and have animated sequences, in every episode?
JUMBO: No, no way. When I joined the spin-off, when the Kings (Robert and Michelle) asked me to come on board with the show, I really didn’t know what the show was gonna be about. They couldn’t really tell me and Christine anything. All they could tell us was that it was gonna follow our two characters again, and it was gonna be in The Good Wife universe, but it was gonna go off in different directions. And so, you’re going on your gut instinct that these two people, that you know are incredible writers and creators, you can trust them when they say, “We’re gonna go on this adventure.” I just really trusted them and knew that it had potential to be something different and good. And so, no, I had absolutely no idea where this is headed, but I’m also not surprised that this is where it’s gone.
Is it still nice and somewhat refreshing that, if you need to say a swear word on this show, you can?
JUMBO: Oh, my god, yeah! I swear all day long. I’m British, so we’re just like, “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!,” all day long.” I’m really trying to pull it back, now that I have a baby because I don’t want his first words to be, “I’ve shit the bed,” or “Fuck me,” or “Oh, for fuck’s sake.” But no, it’s very really nice to be able to swear because people swear. That’s realistic. That’s how people speak, so it’s nice to be as realistic as possible. That’s one of the nicest things about it.
What does it mean to you to be on a major TV series, where more than half of the regular cast is female, and more than half of the regular cast are individuals of color? Is that something that you’ve noticed, from day one, or did you have a moment where you realized how significant that actually was?
JUMBO: That’s something that I actually posted on my Twitter a while ago, and it’s something that has been significant since we began the spin-off. The very fact that this show is based in an African American law firm has never been done before on television. Diane Lockhart was in the minority, when we began the show in that firm. It was a new direction. And to come to work every day and have all these black background milling around to make our law firm, as an actor of color, that’s a really unusual make-up of a set, so you can’t help but notice it. And that’s reflected in our crew, as well. We have a lot of women in our crew, in actual technical jobs – on camera, on sound, and on set dressing. It’s a very, very diverse group of people, and I can’t help but notice it, every day. And then, of course, it becomes more normal because that’s our crew that we’re used to. As the show has gone on, the Kings have just kept on recruiting the best talent they could. The regular cast that we’ve ended up with is just the regular cast that we’ve ended up with, and it just so happens to reflect society, which I think is incredible. It’s so representative of the world without them saying, “We’re gonna make a comment on women, or on black actors.” The Kings’ starting point is always just to have the best actors that they can have. I want to be in the best show on television, and I want to do the best work that I can do. And none of us wants any of that to do with the way we look or who we are, but it also should be commented on and should be talked about because we’re one of the only shows doing it. They’re not all talk. They actually are doing it, so you can’t help but notice it. You can’t help but be proud of it.
What have you loved about Lucca, since day one, back when you started on The Good Wife, and what have you grown to appreciate about her, the longer that you’ve played her?
JUMBO: I’ve always wanted to play a lawyer. It sounds crazy, but I have a huge list of different characters that I’ve always wanted to play – Shakespearean characters and superheroes – and being a lawyer was always one of those parts that I wanted to play. I’m not sure whether it comes from wanting to secretly please your parents for once because you can show them what life could have been, had you not pursued this crazy job. But I love words and I love text, so I love being in the courtroom, I love making sure that I understand everything I’m saying, I love fighting and arguing, and all that stuff. I love giving an argument and messing with the words and text and the rhythms. But with Lucca, in particular, at the beginning, when they wrote her, I was only actually coming in to do a three episode arc with Julianna [Margulies], and they were not sure if she would stay. And so, they give you an outline of who this person is, but they give you a lot of scope to still fill in all of the little bits of color of that character and really develop her yourself. I realized, very quickly, that she was a super ballsy character. She likes to win. Whether she’s on this side or that side, the best side or the wrong side, she like to win and she’s good at it. She’s not afraid to say what she thinks, and I love that about her.
When I first started playing her, I probably still was in that frame of mind, where I thought, “I feel this way, but I’m not gonna say anything because I need to be well-behaved and keep my mouth shut.” I like that she wasn’t afraid of what people thought about her. She was an island. She doesn’t feel like she needs to belong to a group. But then, the other thing that I’ve loved discovering about her is that she really does need friendships and relationships. And when I say that, I don’t mean men. She can have men whenever, as we’ve seen. I love that the Kings have put, at the forefront, a discussion about how women really need women. We need each other, and we value our friendships with women and men. And I like how they delve into what Lucca needs, and Lucca discovering what she needs, beyond being great at her job and having a boyfriend. What does she actually need to be a happy person? The answer to that, for many women, is other women, friendship and colleagues that have your back, and you can have theirs. I think that’s one of the nicest things that I discovered about her, as we’ve gone along.
In what way would you say motherhood impacts Lucca’s professional life, and how does she feel about the fact that it’s impacting everything in her life now?
JUMBO: She’s making that transition back to work, and there’s that discussion about whether you can have everything, or whether everything costs us something. You have to pick and choose what’s important to you, in that moment, and let some stuff go, so that you can be a happier person and, ultimately, a better mother to your child. That’s a challenge for her because she’s always been able to do everything, at the same time, and she can’t do that anymore. She has to navigate it, in a different way. I think it’s an honest conversation about the lies that we’ve been fed, as women, about the fact that we can have everything, all the time. I just don’t think that’s true. She wants to move up in her job and be really good at it, and it’s what makes her happy, but that means less time with her son, and that makes her sad. But then, she knows that she’s ultimately gonna be a better and happier person, and then a better mother, if she does go for the job. These are new ideas and thoughts and debates that she’s never had to address before because she’s only ever had to think about herself.
Has it been odd to go through it yourself, while your character is going through it, and to learn what motherhood means to you, at the same time that your character is learning what motherhood means to her?
JUMBO: It’s been amazing. It couldn’t actually have been better because being an actor is all about finding out about the human condition, and finding out about how humans tick and what makes them work. You’re always trying to draw from yourself and your own experiences. It’s been amazing to parallel Lucca’s journey with my journey because I’ve been going through exactly the same stuff. It really couldn’t have been any better. It just has solidified my feelings on it all, and it’s been great to have an outlet for that stuff.
The women on this show are every bit as smart and bad-ass as the men on this show, if not more so. What’s it been like to have this fabulous group of women, including Christine Baranski, Audra McDonald, Rose Leslie and Sarah Steele, to work with, as well as find your place among them? Is that something you’ve also really enjoyed getting to explore?
JUMBO: We’re very used to playing the sidekick, as actors and women, so it’s lovely to be put front and center. I also think it makes for a really wonderful inclusive place to work because, lucky for us, the men that we have on the show – Nyambi Nyambi, Michael Boatman and Delroy Lindo – are all actors that support us in our aim of trying to put women front and center. They support those stories, and we support theirs. As women, we’re professional supporters. We know how to hold the pieces together. So, the combination of us and a group of men that want to be a part of that, in a positive way, just makes for a great ensemble.
The Good Fight is available to stream at CBS All Access.