Last spring, I shared with you my disappointment/anger that the much-ballyhooed Alicia-Kalinda reunion/farewell scene in The Good Wife‘s Season 6 finale was shot — incredibly —without Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi ever being in the same room together. As I stated then, the behind-the-scenes issues that drove a wedge between the two Emmy-winning actresses was less of interest to me than the impact the apparent falling-out had on a show that I love.
Now, three months after that piece ran (and in the context of a larger fall preview piece, to be be published separately), series creators Robert and Michelle King agreed to speak to me about the controversy some have dubbed “Kalicia-“gate. Below, is the mostly raw transcript of our relatively brief exchange on the subject.
Before we get into Season 7, let’s tackle the elephant in the room. I want to give you a chance to comment on it and then we can all hopefully move on. Looking back on the past three seasons, and the creative maneuvering you had to do to avoid Kalinda and Alicia being in a scene together, there can be little doubt that it impacted the storytelling. My question is this: As showrunners, how much of your energy got devoted to keeping these characters at arms’ length — and were there specific instances where it may have hurt the storytelling, like Will’s death and Cary’s imprisonment?
ROBERT | One of those three seasons you’re talking about was the fifth season, which was, in my personal opinion, the best season we’ve ever done. And if you looked across critical reaction, you would see that’s the case, too. Maybe I’m not objective enough, but I would say some of our best seasons have been within the last three years. We’re writers and we love writing these characters, so we were thrilled at any chance to have new dynamics. We have always played off of [real]-life, like when we [lose] a character [i.e. when Josh Charles left the show] or when an actress is pregnant [like Melissa George]… we write it into the show. We want Alicia to be dealing with the same things we deal with. [Laughs] We just play off of life.
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The scene in the finale was shot without Julianna and Archie in the same room together. You’d promised fans a “satisfying” wrap-up for Alicia and Kalinda: What do you say to viewers who feel like they were duped, and that a degree of trust has been broken between them and the show?
ROBERT | I would say… that was not the intent. The story of Alicia and Kalinda seemed to be a story about pride getting in the way of friendship. There was a deep friendship there, and because Kalinda slept with Peter, the relationship could not get over that hurdle — until, and this was always the plan, Alicia had a humiliation of her own, in this case a very public humiliation of a scandal. And what we always intended was for that humility to allow her to get over the boundary between them. The sadness is that it happened right at the point when Kalinda has to leave. Now I say the character’s names for a special reason — we’re talking about the storytelling. When someone sleeps with your spouse, you don’t get over it in a set period of time. Fans can feel what they want and we respect them because they keep the show on the air, but I hope they don’t feel duped. Because that’s fairly strong storytelling.
MICHELLE | We are certainly never ever hoping to hurt the fans’ feelings or make them feel like that trust has been broken. But we’re making the show every day using tricks, like if you’re in a car and there’s green screen and it looks like Chicago out the window but that’s not exactly where we are. That’s an every day, run-of-the-mill thing on the show.
ROBERT | If there was any point where the fans maybe should’ve felt duped, it was when Josh Charles left the show. We kept something from the fans for a long time, because we knew a year earlier that we were going to be killing Will… And I think when you play a real emotion, you get around that duped factor. That sense of, “Oh, this is all because of Josh not wanting to be on the show anymore…” Yes, but if we can play into that and make a story that means more, we’ll try to do it. And I think if the audience feels duped about the way Kalinda left, they should see how next season goes for them. This is a seven-season story of the education of Alicia. The other stuff, the elephant in the room you talk about, is all the gossip of it.
I just want to clarify: viewers didn’t feel duped about the way Kalinda was written out. They felt duped because those two characters — and their portrayers — were not in that scene together.
ROBERT | Here’s what I will say about that without going into the gossip of it… We’ve had reporters in the editing room before and they can see the tricks we bring to [the show]. What I don’t like is how this connects itself to gossip. Just so we’re clear, Josh wasn’t really killed. We faked those gunshots. We fake everything in the show, so I can address this on a storytelling level that there was no intent ever to dupe the viewers. We’ll be an open book there. But when it attaches to gossip, part of the privacy of the set and the privacy of what we do on the set, allowed us to keep secret the fact that Josh was leaving for almost a year before we showed that episode. Part of the shock was that we had such a tight, close-knit set — [The Good Wife cast and crew] know the difference between storytelling and who we are as human beings. And we benefit from that because we’re allowed to have reveals be secretive. I do know what you are going after, and the only thing I will address is the storytelling. The mechanics of how we do our show is its own thing and we’re usually an open book about it, until it comes down to gossip.