Interviews

Coat and pants by Allette. Ring by Spinelli Kilcollin. Earrings by Vhernier.

Photography by David Roemer. Styled by Cristina Ehrlich.

By Chip Brown

The Good Fight streams exclusively on CBS All Access.

Editor's Note: This interview took place in February, before COVID-19 took hold in the United States.

An actress doesn't get to be No. 1 on the call sheet without the ability to create an air of intimacy, even when "social distancing" is the order of the day. Faced with the unexpected peril of a face-to-face meeting, Christine Baranski picked up the phone. It was the second Friday in March 2020. The repercussions of a worldwide viral outbreak were surfacing in New York City. Schools were closing. Broadway was going dark. Lines were forming outside grocery stores suddenly bereft of chicken and hand sanitizer. City residents accustomed to teeming sidewalks and sardine subway cars, not to mention up-close-and-personal interviews, were being advised to stay at least six feet away from each other.

Christine Baranski in a pink silk power suit on the cover of a magazine.

Suit and blouse by Ann Demeulemeester. Shoes by Manolo Blahnik via Albright Fashion Library. Ring by David Webb. Earrings by Genevieve Jones.

Photography by David Roemer. Styled by Cristina Ehrlich.

"We were supposed to talk on the set," Baranski says with such genuine regret that anyone would be tempted to get jimmied into a hazmat suit to make it happen. Baranski was holed up in her Manhattan apartment. CBS had temporarily suspended production of the fourth season of The Good Fight, the streaming-platform hit in which Baranski stars as the sharp-tongued-and-tailored litigator Diane Lockhart.

"When they shut down The Good Fight yesterday," she says, "one of the actresses actually asked the producers if she could take home some toilet paper. There was a run on toilet paper in Brooklyn."

Christine Baranski in a pink silk power suit.

Suit and blouse by Ann Demeulemeester. Earrings by Genevieve Jones.

Photography by David Roemer. Styled by Cristina Ehrlich.

On the strength of her voice alone—a tony metropolitan alto gifted with drop-dead timing and readily effervesced by her signature brass-and-bubbles laugh—it was easy to imagine Baranski proceeding imperturbably as workaday routines and expectations faltered all around her. And why not? For more than 40 years, the Juilliard-trained actress has been a consummately versatile, self-assured pro, elevating musicals, stage dramas, and film and television roles in the course of amassing a résumé as lengthy as her famously long legs. Among her many awards, she counts two Tonys and an Emmy (and 15 Emmy nominations).

She manages the paradox of being both regal and down-to-earth, a grande dame happy to hang a teaspoon off her upturned nose. She's as comfortable handling the boozy, over-the-top rants of Maryann Thorpe on the ahead-of-its time sitcom Cybill from the mid-1990s as she is launching out on grandiloquent flights of Shakespeare and Shaw. As at home as a saucy Mrs. Lovett singing "shepherd's pie peppered with actual shepherd" in Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd as she is tendering witheringly crisp assessments of cathected emotion as the Freudian-in-barrettes psychiatrist Beverly Hofstadter, better known as "Leonard's mother" on The Big Bang Theory.

Christine Baranski in a palm leaf print gown.

Dress and necklace by Dolce & Gabbana. Earrings by Dauphin. Shoes by Roger Vivier.

Photography by David Roemer. Styled by Cristina Ehrlich.

As if that were not enough, two years ago Baranski was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame.

At an age—68 this month—when most people are filing for Social Security and glumly wading through junk mail from the American Association of Retired Persons, Baranski seems almost to be sizzling in a second prime, or to have enviably extended her first. She has her pick of projects and parts. (After completing the fourth season of The Good Fight, she's scheduled to shoot an HBO series, The Gilded Age, and will appear in the coming holiday season as the town grinch in a Dolly Parton Netflix movie, Christmas on the Square.)

Having grieved for her husband, the actor Matthew Cowles, who died in 2014, Baranski often says she's never been happier in her work. She's in remarkable shape and still fast on her feet. Consider how she handled a screwball question during a red-carpet TV interview at the premiere of the Mamma Mia sequel in Los Angeles in 2018.

"Strange question," said the interviewer, catching Baranski who played the character Tanya in the 2008 original and in the follow-up, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. "'Big Dick Energy'—have you heard of it? And that people are saying that you have it?"

"That I have what?" said Baranski, leaning in close. She was wearing a white-dotted brown dress, cut low to show most of her throat, and bright red lipstick, her blonde mane coiffed in a frisky bob. Fans of The Good Fight might have stopped her on the red carpet to ask for legal advice, so much did she look like Diane Lockhart.

"Big Dick Energy," the interviewer said.

"People are saying you have an abundance. They put you up as the poster child of it."

"Big Dick Energy? Is that a new saying? Just tell me it's a good thing."

"It's a very good thing."

"OK, then I'll take it."

Christine Baranski in teal blue sweater and white pants.

Sweater and pants by Gabriela Hearst. Shoes by Alexandre Birman. Ring by Jennifer Fisher. Earrings by Irene Neuwirth.

Photography by David Roemer. Styled by Cristina Ehrlich.

"Do you have any idea what it might mean?

"My energy—Big Dick Energy?" Baranski asked, eyes dancing to the right, red lips in a twist as she mulled the question. And then, not unamused, she accepted the challenge, not only willing to go with a kooky left-field prompt as befits a theater improvisor adept at being in the moment, but quick enough to construct an artful answer and carry it to what might be considered a perfect, uh, climax.

"Ah ... staying power," she said, starting to shimmy as if the choicest way to itemize the elements of "BDE" was to demonstrate them physically. "Passion. Full of life. Ready to explode!"

Christine Baranski in cropped jeans and plain coat.

Coat by Christopher Kane. T-shirt by Plays Well With Others. Jeans by Monse. Shoes by Balenciaga. Earrings by Fisher.

Photography by David Roemer. Styled by Cristina Ehrlich.

Albeit under more elegant definitions, Baranski has been bringing such gifts to the character of Diane Lockhart for more than 10 years. Diane, of course, is the same master of the courtroom Baranski played for seven seasons behind Julianna Margulies on the CBS broadcast mega-hit The Good Wife. For six of those seven seasons, she was nominated for an Emmy. In the episode that concluded the series, Baranski smacked Margulies in the face with a slap heard 'round the internet. (As she has explained, the key to not hospitalizing your scene partner is a loose, limp wrist.)

A year later, in 2017, it was Baranski's turn at the head of the call sheet. In the sequel, the self-assured liberal Democrat litigator discovers that her dream of a house in Provence and a comfortable retirement has been dashed by a trusted friend's Ponzi scheme. Compelled by necessity to reenter the workforce, Diane plunges into the fray of a politically fractured culture as a partner at an all-black law firm. The setting, as before, is Chicago; the new show retains many familiar faces in front of and behind the camera.

Close-up portrait of Christine Baranski.

Coat by Christopher Kane. T-shirt by Plays Well With Others. Earrings by Fisher.

Photography by David Roemer. Styled by Cristina Ehrlich.

One reason Baranski jumped into The Good Fight was that the show was earmarked for CBS' then-new streaming platform, CBS All Access, which meant working from scripts unfettered by network prohibitions on characters cursing and disporting in ways that might make you blush if you were watching with your mother. Freed as well from the grueling 22-episodes-a-season schedule of a network show, Baranski has had summers off to work on other projects, take courses at Oxford on Oscar Wilde and Lawrence of Arabia, and spend time at her lake house in northwestern Connecticut with her two daughters, Isabel and Lily, and her three grandchildren. (Isabel, who trained as a lawyer and worked as an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, is now the mother of Baranski's grandchildren; younger daughter Lily is an actress on The CW show Roswell.)

What really sealed the case for continuing as Diane was Baranski's esteem for Robert and Michelle King, the show's creators and main writers, whose scripts dramatize the pro-and-con arguments of polarizing hot-button issues like abortion, the alt right, fake news, unqualified judges, a mendacious president, and what increasingly seems to many people the unraveling of American norms and institutions.

\u200bMichael Boatman, Delroy Lindo, Christine Baranski, and Audra McDonald of the CBS All Access series The Good Fight.

Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) with colleagues Julius Cain (Michael Boatman), Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo), and Liz Reddick-Lawrence (Audra McDonald) in The Good Fight.

Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/CBS.

"If we can go back into production, I will have finished my 11th year as Diane, with the possibility of a few more," Baranski says. "I think it's the only show streaming or on the air that addresses this dystopian moment in history. Diane can't cope with living in the age of Trump. She joined a resistance movement last year. This year we go even deeper into the rabbit hole and ask why certain people no longer have to honor subpoenas. Why are certain people above the law? What is happening to the rule of law in this country? It's an incredible story arc I have this season. I'm very excited about it. I hope we get to finish it."

Actors, of course, shouldn't be mistaken for the characters they play, but anyone who has watched Baranski stride through courthouses and conference rooms in Diane Lockhart's uncompromisingly high heels for 10 years might be excused if they find it hard to distinguish the performer from the part.

"I would that I had Diane's brains and her legal expertise," Baranski says. "I love playing someone so much sharper in that department, but I am not that person, it's not how my mind works. I don't think I could pass a bar exam. Nor do I need to dress as well as Diane does every day. But the nice thing is that, because Robert and Michelle King are such gifted writers, and because I've been playing the role so long, they have kind of tailored it to me. They use my human qualities. They use my sense of humor. They use my laugh. They often have it scripted that 'Diane literally guffaws.' I have a very robust laugh, as you've heard. They have not written my character as an edgy, angry, feminist quote-unquote bitch. You never see a woman who wallows in her victimhood. Diane is heroic without being Joan of Arc. Heroic on a daily basis. She's got terrific equilibrium, and sanity and clarity, and when she loses it, you think, 'Wow, things must be really bad if Diane is losing it.'"

Christine Baranski in a palm leaf print gown.

Dress and necklace by Dolce & Gabbana. Earrings by Dauphin.

Photography by David Roemer. Styled by Cristina Ehrlich.

Baranski's scriptable laugh and comic talents don't bespeak a childhood of unbroken joy. She and her older brother were raised in blue-collar Buffalo. Her mother, Virginia, took care of the kids; her father, Lucien, worked as the editor of a Polish-language newspaper. Both her parents sang in amateur choruses. It was her paternal grandmother, "my Nana," who left the mark of the theater on Baranski. Her paternal grandparents had been actors in Buffalo's Polish theater, and for a number of her early years Baranski shared a bedroom with her grandmother.

"She was my Auntie Mame; she had all these friends from Poland with very effusive personalities," Baranski says. "She loved getting together for nights of singing and drinking. I remember being in the bedroom and my mom and I couldn't sleep because Nana was making so much noise. She loved music and theater and ballet; she wore colorful clothing; she wrote her own comedy show and did skits. She taught me so much about life."

In 1960, when Baranski was 8, her father died of an aortic aneurysm (a malady that later claimed her brother's life as well, at age 48), and Nana moved out."My father's death was awful in retrospect," Baranski recalls. "I went into survival mode. Unlike my grandmother, my mom wasn't physically affectionate or very communicative emotionally. She was a strong woman; she was raised in the Depression and got through the war, but she wasn't good at comforting. She was suddenly a single mom and had to raise kids on her own and find work. She held us together.

But I remember suffering a sense of shock and fear that we weren't going to be OK. I knew my grandmother and my mother were at odds. I would often hear arguments. We moved, and that meant changing schools and making new friends. I chewed my nails down to the bone—I was very nervous. I wasn't an outstanding student. But by seventh grade, I became this achiever. That's the way I coped. I was president of my class all through high school."

Christine Baranski in a wine-colored power suit.

Suit by Alice + Olivia. Necklace by Jennifer Fisher. Watch by Cartier. Earrings by Dauphin.

Photography by David Roemer. Styled by Cristina Ehrlich.

At Villa Maria Academy, an all-girls Catholic high school in Buffalo, Baranski was drawn to theater but initially too shy to audition for roles, so she worked backstage, helping with costumes and makeup. "I remember distinctly looking onstage and thinking, 'Wow, how do they do that?'" She'd known since she was a kid that she could make people laugh—"I was a smart aleck"—and by junior year she'd overcome her fears and was getting leading roles. Her mother had sprung for once-a-week ballet and tap lessons. What really enlarged her horizon was getting into an experimental-theater workshop run by the University of Buffalo in the summer of 1969.

"Suddenly, at the age of 16, I was acting and dancing and doing improvisation and drumming with Jewish kids and African American kids and kids from other parts of Buffalo," Baranski says. "It just opened my life up in a way that might not have happened if I hadn't done it—I would have just been the girl from the Polish Catholic neighborhood. I don't even know if Juilliard would have happened, because the workshop was so liberating. I was so passionate. It empowered me. I remember reading about Juilliard in the Buffalo Evening News and putting the article on the wall and saying, 'That's my goal, that's where I want to go.'"

Christine Baranski in a green power suit.

Coat and pants by Allette. Shoes by Sergio Rossi. Ring by Spinelli Kilcollin. Earrings by Vhernier.

Photography by David Roemer. Styled by Cristina Ehrlich.

Go she did.

In May 2016, Baranski returned to Juilliard to give the commencement address. She told the story about how she had been waitlisted in 1970 because the drama division, led by the formidable actor John Houseman, was concerned about a gap in her teeth that was causing an unpleasant sibilance on her S's. It was suggested she get speech therapy and have her teeth capped; her mother, who was pressed to make ends meet, came up with the $500 to fix Baranski's teeth.

After a few months of speech therapy, she auditioned at Juilliard again and clipped crisply through a page of S-words put before her, and owlish Houseman turned to the voice and speech teacher and said, "Well, Elizabeth, what do you think?" Baranski saw her nod almost imperceptibly and began to shake with what one day would be known as BDE. She ecstatically found her mom, who was waiting in the lobby of Philharmonic Hall, and they went off together to celebrate at the Algonquin Hotel, where they each knocked back two cherry-garnished Southern Comfort Manhattans, the only time mother and daughter ever got drunk together. Baranski missed her own graduation in 1974 because she already had a gig at the Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, Connecticut.

Christine Baranski in a green jacket leaning against a white chair.

Coat and pants by Allette. Ring by Spinelli Kilcollin. Earrings by Vhernier.

Photography by David Roemer. Styled by Cristina Ehrlich.

And years later, when Baranski was one of the school's face cards, the head of Juilliard planned to surprise the star with her diploma at an alumni event. She missed his speech, too, because she was in the women's room. Ruminating over what to say to the class of 2016, she wondered if there wasn't some "quintessential observation" she could share about life in the performing arts, and she realized her theme was staring her in the face. It was the importance of "showing up."

"That is simply, essentially, what our life is. It is all about showing up. That is our passion, our task, our responsibility, our privilege. Our presence with a capital P is required. ... The most glorious aspect is this: on cue, on point, on the downbeat, or on action, we get to show up in the fullness of our being and present not just our talent and technique but the depth of our character, the force of our personality, the breadth of our life experience, our point of view. And this is worthy of a lifetime of discipline and exploration, to refine that presence with a capital P."

When she was finished, there was a huge ovation, and if there had ever been any social distance in the hall, it was gone.

Originally published in Watch Magazine, May-June 2020.

Photography: David Roemer

Stylist: Cristina Ehrlich

Hair: Matthew Monzon

Makeup: Gianpaolo Ceciliato

The Good Fight streams exclusively on CBS All Access.

Photo Credit: Jason Schmidt.

By Chris Nashawaty

Editor's Note: This interview took place in February, before COVID-19 took hold in the United States.

Stream full episodes of The Good Fight and Evil on CBS All Access.

Long before they became the most successful husband-and-wife showrunner team on television, Michelle and Robert King were the keepers of a particularly juicy workplace secret. It was 1983, and Robert, a recent college graduate, had moved to Los Angeles to try and make it as a screenwriter. To finance that dream, he'd taken a minimum-wage job at an athletic footwear store in Brentwood called FrontRunners. It was hardly the most romantic chapter of his life—that is, until the day he found himself working the same shift as a new, part-time employee about to enter her senior year at UCLA.

"We met while we were both restocking the sock wall," says Robert. "Our hands connected across the rows and rows of socks."

Listening to the umpteenth retelling of their unlikely and decidedly un-Hollywood meet-cute, Michelle rolls her eyes and begins to laugh. Robert looks at her and, encouraged by her reaction, continues: "I was doing the lighting on some stage play at the Mormon temple. And I asked you if you wanted to go. Remember?" Michelle nods. How could she forget?

Michelle and Robert King in their production office.

Michelle and Robert King prove that two heads are better than one.

Photo Credit: Jason Schmidt.


Four years later, they were married. That fateful afternoon may have been the first time that the Kings' personal and professional lives overlapped, but it wouldn't be the last. As the powerhouse creators and showrunners behind the acclaimed CBS legal drama The Good Wife and now its CBS All Access spinoff, The Good Fight, as well as the network's demons-and-miracles procedural Evil, the couple has become the rare exception to the rule that people should never be married to their work. "And just for the record," deadpans Michelle, "we don't keep our relationship a secret anymore."

On a chilly winter afternoon at their production office in a nondescript, industrial section of Brooklyn, the Kings seem to be juggling a million different dizzying tasks at once. But if they're spread thin, you'd never guess it from their easy, united-we-stand chemistry. Today, for example, they hit the ground running with a 10 a.m. meeting with The Good Fight's production designers. Then it was straight into the show's writers' room to hash out the last episode of the new season, where they'll spitball ideas until 6 p.m., only occasionally breaking off to put out fires in the editing room.

When asked how they divvy up the assortment of day-to-day responsibilities involved with shepherding multiple hit shows on multiple platforms (the Evil writing team is on hiatus until June, but a third show—SHOWTIME's limited series YOUR HONOR, starring Bryan Cranston—is currently shooting in New Orleans), Michelle says, "There's enough to do that there's no preciousness about who's doing what. Robert tends to take the lead on editorial and rewrites …" Robert picks up her thought like a relay baton: "And Michelle handles casting, legal, wardrobe, and the look of the shows. But we're both equal in the writers' room …" Michelle takes the baton back: "People always ask, 'Who's the good cop and who's the bad cop?' It's not like that. It's more like, 'You can do it? God bless you!'"

TV showrunner Robert King.

"Michelle and I have very different backgrounds." – Robert King

Photo Credit: Jason Schmidt.

Their partnership didn't always work this way. For the first 15 years of their marriage, the Kings kept their work lives separate from their domestic one. Back then, Robert worked as a screenwriter of big-budget features such as 1997's Red Corner and 2000's Vertical Limit, while Michelle worked in development at various studios and production companies. Then, in 2001, they began developing a series at ABC together about the U.S./Mexico border called The Line. The show wasn't picked up, which they admit stung, but their new partnership felt like its own sort of success.

The Kings were surprised not only by how well they worked together, but also by how much they liked working in television. The medium's instant yes-or-no greenlight decision-making was a welcome antidote to the slow, fickle, death-by-a-thousand-cuts world of the movie studios. They continued cranking out pilot scripts, some of which made it to series, like 2006's In Justice. But their biggest success wouldn't come until 2009, when they tapped into the zeitgeist with a series about a political wife whose husband gets embroiled in a tabloid nightmare and is sent to prison.

TV showrunner Michelle King.

"People always ask, 'Who's the good cop and who's the bad cop?' It's not like that." – Michelle King

Photo Credit: Jason Schmidt.

"There were all of these scandals, one right after the other," says Michelle, "Eliot Spitzer, John Edwards, Mark Sanford, and there were so frequently women standing right next to them. In a number of cases, those women were very accomplished and attorneys. We just looked at those photos and said, 'OK, who is she? And what's she thinking about?'"

The Good Wife would run for seven Emmy-decorated, water-cooler-buzz-worthy seasons, from 2009 to 2016, and in the process become one of the most acclaimed dramatic series in a decade that seemed to have no shortage of acclaimed dramatic series. It was the New Golden Age of TV. And all of a sudden, the Kings were part of a new kind of Hollywood royalty. Just a decade earlier, no one knew what showrunners were or what they did. Now, in the new calculus, they've become the entertainment industrial complex's equivalent of hot celebrity chefs or rock stars. Not that the Kings had any idea of that.

"I was really unaware of it because we were in it," says Michelle, without an ounce of faux humility. "You're just going to the office and doing the work and then you're going home. The first season premiered in September, and then we had a Christmas party, and people from the crew kept coming up to me saying, 'What does it feel like to have a hit on your hands?' I pulled Robert aside and said, 'Do we have a hit?'"

\u200bChristine Baranski in The Good Fight.

Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart in The Good Fight.

Photo Credit: Patrick Harbron/CBS.

By the time they reached the seventh and final season of The Good Wife, all the Kings knew was that they were exhausted. The grueling, 22-episodes-a-season run had taken its toll. So when their fellow producers and the network asked if they might be interested in running a spinoff, their initial response was tepid. They weren't convinced it was the best idea. After all, for every Frasier, there are a dozen The Tortellis.

The Kings took a three-week vacation to Edinburgh and Amsterdam to recharge and reconsider, and when they returned, they started to take the idea more seriously. The fact that CBS said that the show would be on the CBS All Access streaming network and could be done in a more manageable, 10-episode season certainly helped, as did Christine Baranski's commitment to star. And that's how The Good Fight was born.

While The Good Wife had grappled with the liberal mindset of the Obama era, The Good Fight would end up being just as topical and button-pushing, addressing America in the age of Trump. It doesn't shy away from politics, but it also doesn't seem partisan or didactic. In the pilot, Baranski's hard-charging attorney Diane Lockhart is disgraced and pushed out of her old law firm only to find a new sense of mission by joining Reddick, Boseman & Kolstad—a prestigious African American–run firm and former competitor. The Good Wife's loyal fanbase followed her.

\u200bMichelle and Robert King.

Michelle and Robert King.

Photo Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS.

At the same time that the Kings were redefining what "Good" was, they began flirting with Evil—a second CBS show that couldn't be more different in genre, subject, and tone from The Good Fight, or frankly anything they'd done before.

Inspired by an ongoing conversation that the couple had been having for years, Evil asks the question: What makes people do bad things? "Michelle and I have very different backgrounds," says Robert, explaining what inspired Evil's premise. "We've been together 35 years, but religiously, I'm Catholic and I go to Mass every Sunday, while Michelle's …" He turns to his wife, again telepathically handing the baton. "I'm a secular Jew," she says, finishing his thought.

Part investigative procedural, part supernatural horror, and even part will-they-or-won't-they workplace romance, the show follows an investigative team made up of a skeptical psychologist (Katja Herbers), a priest-in-training (Mike Colter), and a contractor (Aasif Mandvi) who look into creepy cases trying to divine whether the people who commit crimes are simply bad or there are more inexplicable and demonic forces at work.

Before the first season ended in January, CBS greenlit a second. And while the couple is tight-lipped about where the show is headed in its sophomore year, other than saying it gets "darker," they admit that the reaction has been better than they'd ever hoped. Says Michelle: "The biggest compliment we've gotten is people telling us that it's too scary to watch at 10 o'clock. And that they have to tape it and watch it during the day."

Aasif Mandvi, Katja Herbers, and Mike Colter in TV show Evil.

Aasif Mandvi, Katja Herbers, and Mike Colter in Evil.

Photo Credit: Jeff Neumann/CBS.

As she finishes her thought, an assistant pokes her head into the Kings' office. She'd be tapping her watch if she were wearing one. They were due back in The Good Fight's writers' room 15 minutes ago. Getting up, they look at their phones, which are glowing with a dozen other urgent questions that require their immediate yays or nays. Saying goodbye, Robert apologizes for how frazzled they must seem. "The truth is, if Michelle and I weren't married and working together, we probably wouldn't see each other at all," he says. Then, right on cue, Michelle picks up the baton one last time to complete her other half's thought: "Honestly, I don't know how anyone does this job without being married."

​The Kings' Treasures

Michelle and Robert King have no shortage of imagination, as witnessed by the five stellar series they've created.

BrainDead

This quirky 2016 sci-fi satire, which ran for one season, put Tony Shalhoub and Mary Elizabeth Winstead into the deliciously out-there premise that asked: What if the bipartisan tension in Washington, D.C., was caused by a race of extraterrestrial insects devouring the brains of politicians?

Stream full episodes of BrainDead on CBS All Access.

Tony Shalhoub in TV show BrainDead.

Tony Shalhoub in CBS series BrainDead.

Photo Credit: Michael Parmelee/CBS.


The Good Wife

The hugely influential hit drama, which starred Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, the wronged political spouse turned fiercely independent litigator, ran for seven hit seasons on CBS, from 2009 to 2016, and racked up five Emmys in the process. This is the show that put the Kings on the map, turning them into a husband-and-wife showrunning force to be reckoned with.

Stream full episodes of The Good Wife on CBS All Access.

Julianna Margulies in TV show The Good Wife.

Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife.

Photo Credit: David M. Russell/CBS.

The Good Fight

The Kings' topical show, filming its fourth season, brings back Christine Baranski as the recently humbled and newly reenergized attorney Diane Lockhart. She speaks truth to power alongside some new faces (including Hugh Dancy, Michael J. Fox, and Zach Grenier).

The Good Fight streams exclusively on CBS All Access.

The cast of The Good Fight.

Photo Credit: Robert Ascroft/CBS.

Cush Jumbo as Lucca Quinn; Michael Boatman as Julius Cain; Nyambi Nyambi as Jay Dipersia; Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart; Audra McDonald as Liz Reddick; Delroy Lindo as Adrian Boseman; Zach Grenier as David Lee; Sarah Steele as Marissa Gold in The Good Fight.

Evil

After a bone-chilling debut season, this creepy prime-time procedural starring Katja Herbers, Mike Colter, and Aasif Mandvi as investigators of the supernatural has been reordered for a second season of miracles, demons, and sexual tension.

Stream full episodes of Evil on CBS All Access.

Mike Colter, Katja Herbers, and Aasif Mandvi in TV show Evil.

Mike Colter as David Acosta, Katja Herbers as Kristen Bouchard, and Aasif Mandvi as Ben Shroff in Evil.

Photo Credit: Michele Crowe/CBS.

YOUR HONOR

Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston heads up this buzzy, 10-episode limited series (adapted from the Israeli legal thriller Kvodo and written by The Night Of's Peter Moffat) about a New Orleans judge whose son is involved in a hit-and-run that leads to a web of lies and deceit. Hope Davis, Carmen Ejogo, and Michael Stuhlbarg co-star.

YOUR HONOR airs later this year on SHOWTIME.

Photo Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS.

By Marc Berman

Emmy and Peabody Award-winner Keegan-Michael Key has yet another cool entertainment gig to add to his impressive resume: hosting the new sports competition series GAME ON! on CBS.

Debuting on Wednesday, May 27, GAME ON! from Fulwell 73 executive producers Ben Winston and James Corden (The Late Late Show with James Corden) features two teams of three, captained by tennis champion and entrepreneur Venus Williams and Super Bowl champion Rob Gronkowski, alongside comedians Bobby Lee and Ian Karmel and various sports stars, comedians, and celebrities. They compete against each other in over-the-top physical challenges, absurd trivia, and epic field competitions.

GAME ON! \u200bcast members Ian Karmel, Venus Williams, Keegan-Michael Key, Rob Gronkowski, and Bobby Lee.

GAME ON! cast members Ian Karmel, Venus Williams, Keegan-Michael Key, Rob Gronkowski, and Bobby Lee.

Photo Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS.

"This is a format that kind of exists in its own category," said Keegan-Michael Key. "The show is super fun, it is super exciting, and anybody can watch. The timing is really fortuitous because in this absence of sports right now we have this show that is all about fun and competition that will hopefully fill that void."

Watch spoke to Keegan-Michael Key about his new show, his multiple roles in the entertainment industry, and the one job in particular that he may have pursued before the acting bug bit.

GAME ON! premieres on Wednesday, May 27 at 8/7c on CBS and streams on CBS All Access.

Watch is all about television's hottest shows. Tell us more about your new show GAME ON! on CBS.

This show has everything—from aerial combat and monster truck rallies to members of our team kicking field goals at football games in front of 30,000 people—and everything in between. It is epic in scope and still so fun because there are other elements like people matching wits with each other and trying to answer trivia questions. It runs the gamut and it is just so relatable.

Rob Gronkowski, Ronda Rousey, Bobby Lee, Keegan-Michael Key, Demi Lovato, Ian Karmel, and Venus Williams participating in a football challenge.

In GAME ON!, Rob Gronkowski, Ronda Rousey, Bobby Lee, Keegan-Michael Key, Demi Lovato, Ian Karmel, and Venus Williams tackle a sports challenge.

Photo Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS.

GAME ON! Is described as a series that celebrates the entertainment of sports. Are you a big sports fan? Do you participate in any sports?

I am a huge sports fan and whenever I have an opportunity to participate, I do. I am the guy that will watch anything…cricket, jai alai…anything! If someone is competing or there is an obstacle or a challenge someone is trying to overcome, I will watch it. I was one of those kids who left the house at 10 a.m. in the summertime and was out all day. Football, baseball, soccer…everything I could play I played, and I had an absolute blast.

I think there is something about the human condition that we thrive on competition. It helps sharpen our entire being, and I think it is essential to our existence.

Ian Karmel and Keegan-Michael Key in football uniforms

Comedian Ian Karmel and host Keegan-Michael Key participate in a variety of outrageous challenges on the series premiere of GAME ON! on CBS.

Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/CBS.

Did you always want to become a performer?

Actually, when I was coming into my formative years, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I have always loved animals and wanted to make a career out of that. And then someone told me there was math involved, so I said, well, maybe I can be an actor!

I was always fascinated by the entertainment industry, but probably by the time I was 13 I knew I wanted to do some kind of performance. Television was always so magical to me, and once I had a sense that I could do it, and people were supportive, I threw myself in 100%.

Keegan-Michael Key on the set of reality series GAME ON!

GAME ON! host Keegan-Michael Key.

Photo Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS.

Who's your biggest inspiration?

I have two people that got to me early on, and that was Eddie Murphy and Peter Sellers. In a way, they are kind of the same person. They are actors who excel at comedy, but what makes the comedy work is that they're actors first. I know that Eddie Murphy was a standup comedian first, but his talent is so vast it is hard to encompass, and I felt the same way about Peter Sellers. I saw his movies when I was a kid—The Pink Panther series, Being There, and all the early stuff he did on British radio and on The Goon Show—and I became a huge fan.

The comedy was there for both Eddie Murphy and Peter Sellers, but it was the depth and the emotion and the stillness that really inspires. And what an experience it was for me to work on Eddie Murphy's film Dolemite Is My Name. I really learned to stretch as an actor.

Venus Williams, Ian Karmel, Rob Gronkowski, and Bobby Lee ride toy horses

Venus Williams, Ian Karmel, Rob Gronkowski, Bobby Lee, and Keegan-Michael Key in the debut episode of GAME ON! on CBS.

Photo Credit: Monty Brinton/CBS.

You wear multiple "hats": actor, writer, producer, and game show host. Do you have a preference for one over the other?

Actually, my preference is to simply be in the entertainment industry because I enjoy it so much. What I really thrive on is being given the opportunity, and the blessing, to be able to do so many different types of things in the industry on camera.

In a way, this is all role playing, so right now I am playing the role of host, or the manager and ring leader, on GAME ON! And other times I am a serious thespian, or I am acting as the court jester. It's about being able to transform your essence for whatever it is you are doing. My preference is to live in those spaces fully.

Portrait of Keegan-Michael Key leaning against a chair.

Photo Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS.

When not filming GAME ON! or when sheltering-in-place as we all are now, what do you like to do? Do you have a hidden talent, passion project, or creative pursuit that your fans may not know about you?

When I was younger the one thing that I wanted to do other than be a veterinarian was to be a football player. But now, as an adult, I would have to say singing. I am a singer, which I enjoy very much, and right now I have two projects coming out hopefully by the end of the year where I sing in. And the other thing, as my career continues to change, is I always wanted to be in a spy movie or a movie where you can use martial arts.

When you enjoy what you do, it's your hobby. But I also try to take any influence that I might have and be a role model to others.

What's on your music playlist right now?

I am an enormous Jimi Hendrix fan, and I listen to lot of music from 1968 to 1973. That's kind of my playlist, and there are obscure people I would mention like an artist from my hometown named Rodriguez. I also like the group Parliament with George Clinton, and Motown. Motown is really uplifting right now.

Keegan-Michael Key hosts Game On!

Keegan-Michael Key hosts GAME ON!, CBS' hilarious and unpredictable new reality TV show.

Photo Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS.

What is your all-time favorite television series? What TV shows are you currently binge-watching or catching up on?

I have two favorites. The one show I just never missed when I was a kid was Happy Days, which sparked my imagination. I could see in my memory when Fonzie had his showdown with Mork from Ork. It was just like the greatest thing I ever saw! And then my adult show is Breaking Bad. I don't think I have ever seen anything better than this show. The complete essence of plot and character is absolutely perfection.

Since I have been working a lot recently, particularly now making videos for kids who are being deprived their graduation ceremonies, that's where I have been spending my time. Not a lot of binging on TV shows at the moment for me.

Keegan-Michael Key in the cockpit of a fighter jet.

In new reality show GAME ON!, Keegan-Michael Key hosts an air combat challenge.

Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/CBS.

What advice would you give someone entering the entertainment business today?

I would tell each person to remember that you are enough. If you are going to create a unique presence it is going to rely on you simply being you. There is room for you, and your specialness.

At the end of the day, no matter what happens in this business, and how you might get tossed and turned, you should always remember that you are enough.

GAME ON! premieres on Wednesday, May 27 at 8/7c on CBS and streams on CBS All Access.

Photo Credit: Alasdair McLellan.

By David Hochman

Editor's Note: This interview took place in February, before COVID-19 took hold in the United States.

On Becoming A God In Central Florida will return for Season 2 on SHOWTIME. Catch up on the SHOWTIME and SHOWTIME ANYTIME® apps, as well as via SHOWTIME On Demand.

Kirsten Dunst smiling on the cover of a magazine.

Photo Credit: Alasdair McLellan/Art Partner.

Kirsten Dunst sounds remarkably upbeat for a woman whose day job revolves around a multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme. "It's freeing for me to awaken some of those darker elements within," she says, and clearly it's working. Dunst's new SHOWTIME dark comedy, On Becoming A God In Central Florida, is heading into Season 2 with the sort of wild-eyed devotion you'd find among recruits of the show's cult-like Founders American Merchandise company.

Set in the acid-wash '90s on the scrappier side of Orlando, the series centers on waterpark employee Krystal Stubbs, a single mom out for revenge on a get-rich-never racket that brought her family to ruin. FAM bills itself as a ticket to the American Dream but consumes its desperate sales drones, sometimes literally. (Krystal's brainwashed husband—played by Alexander Skarsgård—gets chomped by an alligator in the pilot episode; that's not really a spoiler.) Now Krystal is working her way "upline," in FAM-speak, to outscam the scammers from the inside and provide for her daughter, Destinee, at any cost.

A closeup black and white photo of Kirsten Dunst's eyes.

"I think TV is probably where the freshest ideas are right now." — Kirsten Dunst

Photo Credit: Alasdair McLellan/Art Partner.

Dunst, 38, is an executive producer on the show (along with George Clooney and others), but it is her "life-giving performance," as The Wall Street Journal called it, that makes On Becoming A God her star vehicle. Rocking adult braces, teased hair, and a spray tan, Dunst goes all-in, whether she is teaching splashersize water aerobics classes at Rebel Rapids to her FAM acolytes or skinning an alligator like a champ. Watch Krystal for a few minutes and you, too, will be buying whatever the former Miss All-Terrain Vehicle pageant winner is selling. As FAM's villainous founder, Obie Garbeau II (played with Colonel Sanders–level charisma by Ted Levine), says on his motivational cassettes: "Go-getters go get."

The series was a pet project of Dunst's for several years, bouncing from AMC to YouTube Premium before SHOWTIME gave it a home. Patience paid off. Dunst earned a Golden Globe nomination for the role this year and is enjoying what the media like to call "a moment," complete with a gleaming new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In the midst of everything, she gave birth in 2018 to her first child, son Ennis, with her fiancé, actor Jesse Plemons.

Dunst chuckles at the idea of her "resurgence as a pop culture icon," as Vogue dubbed it. "People are going, 'Hey, where's she been?' or 'Oh, wow, she's good in this new show,'" she says. "But I'm, like, 'Wait a minute, I've been here the whole time.' It shows you that people really watch television more than a lot of the quirky movies I've been in."

Dunst made her big screen debut at age 6 in Woody Allen's New York Stories, and at 12 was cast from among 5,000 hopefuls to play a child bloodsucker in Interview with the Vampire. She went on to eternal cool-kid status with films such as The Virgin Suicides, Bring It On, and Marie Antoinette and had probably her biggest hit playing Mary Jane Watson in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy. In 2017, Dunst won a Screen Actors Guild Award for her performance in Hidden Figures.

After a season finale with more twists and turns than a slide at Krystal Stubbs' water park, Dunst spoke to Watch about On Becoming A God's return, being a new mom, and pulling off the ultimate success feat: making a pyramid scheme work in her favor.

Kirsten Dunst smiles with eyes close into strong sun.

[Krystal] is a very forceful woman. When you're in touch with your power, you can make anything happen. That's very therapeutic for me, even by extension." — Kirsten Dunst

Photo Credit: Alasdair McLellan/Art Partner.

It took more than three years for On Becoming a God to find its place on television. You must feel like the queen of the Sunshine State as the series heads into Season 2.

Oh, it was definitely a long road, but it's worked out great. I almost walked away a couple times, but I kept coming back because I loved the world of the show. I loved the writing. I love dark comedies. I love satire, and I knew I would have a great time playing Krystal. I've been offered TV shows before, but the characters were always too depressing. Krystal is so much fun. You get the good, the bad, and the ugly with her, and she's eccentric enough and out-there enough to keep things light. The woman has no shame.

What are you learning about yourself from her?

Honestly, it's like therapy for me, playing Krystal. She lets it all hang out. She's not afraid of her rage. She'll scream and cry and tell you to *%^* off. Like when she's screaming at that alligator after her husband got killed, or when she has to tell off Cody [Théodore Pellerin, Krystal's FAM higher-up]. Her life is messed up, but there's something very healthy about the way she expresses herself. She's a very forceful woman. When you're in touch with your power, you can make anything happen. That's very therapeutic for me, even by extension.

Still image of Kirsten Dunst teaching a water aerobics class.

Kirsten Dunst as Krystal Stubbs teaching splashersize water aerobics classes at Rebel Rapids.

Photo Credit: Patti Perret/Sony/SHOWTIME.

How does Krystal's Sony Walkman–era wardrobe get you into character?

We wanted to stay true to the period, so we asked Stacey Battat [a costume designer who works with Sofia Coppola, Dunst's frequent collaborator] to create something that felt authentic and not forced or self-consciously cool. Krystal doesn't have a lot of money, so she's wearing denim; she's wearing thrift shop clothing. In the beginning she had braces and the period hair, and I couldn't stop giggling whenever I looked at myself in the mirror. She has zero vanity, and the wardrobe reflects that. I couldn't believe it at first. Now I just say, "Oh, that's just Krystal."

What does your son think of seeing his mom like that?

Ennis is still too young to notice, but we did have a situation with him and Krystal's makeup.

What happened?

My mother-in-law was with us on location in New Orleans, taking care of him. She texted to say, "Hey, I think Ennis is getting a little reddish-brown hair in the back." Jesse and I figured out it was Krystal's spray tan. Every time I get home from work, there's spray tan all over me. You can't really wash the stuff off completely, and it turned Ennis into sort of a redhead for a minute.

Being a mom must make it easier playing a mom.

Oh, God, yes. More than anything, this show is about a mother's survival instincts. Krystal is a working-class woman all alone with a child. It's one of the hardest positions ever, trying to keep her house in order when she has no one. Our situations are obviously completely different, but I know what it means to want to protect and care for your baby, and how that comes before anything.

Is it hard finding balance between parenting and your relationship and your busy work life?

I'll be honest, it's been exhausting. I'd just had a baby when production began, and I was literally crying to my friends that I hadn't recovered enough to be the lead of a show. But what I like about playing Krystal is that she's so fed up and exhausted herself that I'm allowed to let that stuff creep into the character. Not wanting to be in a situation. Being a little cranky. It's all great for the role. The other good thing in general about being an actor—and the hard thing, too—is that you have chunks of time when you're not working. We ended the show in February of 2019, and I didn't start work again until January 2020. So I got to be home doing all the amazing things you do as a mom, like laundry. Then we all went to New Zealand together to film Jane Campion's new movie, The Power of the Dog, which Jesse is in, too.

Still image of Kirsten Dunst and Theodore Pellerin accepting an award on stage.

Kirsten Dunst as Krystal Stubbs and Theodore Pellerin as Cody in On Being A God In Central Florida.

Photo Credit: Patti Perret/Sony/SHOWTIME.

Did you see any Hobbits?

No, but it's definitely a world apart from our usual life in L.A., where we might go to Griffith Park and visit a horse. I worked with Sam Neill on the movie Wimbledon, and he has a vineyard where we're staying. There are all kinds of animals around. Ennis is learning what pigs say and what cows say and all the names of everything—although he calls tractors "yai-yos." I realized it's because we always sing "Old MacDonald," and he associates tractors with ee-i-ee-yai-yo.

That's hilarious. Speaking of the animal kingdom, is it true you nixed a scene on your show because the script called for you to dance with a snake?

Oh, yeah. "The sexy snake dance." I was like, um, that's not gonna happen. I'm terrified of snakes! I read the scene and said, "We'll have to use a rubber one or bring in a double, because otherwise I'm out." But I think everyone pretended they didn't hear me, because the director goes, "It's not going to look good without a real snake." Thankfully, Robert [Funke, the co-creator] came up with the alternate idea of Krystal dancing alone with life-size puppets, which ended up being way more nuanced and sad. We've seen plenty of women snake dancers. Trust me, I'm never going to be as good as Britney or Salma Hayek.

Kirsten Dunst wearing a plaid blazer with ornamental metal spikes.

"More than anything, this show is about a mother's survival instincts. It's one of the hardest positions ever, trying to keep her house in order when she has no one." — Kirsten Dunst

Photo Credit: Alasdair McLellan/Art Partner.

Meanwhile, you had no problem killing the [fake] gator that ate your husband.

That was all about handling the gun properly. We did it all in one long shot, basically, and you want to make it smooth and look like you know what you're doing. I had weapons training, and a scene like that becomes a dance where you're moving to the rhythm of the "pop pop pop." You don't want it to be rushed. You want to create tension. You want to make it look like that alligator has nothing on you.

Before TV, you had a long and illustrious film career. But do you find it odd, or maybe even a little insulting, that Jumanji, Spider-Man, and Little Women were all remade after you starred in versions of them?

Not at all. I feel like there are no new ideas, honestly. People love a sure thing in Hollywood. Hey, can we make more money out of this? Great. Let's do it again. I think TV is probably where the freshest ideas are right now.

What are you watching?

Well, me, I'm watching a lot of zone-out television. That's all I want after a long day. This show called Love Is Blind on Netflix is addictive. I'm someone who watches The Bachelor and those weird TLC shows like 90 Day Fiancé. That therapy show on Netflix. I like watching real people. It helps me find good character moments to incorporate.

Do you have any hobbies?

I've been learning to play the piano for The Power of the Dog, and I really enjoy it. But mostly I'm doing whatever my kid wants to do. He loves trucks. I know more about excavators and heavy machinery than I ever thought possible. We also watch a lot of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood.

Black and white image of Kirsten Dunst smiling slyly at the camera.

"I'm terrified of snakes! I read the scene and said 'We'll have to use a rubber one or bring in a double, because otherwise I'm out." — Kirsten Dunst

Photo Credit: Alasdair McLellan/Art Partner.

What can you say about Season 2 of On Becoming A God In Central Florida? Where is Krystal headed?

You've got to keep her in fighting mode. She's still out for justice, even if she's tangled up in FAM and falling over to the darker side of things. It's definitely going to be a push and pull with her and Obie, and with doing the right thing and feeling tempted to get rich. When you reach the top level, it makes an impact on you. Krystal could easily fall in love with power in a way that could be detrimental.

I won't give too much away, but the plan is to have a family member introduced this season, which will be a fun role. I imagine it could cause some complications—not that anything's going to stand in the way of Krystal getting what she wants.

On Becoming A God In Central Florida will return for Season 2 on SHOWTIME. Catch up on the SHOWTIME and SHOWTIME ANYTIME® apps, as well as via SHOWTIME On Demand.

The Path To God

Kirsten Dunst looks back on some of her most iconic roles.

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994)

Still image of Kirsten Dunst as a very young child in period clothing from Interview With The Vampire.

Kirsten Dunst as Claudia in Interview With The Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles (1994).

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers/Getty Images.

​"I was such a self-assured little thing. I can now step back and be impressed that an 11-year-old child did that. The capability that I had at that age or that any good young actor has, it's awe inspiring."

THE VIRGIN  SUICIDES (1999)

Still image of a teenage Kirsten Dunst and castmates from the movie The Virgin Suicides.

Leslie Hayman, Kirsten Dunst, A.J. Cook, and Chelse Swain in The Virgin Suicides (1999).

Photo Credit: Paramount Classics/Everett Collection.

"It was the first time I was seen as a woman rather than a kid, and to be in that position under a female director, Sofia, it was like kismet. She helped me transition to become an adult."

BRING IT ON (2000)

Kirsten Dunst in her cheerleader clothing from the movie Bring It On.

Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On (2000).

Photo Credit: Universal/ Everett Collection.

"It's the movie people quote to me the most. I'll hear 'Brr! It's cold in here,' or 'I got the door, Tor,' or 'spirit fingers.' It's one of those movies, and I'm so proud of it."

SPIDER-MAN (2002–2007)

Kirsten Dunst kisses an upside down Spider-Man in the rain.

Kirsten Dunst as Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man (2002).

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

"Things got really big. I saw the world on these giant press tours, places I'd never thought I'd see. But what I remember was the group of actors—Tobey Maguire, Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, James Franco. They all kept this giant story emotionally grounded, almost like in an independent film, which is hard to do when you're standing in front of a green screen all day."

FARGO (TV SERIES, 2015)

Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemmons inside a grocery store from the tv show Fargo.

Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blumquist and Jesse Plemons as Ed Blumquist in Fargo, Season 2.

Photo Credit: Chris Large/FX/Everett Collection.

"The entire role, for me, was about the musicality of that particular accent. I had done a more cartoonish version of it in Drop Dead Gorgeous. The way someone speaks contains the poetry of who they are. As an actor, that's often how I find my way into the character."

HIDDEN  FIGURES (2016)

Kirsten Dunst and her fellow castmates after winning a Screen Actors Guild Award.

Kirsten Dunst and Hidden Figures co-stars Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson, and Janelle Monáe at the 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Photo Credit: Dan MacMedan/Getty Images.

"The story was so incredible, and I was thrilled to be part of it. It's one of those movies that almost goes beyond acting. You're really bringing a piece of history to people, and that made it incredibly special."

On Becoming A God In Central Florida will return for Season 2 on SHOWTIME. Catch up on the SHOWTIME and SHOWTIME ANYTIME® apps, as well as via SHOWTIME On Demand.

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