Christine Baranski reflects on her 'most fraught season' as Diane on The Good Fight

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·9 min read
Christine Baranski reflects on her 'most fraught season' as Diane on The Good Fight
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Warning: This article contains spoilers for the season 5 finale of The Good Fight.

Season 5 of The Good Fight tested Christine Baranski's Diane Lockhart like never before, taking the character to some frankly uncomfortable places. But all's well that ends well, right?

Following the exit of named partner Adrian Boseman (Delroy Lindo) in the season 5 premiere, Diane found herself leading Reddick Lockhart, a historically Black firm, alongside Liz Reddick (Audra McDonald). Having a white woman in such a high position didn't sit well with most of the firm, and several partners wanted Diane to step down (especially once they found out her husband knew people involved with the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection). Of course, that was the last thing Diane wanted after successfully getting her name back on a firm after her fall from the grace in the pilot. Unwilling to acknowledge the bigger issues at play and her own privilege and entitlement, Diane tried leveraging her rich, yet very racist, corporate clients to protect her position of power, which created a rift between her and Liz — and definitely tested the audience's affection for her as well.

Thankfully, Diane came around in Thursday's season finale. After spending a night in neighborhood "judge" Vinetta Clark's (CCH Pounder) jail (read: the basement of her home), Diane returned to work and told Liz she'd give up her named partnership and simply become an equity partner because she didn't want create division in the place that took her in when she had nothing.

"I think it's our best season. I think it was really brave of [executive producers Robert and Michelle King]," Baranski tells EW as she looks back on Diane's rocky journey to the finale. "I love that there was a struggle and there were missteps, because going forward as a country and as people, we're going to make a lot of missteps along the way until we really learn how to work this out."

Below, EW chats with Baranski about Diane's arc, her relationship with Kurt (Gary Cole), and more.

Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+ Christine Baranski on 'The Good Fight'

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you feel about Diane's decision to step down from her named partnership in the finale?

CHRISTINE BARANSKI: Well, I felt it was brave of Diane and rather typical of Diane. I think it took her a while to arrive at that decision, but I think it came from a place of loyalty to that firm. I was the one who asked for the line she said to Liz about "This firm took me in when I was at rock bottom, and I feel a certain loyalty to it and I don't want to see it divided." That's the basis on which she decides to step aside. Not leaving, and saying, "I'll step down from this named partnership and I don't even want one of the offices," literally demoting herself, is a very interesting place to take a leading character — to once again have her be humbled and having to figure out some very big things of her life at this late stage in her life. What did you feel about it?

I definitely struggled with Diane this season. I understood why she didn't want to step down after fighting for so many years, but I got frustrated with her once she started leveraging her racist clients. But I think that was the point — to both challenge Diane and the viewer.

Yeah, they took their leading lady and showed some of her biases and weaknesses, and struggle to maintain power. She gets called out on it. I think she thinks about that — her nocturnal conversations with Ruth Bader Ginsburg [laughs], of all people. I think the ending is appropriate. I think it's a psychological and ethical journey for Diane throughout the season.

I don't know from episode to episode quite where the Kings are going, because often they don't. They move through things as the current flows, and where we finally ended Diane's story line felt right to me, right for the character. And I don't think you could've ended it with Diane making the choice to leverage her clients who are biased and didn't want to lose their white name partner. But I think where we ended the show is something of a cliffhanger, because she's on her way to vacation and she's not going to give up the good fight, but where is the good fight going to take her?

Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+ Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald on 'The Good Fight'

This season put Diane in an uncomfortable position. What was the journey to this end point like for you from an acting and emotional standpoint?

Frankly, there were a lot of times this season where I felt more of a level of discomfort than I ever have as the character because it is such a sensitive issue now, and the visual of the show with her reaching this place where she's a named partner but then there's a dilemma with Boseman stepping down and it presents itself in the very first episode. Both Audra and I were wondering, "Gosh, where are we going to go?" after that huge fight in the office. I loved that the Kings, as always, took a U-turn that you don't expect, so suddenly we're called out as being lovers. That, in a way, alleviated some of the tension.

Audra and I talked about it, and the one thing we wanted to avoid was falling into stereotypes or tropes of the angry Black woman and the elitist white bitch. We wanted to approach this as two women who actually really were friends and had a very respectful and professional relationship, and even when they're arguing, there's still that level of respect, which is something I had with Boseman. I loved that relationship. I'm sorry that he's gone because I thought it was so interesting for a white woman and Black man who are in these power positions [to] meet and it was never about gender or race. They were just two professionals. So I think Audra and I always tried to respect the fact that we were working professionals who respected each other, who were trying very, very hard to somehow figure it out.

That said, given where we are in the country and how sensitive these issues are, we didn't know from week to week where we were going with it. To answer your question, I think it was my most fraught season. It was one that required thought and sensitivity, and introspection.

The season also focused on Wackner's [Mandy Patinkin] alternative court. How did you interpret the episode-ending montage with all of those small alternative courts popping up around the country?

My gut reaction? I thought it was a brilliant ending, but to me it spoke to the danger of, you know, we have a flawed legal system but if we have alternative laws and alternative facts, and we take the law "into our own hands," we will indeed have chaos. So the endgame is not law and order. It's anarchy, and it's frightening.

We're experiencing a lot of that in our culture now because we're so fractured. Look at the people who are actually defending the Jan. 6 riots on our Capitol and somehow justifying it. It's unjustifiable, and it has to be adjudicated. People have to be held accountable, including the man who incited that riot. If we have alternative courts and alternative facts, where are we as a country? So it's very scary, chilling, Orwellian, but I think it was a great way to end the season, particularly that subplot of the kangaroo court.

Elizabeth Fisher/Paramount+ Gary Cole and Christine Baranski on 'The Good Fight'

In your opinion, how sustainable is Kurt and Diane's marriage given how much their politics differ? Does something eventually have to give after all this time?

The Kings did write an episode where Kurt and Diane break up and she says, "I can't go forward with this," and then Diane goes into the law firm and asks Julius [Michael Boatman] to join her and break off and start her own firm, and just start again because she couldn't sustain it. I questioned that with the Kings. I said, "The strength of this relationship was always their ability to somehow get past the fact that they were in two corners politically." But it's very tricky because she does love this man, and it was very tenuous.

I just don't know where Kurt and Diane are going, because I think it leaves open the possibility that they might not be able to work it out. But to just end it abruptly, I think, would've been, hmm… sad for people to see that. It would've been deeply sad for Diane. I don't know how she would've navigated her life after that. It's a big question mark. Those two things that she was struggling with — Diane's position at the firm and her position in her marriage — I don't know if it's morally justifiable that Diane just stay with this man. There's something deep in Kurt that she admires, and he loves her and she loves him deeply. Can we get past a lot of our differences and love as human beings? I think it begs that question.

You've been playing Diane Lockhart for more than a decade now. What haven't you gotten to as her that you'd like to, and where do you hope she goes next?

She's always curiously starting over and swimming against the current, and that's always been her strength. I don't know where the next current is going to take me. These questions, like when you talk about Kurt and Diane, aren't just going to away because we ended the season. Okay, she saved his skin, she kept him out of major trouble, and she's stepping down from her position. But she's still going to have to live out her personal and professional relationships. So where do I want to see her go? I just want to see continue fighting and continue trying to figure it out. We live in such a complicated moment in history. If she embodies a person who is really struggling to figure it out, then that's a very big challenge for the writers, and for me as an actor.

The Good Fight will return for season 6 in 2022.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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