The Great Reason To Check Out “The Good Wife” Spin-Off

Thanks to some seriously shoddy green-screen work, every fan of The Good Wife now knows about the still-mysterious bad blood between stars Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi. It was an offscreen drama that culminated in Panjabi leaving the series at the end of Season 6, which made room for Cush Jumbo to join at the start of Season 7 as probate court lawyer Lucca Quinn. While the show’s creators repeatedly stressed that Jumbo wasn’t “replacing” Panjabi, nearly every story announcing her casting made that connection, which gave Jumbo an early taste of the show’s passionate fandom.

“There were a lot of people who were like, ‘So that woman of color has left and you’re replacing her with another woman of color,’” Jumbo told BuzzFeed News at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in January. If the actor felt slight trepidation in joining The Good Wife, it was understandable as fans were still reeling from Panjabi’s departure, and Lucca Quinn’s purpose in the world of The Good Wife had yet to be fleshed out.

Show creators Robert and Michelle King originally cast Jumbo in their series after they were blown away by her turn as the titular characters in Josephine and I at Joe’s Pub at New York’s Public Theater in the spring of 2015. The husband–wife duo stopped by her dressing room after the show — which caused the self-described Good Wife superfan to momentarily lose her cool. “I’m not sure they knew I was such a big fan,” she gleefully recalled while curled up in an oversized love seat at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, California. “I’m telling them how much I love [The Good Wife] and they’re just sitting there grinning at me.” The three talked about the fact Panjabi was leaving the series and that they were looking for a new female character. “I was just nodding along thinking, Oooh, who is it going to be? I have some suggestions. Really not quite clocking what they were saying.” With a deep laugh, “It was a Saturday night and we’d all had a glass of wine, so anything anybody says on a Saturday night after a glass of wine, expect nothing to come of it.”

But something did come of it, and two days later Jumbo was offered a role on her favorite TV show without an audition. “They’re insane,” she said of her bosses’ leap of faith.

By May 2015, the Kings said they’d decided that Jumbo would “fill that same interesting dynamic” that Panjabi’s character Kalinda Sharma had, “without doing the same thing” — meaning Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) needed a friend. Initially introduced as an adversary for Alicia, the two women quickly bonded, becoming professional partners and de facto BFFs. Simultaneously, Jumbo’s worries about fan backlash were rendered nil.

“OH DAMNNNNNNNN LUCCA SAVES THE DAY I like her so much,” tweeted one fan the night her character debuted. Another wrote, “Lucca is already fucking amazing.” The enthusiastic feelings were mutual: Jumbo couldn’t quite believe she was getting paid to co-star on her favorite television show. “It was one of those shows where whenever people would ask me what I wanted to do, I would say The Good Wife because … they covered issues I was interested in and could make me cry and also laugh in the same episode,” she said. “But I never actually thought I would end up on it, otherwise I wouldn’t have geeked out on it so much.”

As show’s seventh season progressed, Lucca (and Jumbo) emerged as fan favorites. Viewers quickly locked in on what the Kings had likely seen that night at the theater: Jumbo exhibits tremendous acting chops (she trained on stages in London), but she also exudes an infectious energy that meshed with any Good Wife character the writers paired her with, from her flirtmance with Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry), to her fiery court battles with Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), to bringing out the best in Alicia.

Then, in February 2016, CBS announced The Good Wife would come to an end — much to Jumbo’s dismay. “I was just figuring her out when the show ended,” she said of her effervescent character. And, as it turned out, the Kings weren’t done with Lucca — or Jumbo — yet either. So it was no surprise that when they began to conceptualize a spinoff series, Cush Jumbo was an essential part of that plan from the very beginning.

“She’s such a strong actress and she inhabits the role so perfectly,” Michelle King told BuzzFeed News at the Television Critics Association winter press tour in January. “She can do comedy, she can do drama. There’s a tremendous authenticity she brings.”

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