[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for “The Good Fight” Season 3, Episode 7, “The One Where Diane and Liz Topple Democracy.”]
In its third season, CBS All Access’s “The Good Fight” is breaking down barriers — figuratively, in addition to the literal explosions in its opening credits sequence. Creators Robert and Michelle King have packed each episode with moments which break the fourth wall in a number of respects, but the most overt way has a name: Gary Carr.
Carr isn’t necessarily a household name in the United States, but TV fans are definitely familiar with the British actor’s work, especially after appearing as a truly scandalous love interest for Lily James in the fourth season of “Downton Abbey.” It was Carr’s work in HBO’s “The Deuce” which led the Kings to bring him in to discuss working together — and it turned out Carr was a fan of “The Good Fight.”
“This year is a meta year about TV and entertainment and the façade they have,” Robert King told IndieWire. “So we pitched this character of an actor researching a being a lawyer and following Lucca [played by Cush Jumbo] around. He said he was into it, and then when we were starting in, we just decided we wouldn’t mind doing it a little differently. So we asked Gary Carr if he didn’t mind playing Gary Carr, playing himself.”
Continued Robert, “to his credit he was excited and challenged by the idea of playing himself. I do think he played him a little more facile than who he is in person, so he’s not exactly playing himself, but he sure is playing Gary Carr.” Added Michelle King, “He was a tremendously good sport about the whole thing.”
Proof of that is the fact that Carr didn’t make any stipulations about how the fictional version of himself would be different from his real persona. “That was the shocking thing. He really just went for it,” Michelle said.
“Clearly he’s playing the character as a little bit of a silly actor,” Robert said. “He’s not a silly actor; he’s a very intelligent, smart actor. But I think he’s having fun satirizing the way British actors [are] when they come to America.”
One touch that added to the meta component is the fact that Jumbo, who plays Lucca, is actually British (though her American accent never wavers even after Carr drops his initial American persona.) “It’s a little bit of craziness,” Michelle said.
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What proves fascinating about Carr’s casting in “The One Where Diane and Liz Topple Democracy” is that it begins as a fun meta in-joke, even accompanied by one of the show’s signature Jonathan Coulton-sung animated sequences recapping scenes from “Downton Abbey” that the show couldn’t legally air. But then, a key sequence at the end of the episode features Carr talking frankly about the inherent falseness of today’s media, even entertainment, and how that has spread to other aspects of society.
“One of the things that we’ve been pursuing all this year is entertainment’s culpability in turning politics more facile and stupid,” Robert said. “Entertainment either by celebrities handing [themselves] over to politics, or seeing all politics through an entertainment screen. And I think that that is the serious edge of all this comedy throughout the year is that – even through the current administration or the Democrats sucking up to the entertainment, the monsters in entertainment is all part of turning politics into entertainment.”
It’s heavy stuff, but nothing unfamiliar to the show’s ardent engagement with the madness of our current world, something that the Kings will continue to lean into when the show eventually returns for a fourth season.
“We try to keep it grounded with the character, and make it about how the characters are responding to the world around them. So as the world around them becomes more anarchic, then the characters naturally, especially Diane, are just going to continue reeling. So, I suspect it’s just going to get worse before it gets better,” Michelle said.
Continued Robert, “Yeah, I think there are two things at work here. One thing is that she is trying to reflect what is going on in the world and the feeling and the emotions we’re going through as the world she spins around it, and then the second thing is experimentation in TV because I do feel that a lot of TV has gotten very traditional… So one of the things we like to do is just making things a little bit more haywire, a little bit more anything can happen. What’s gonna happen next? You’re never quite sure.”
New episodes of “The Good Fight” are available Thursdays on CBS All Access.