Caroline Waxler: I’m Caroline Waxler and you’re listening to OnWriting, a podcast from the Writers Guild of America, East. In each episode, you’ll hear from writers in film, television, news, and new media about their work. From pitching to production, from process to favorite lines, and everything in between.
Caroline Waxler: Today, we are speaking with Robert and Michelle King, creators of The Good Fight, the upcoming show, Evil, and the Writers Guild award-winning show, The Good Wife.
Caroline Waxler: Thank you both so much for coming in, it is a pleasure to see you and to join us for this episode of OnWriting. So tell us about where in New York do you live.
Robert King: Upper East Side, near the park. We’ve lived here three and a half years, four years, right?
Michelle King: Right.
Robert King: The Good Wife, which always brought us to New York when we had the writers’ room on the West Coast, we kept going back and forth, and it was a little hard. Also, we had a daughter in high school, we wanted her to have high school out here, so we decided to move everything. The writers’ room, editorial, everything to the East Coast.
Caroline Waxler: How do you find a writers’ room in New York versus a writers’ room in LA?
Michelle King: Well, there are fewer writers to choose from that we’ve hired some writers that have relocated from Los Angeles. More of the writers in New York have been able to make living as playwrights, so there are fewer writers, but I would say the level of talent, uniformly, is very high.
Caroline Waxler: What is it about playwrights, what is it about their skills that translates so well into writing TV drama?
Robert King: Dialogue.
Michelle King: Yeah.
Robert King: Dialogue would be one. Sometimes you have to work on narrative skills, but what always felt good about playwrights, to me, is they’re not stuck in maybe some storytelling troupes that might come from being too obsessed on TV and features, if that makes sense. They’re probably a little more adventurous, or do you disagree with me?
Michelle King: No, not that, but I wouldn’t say that I have a preference for hiring playwrights, that’s just the pool in New York. So, it’s not as though we look down upon television writers, I mean we’re eager for them, but there aren’t as many that are focused on TV, typically because there are more rooms in Los Angeles.
Caroline Waxler: That makes sense. And are the writers in New York maybe more engaged with the news or current events, anything different about the writers in New York versus LA?
Michelle King: We sift for that, so that’s hard to say because when we’re hiring a room in Los Angeles or New York, those are the writers that we’re going to be hiring.
Robert King: And it’s hard for us to tell because The Good Fight has become more political than The Good Wife. I mean, they were both political legal shows, so I do think we’ve had almost the same writers’ room for two or three years now on Good Fight and we kind of developed together our obsession with the news.
Caroline Waxler: So what is your news diet?
Robert King: Well, I used to have an online app called TechShare, which had all of my magazines-
Caroline Waxler: Of course.
Robert King: … but it’s done, it’s done as of a week ago, and now it’s Apple News. And so that is good, but usually the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, sometimes The LA Times, whatever Google News coughs up. Any magazine that we can get ahold on. I don’t really do podcasts, but you do more than I.
Michelle King: No, not much. Except for this one.
Caroline Waxler: Yeah, of course.
Michelle King: Of course.
Robert King: Except this one, which we’ve become obsessed with. The only thing you’re looking for is something off the beaten track so some Catholic News, some things that are maybe more niche in news. Atlantic is very good to get the more conservative side of things, The New Republic. So anything else?
Caroline Waxler: Any TV shows?
Michelle King: I get almost all my news written. I rarely watch it.
Caroline Waxler: Wow, you’re the one.
Michelle King: Yeah.
Robert King: Yeah, not much. I mean, probably the late night shows-
Michelle King: Yeah.
Robert King: … and John Oliver, but I mean, that’s more just… Because sometimes we feel ourselves in competition. Where we go comically with the story might be the same as something John Oliver does later or even while we’re producing ours.
Caroline Waxler: That’s interesting. So it’s been said that you can practically predict what’s going to happen on the news. To what do you attribute that and how would you answer that?
Robert King: We’re very aware of the zeitgeist. I mean, probably any writer knows. Whenever we’re asked by reporters, “Okay, so you know a lot of what’s the news,” and it’s just like, “Every writer knows if you’re sitting at your computer, you’re procrastinating and that means just surfing the news or surfing whatever,” and I do think that kind of gets you tapped in the zeitgeist. I also think we’re always aware of being in competition with other shows hanging on to something that was the headline of the moment.
Robert King: So we’ve always tried to depart from the headline and predict what we thought would be the issue in three months because that is usually the delay time between you write the script and when it’s actually on air. Which is better than streaming, which can be a year away or whatever. With what we do with CBS, it’s usually three months at the beginning of the season and then at the end of the season, actually you’re kind of only about a month and a week away. So it really accelerates.
Robert King: So you’re always just trying to guess. And sometimes we just luck into… You can never underestimate this bear with the news, so usually it’s about trying to find what is the worst way things could go, and you’re right.
Michelle King: And not only that, a lot of the stories we’re approaching are perennials. I mean, to say that there’s going to be conflict in the Middle East does not make you a genius. Sadly, they’re true.
Robert King: Yeah and the other thing we should say, we have seven writers in the writers’ room who all bring in their fascinations, their obsessions, and are probably predicting as much as we are. I mean, so it’s a little bit of a combination of voices and arguments and debates that lead us towards where we think something will be a problem. Especially when you’re talking about the law because if you see something going up to the Supreme Court, you know by the time that oral arguments happen on that, you know it’ll be sort of current.
Caroline Waxler: What are some of the particular obsessions of your writers?
Robert King: I would say the constitutional reasons for impeachment. The various legal possibilities for impeachment. I don’t want to obsess on impeachment because that’s not everybody’s.
Michelle King: No, no, no.
Robert King: A lot of them are with immigration concerns. A lot with racial concerns or racial issues.
Michelle King: Yeah, issues of race, issues of attacks on gay families.
Robert King: Antisemitism growing on the left, I would say. And the rise of Nazism in America is crazy to be saying that. Someone’s going to look at this in a time capsule and go, “Wait, what? Wasn’t this in the ’30s?” But no, we are not in the ’30s.
Caroline Waxler: Right. Do you have any Conservative viewers? I’m sure you do. Let me rephrase that. I mean, how are you in touch with your audience and what are the leanings of your audience?
Michelle King: I think we had more Conservative fans on The Good Wife than The Good Fight.
Caroline Waxler: Why is that?
Michelle King: Well, we probably just had more fans in general because the show is easier to find. The Good Wife was less explicitly political. I took great pride in the fact that Rush Limbaugh and Michael Moore both said they were fans of the show.
Caroline Waxler: Wow.
Michelle King: Good Fight is more explicitly left-leaning, although it does satirize the left as well as the right, and I think that those that haven’t watched it, wouldn’t recognize the fact that in fact, it’s not as left-leaning as a person might think.
Robert King: It starts with a premise that the current president is a danger to the country. So I mean, mostly because that’s what the characters on the show believe. So it’s because we shot the pilot and everybody thought that Hillary was going to win, we were writing a pilot that was about Christine Baranski’s character, now seeing all the glass ceilings for women have been broken because there was a woman in the presidency, could then give up her work and basically relax. Go back and she wanted to buy an estate in France and she wanted to relax.
Robert King: And then, in our seventh day or eight day of shooting the pilot, Trump won. In fact, we were shooting in Manhattan just two blocks away from possibly both celebration parties, victory parties. So it was suddenly, you can almost look out the window and see all the camera vans for the news heading from one hotel to the other. That’s when Michelle and I sat down and realized we had to rewrite the opening, and it wouldn’t be… I mean because obviously, it was not about women breaking the last glass ceiling, it was now about Christine Baranksi sitting in front of her TV watching the inauguration of Donald Trump.
Robert King: And so that took on a whole new tone for the show. Because we titled The Good Fight just to play off The Good Wife. Then it suddenly gave a rationale to the show, which was what is it when you lose all the guardrails in your society and how do you fight it? Can you fight it idealistically or do you have to be a Machiavellian pragmatist? You have to use the corrupt means of your opposition to bring down your opposition, I would say. That was one of the premises of The Good Fight.
Caroline Waxler: Wow, and to jump ahead a little bit, listening to what you just said, I know your next show is called Evil. Did that inform Evil at all?
Michelle King: The politics?
Caroline Waxler: Yes.
Michelle King: It may have informed our conversations that led to the question of where does Evil come from. I don’t anticipate Evil being as explicitly political as The Good Fight is because it’s not really the question that the characters are obsessed with.
Robert King: Yeah, one of the other obsessions of both The Good Wife and The Good Fight is social media and its impact on modern society and the law. And that would be more of our obsession on Evil is kind of this way that bad people are talking to each other and creating greater pockets of evil. The Nazi’s march and everything. The schoolyard shootings. So I think that’s more the obsession of Evil. Although, politics will play a part in it, as Michelle said, it won’t be the obsession.
Caroline Waxler: When is Evil set to premiere?
Michelle King: In September this-
Caroline Waxler: In September on CBS.
Michelle King: Yes.
Robert King: The writers’ room starts tomorrow.
Caroline Waxler: So you all are busy.
Robert King: Oh baby.
Michelle King: Yes.
Caroline Waxler: So I know that The Good Fight is now going to enjoy a season one on regular CBS versus All Access.
Michelle King: Correct.
Caroline Waxler: So what was the thinking behind that?
Michelle King: Well, it was corporate thinking. It was that hopefully, by introducing more people to the show, they would then, because it’s only going to be the first season and an edited down version, that they would then go over to All Access to find the whole show, both the unedited first season and then seasons two and three.
Robert King: I think they were reacting to the reviews which have been pretty uniformly positive, but it’s always there’s an asterisk in the review saying, “And it’s hidden away on CBS All Access.” So I think CBS wants to try to open that door a bit to what is sort of The Good Wife audience which was… I think a lot of people said, “Well, I got Good Wife free on network, why am I going to go pay for it? That’s insane.” So I think what they’re trying to do is show that if you want to continue with these characters, go over there and it’s not much of money, I think there’s even a free trial period, so.
Caroline Waxler: And congratulations on being the first show from All Access to jump to the network.
Robert King: Yes, that’s right.
Michelle King: Yes.
Caroline Waxler: So it sounds like you have a great relationship with CBS, although I know there was a little drama recently with the censorship. So how did that play out?
Michelle King: Well, in every episode of Good Fight, there’s an interstitial song written by Jonathan Coulton and animated. So it’s an animated short, typically about a minute long called The Good Fight Short. And on one episode during the third season, there was a short that had been written and been previously approved by everyone at CBS. Then two weeks before it was meant to air, they took pause and said “No, we’re no longer comfortable with that.” It was an episode about China and censorship in China.
Robert King: And that how American companies both tech companies but also the entertainment world censor themselves to please and appease the Chinese censors, so they can open up the Chinese market.
Caroline Waxler: So now television writers are writing for a global audience instead of a domestic one. So how does that impact when you think of when you plot out your stories?
Robert King: Well, we don’t think about it at all.
Michelle King: It doesn’t at all.
Robert King: In fact, this was very angering to us. We threatened to quit. And then they agreed to put… It was Michelle’s suggestion-
Michelle King: That instead of running the animated piece, they would just run, “This content has been censored by CBS.”
Robert King: Which it was interesting because I think got more attention that way than it would if it… Jonathan Coulton works with Head Gear, which is this animation company in Canada. And they do really witty, fun cartoons. They are supposed to be like Schoolhouse Rock cartoons. They’re supposed to be taking this difficult subject like Russian troll farms and treating them like the “How is a Bill Made” we all know from when we were kids.
Caroline Waxler: Yeah, an explainer.
Robert King: And so it was always meant to be funny and cute and all that. And I think the worry is it would go viral and because the rest of the show is also kind of a hard-hitting about these re-education camps in China and about a million and a half Muslims being placed in re-education camps. So it’s still kind of hard-hitting, it’s just not as comically viral as this short would have been.
Caroline Waxler: And some people thought it was a joke, right?
Michelle King: Yes, which was a surprise to me. Anyone that paid attention enough to read an article about it, then soon learned that in fact, no, it was real.
Robert King: I mean, our original intent was after they agreed to this censorship, and it was left to us how to present it. We were originally going to do the whole 90 seconds of what was the cartoon with black and “CBS has censored this content,” with a countdown clock.
Robert King: We were in the mix and we felt like that is such a jerky saying, such a really prickish thing to do because it’s not very nice to the audience too.
Michelle King: It’s unkind to the audience and that was the reason for it.
Robert King: I guess the streaming people could fast forward, but it just felt a little self-congratulatory or I don’t know, a little like a college newspaper.
Michelle King: Self-indulgent.
Robert King: Yeah, self-indulgent. Thank you.
Caroline Waxler: And I read that you two almost quit over this. What made you decide not to?
Michelle King: We loved the actors and the writers. I mean, it’s a fantastic group. It would not be easy to find that group again. So that was the reason.
Robert King: Yeah, when you’re showrunning, you’re responsible for a lot of other people. And I did think Michelle’s compromise was at least as we kind of anticipated it would, it would bring attention. Emily Nussbaum caught on to it. She was a writer for The New Yorker-
Michelle King: Terrific writer.
Robert King: … because her friend is Jonathan Coulton the songwriter.
Caroline Waxler: Interesting.
Robert King: I mean, I think she thought maybe something quirky was going on, so she started writing about it in The New York Times and I think that brought even more attention than if the cartoon just went. So I think-
Michelle King: Although that was certainly not our thinking ahead of time or preference.
Robert King: So I think it was just trying to be a responsible caretaker for the show and for the actors, and trying to bounce off what the ethical demands of censorship requires of writers.
Caroline Waxler: How did you first start working with Jonathan Coulton? Why did you decide to do interstitials?
Robert King: Because he’s funny. He’s one of the funniest fucking songwriters. I mean, everybody’s got a Spotify or an Apple account. Just go type his name in and listen to some of his music. Especially writers, because his lyrics, maybe outside of Ray Davies, are some of the funniest, wittiest lyrics. He is someone that when we were doing The Good Wife, we had done an episode called Goliath vs. David, which was about kind of basically inspired by a situation he had, which is he… What was the song he did the folk version of? Baby Got Back?
Michelle King: Yes.
Robert King: And he did a very cute folk version of it and then Glee, as part of their programming, basically ripped it off. I mean, to be honest, they ripped it off and they didn’t pay him. He was hiring lawyers and then the difficulty of hiring lawyers is they cost a lot of money. And is it are you getting enough attention without actually winning a suit too?
Robert King: So we did an episode inspired by that. Where our guy, our fictional version of Jonathan Coulton, wins. So we wrote back and forth. He wrote an article for Vulture, an essay in Vulture about it. So then we started communicating. And then we did a show that no one has seen called Brain Dead, that was on CBS one summer. And we decided, because it was going to be highly serialized, that we didn’t want to do the previously ons that everybody’s used to, which are kind of ugly. They were the worst thing about peak TV, are these previously ons because they don’t really communicate that much, it’s just an out of odd images, they’re poorly edited. So we decided to do something different, where he would compose a one minute recap-
Michelle King: In song, yeah.
Robert King: … in singing form of the show up to that point. And so that worked out really well and we had a lot of fun. He worked very quick.
Robert King: And so then when Good Fight came along, we asked if he would do these one minute to a minute and a half shorts that would be Schoolhouse Rock. He was nominated for an Emmy last season for one he did on impeachment. So we wanted to continue that. The collaboration with Head Gear, the animation company, is great. They’re fantastic.
Robert King: So partly, I think it was our interest in doing something structurally different this year on Good Fight and our interest in continuing this collaboration with Jonathan Coulton.
Michelle King: Yeah, I was going to say, mainly, it’s just fun.
Caroline Waxler: It looks it.
Michelle King: Yeah.
Caroline Waxler: And congratulations on the renewal.
Michelle King: Thank you.
Robert King: Thank you.
Caroline Waxler: So how will you balance writing the next season and writing Evil?
Robert King: Michelle, how will we?
Michelle King: Delicately? There’s going to be some overlap, but we’re starting Evil tomorrow, as Robert mentioned. And Good Fight, the writers won’t start for a couple months.
Robert King: So we’ll back it off like one month, I believe, and have like a three or four episode overlap, which is difficult. We’re all going to be in one building in Greenpoint, right next door to our stagers.
Michelle King: On different floors, so hopefully there’ll be some flow.
Robert King: Yeah, and two of the writers from one show will flop over into the next show. I don’t know, it’ll be difficult. I mean, what’s good is that they’re very different shows, so they’re not similar enough where your mindset might be colliding with each other. You can kind of bifurcate hopefully those thoughts.
Robert King: By the worry is we’re very involved with the editing room and that, I think, will be complicated because anybody who has done network knows there’s a tri-level workflow. You’re doing the writers’ room, you’re doing production, but you’re also doing editorial. And so it’s not just like running one show, it’s kind of like running three shows because they’re at different points. You could be building episode eight, shooting episode six. Wait no, go the other way. No, that’s right. Shooting episode six and editing episode four. So you’re always kind of mixed up in your storytelling because you’re having to differentiate. And production will call you and say, “So why are we doing this in an ice cream parlor?” It’s like, “Oh my God, I have no idea because I’m two episodes later, where there’s a shootout. I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Robert King: And everybody’s in their own space thinking about just that obsession of the moment, not realizing you’re like two episodes ahead. So that’s I think complicated. And when you’re doing two shows, I think it would be difficult.
Michelle King: It would be doubly complicated.
Robert King: Yeah.
Caroline Waxler: Is the process more difficult on CBS proper versus All Access?
Michelle King: The complications are that you have to keep it within a certain time limit, so those are limits. And of course-
Robert King: On network.
Michelle King: On network, yes.
Caroline Waxler: On network.
Robert King: 42 minutes and 40 seconds or something like that.
Michelle King: And there are language constraints. There are greater hurdles in terms of standards in practice than there would be on All Access.
Robert King: Also, I can’t figure out what’s going on with ratings. When we were starting out on Good Wife, there was more of an obsession with ratings. There might still be, but I have a feeling that pressure will return to us. Which is never a pleasant pressure because I sometimes feel the entertainment press has it in for network and criticize and kind of trumpets, “That’s not enough. They’re losing… Audience decay, audience decay.” When streaming doesn’t have that same obsession because no one’s giving out any information. So I think that would be a difficulty with going back to network.
Caroline Waxler: So what is the working relationship between you two? How is it to be married writers?
Michelle King: Well, we’ve never done television any other way. Nor can I imagine. I don’t understand how people do it solo, at all. Because it is full-time and to me, it takes two people. I think it would be terribly difficult to go home to somebody that wasn’t immersed in it.
Robert King: Yeah, and we’re writing together, but we’re also showrunning together, or executive producing together. With the writing together, we plot it out together. Sometimes I charge ahead and do the first draft and then Michelle edits. And I would say in the showrunning, we have a pretty good split. And then Michelle does casting, wardrobe, the look, basically. And I work probably more with the directors and more editorial. And then we split writers’ room duties. I do think it helps because we’ve been married…
Michelle King: 31 years.
Robert King: 31 years, so there’s-
Caroline Waxler: Congratulations.
Robert King: … We kind of know each other. We also know that we have to speak with one voice. So if someone says, “Yes,” even if the other person goes, “Fuck, that was the wrong answer,” we kind of know the strength is in someone making a decision and the other backing it up no matter what.
Caroline Waxler: So do you talk about the show at home or do you have any rules that we’re just going to turn off and not talk about work?
Michelle King: No, it’s completely porous. We’ll talk about work at home and home at work.
Robert King: So our daughter was growing up as we were doing The Good Wife, and we just let her name the characters, so-
Caroline Waxler: No kidding?
Robert King: … Yeah, a lot of her third grade class, all those fellow students, now have names in Good Wife, so.
Caroline Waxler: Wow. Did any of their parents object? There’s always one.
Robert King: No, we didn’t get that.
Michelle King: No, not that we heard.
Caroline Waxler: And this was when you were in LA, so probably the kids were much more used to having entertainment industry parents.
Michelle King: Yeah, exactly.
Caroline Waxler: Did your daughter visit you on set? How was it raising a child when both of you were working so hard and working together?
Michelle King: That’s probably made it easier. She is very comfortable either being on a set or being in an editing room, or being… She’s come and sat in the writers’ room just out of interest. Because there are two of us, if Robert was staying late to edit, I could go home and have dinner with her. So I think she got the benefit of us working as a team.
Robert King: It might also help that it’s like a mom-and-pop operation.
Michelle King: Yeah.
Robert King: I mean, maybe less so now that we’re doing three shows. But it was a mom-and-pop operation and so there was a lot more fun of the family oriented quality of all the editorial, all post-production, all the writers. So everybody liked each other and probably still like each other. So it wasn’t like, “Here’s industry and here’s home.” They were kind of mixing up together.
Caroline Waxler: And it sounds like that helped productivity and creativity.
Michelle King: Well, it was the only way we could get it done.
Caroline Waxler: When you’re at home, what is your writer… Do you have an office that you share with two desks or how do you write at home? Or do you go to coffee shops? What does that look like?
Robert King: No.
Michelle King: No, we don’t go.
Robert King: We don’t go to coffee shops.
Michelle King: We have an office, a production office, but then we also have an office at home.
Robert King: That’s separate off from the home. It’s like a floor away in our apartment building. So we go up. So there’s a division, which I think is helpful. Also, I mean, here’s the thing with network. I don’t know how much it is with streaming. You’re really operating off of panic. Your deadlines are unceasing and they’re coming up very fast no matter what. If you were in an airplane, you have to write on the airplane. If you’re stranded in an airport, you have to sit on the floor of the airport and write. There’s just no nicety to the writing on network shows.
Caroline Waxler: In streaming, it’s a much different experience?
Robert King: Not by much.
Michelle King: Not the way we do it. I think there are certain shows that bank all their episodes and then they film them. We have never worked under that model.
Robert King: Yeah.
Michelle King: So essentially, it’s a network model, except we have an additional day or two to film and there are fewer episodes, which makes a big difference.
Robert King: Which is good because when there are two or more days per episode of filming, then we have two or more days to write the script for the next one, so it works out. Streaming just gives you a little relief.
Caroline Waxler: So now you’re gearing up and you’re starting the writers’ room tomorrow for Evil, what have you been reading and researching? How did you prepare for this show?
Robert King: That is such a good question. I’ve been reading a lot of books about schizophrenia because I think-
Caroline Waxler: Interesting.
Robert King: … the show is supposed to be bouncing off the interests of science and supernatural or religion. And it always feels, oddly, as secular as a lot of our society is, you need scares and scares are supernatural. And so what’s interesting is there’s a great Oliver Sacks book called Hallucinations. There’s a great book by Esme called The Collected Schizophrenia. What was interesting about this book is it’s about highly functional schizophrenics or people who have hallucinations or hear voices or whatever, but are not sick, not need to be put in a loony bin. They are out in the world.
Robert King: So what we’re trying to find is ways that science and religion can see the same thing, but have disagreements on what it means. What something is supernatural. So we’re reading that. We’re reading obviously a lot of very dastardly serial killings and things like that. But it’s not going to be Mindhunter’s serial killer of the week, it’s going to be very much why do people do bad things? Why are studio executives allowed to throw things at their assistant? It’s not just evil with a capital E, it’s… Although, if I’m the assistant, that probably is evil with a capital E.
Robert King: But some of the things that Me Too woke everybody up to was just… We worked in the business in the ’90s. You heard about the executives who are allowed to do awful things to their assistants and it was like, “How is that not evil? How is that not…” So anyway, I think those are our obsessions in the show. And of course, Nazis marching. That’s our perennial these days.
Caroline Waxler: How do you decompress after reading all these books on serial killers?
Michelle King: I don’t think I do. I mean, that’s just the steady diet and always has been.
Robert King: Yeah, and there was a therapeutic quality to writing Good Fight while we were reading news about all the politics with this administration. Therapeutic because you got to talk to a lot of other writers who might have different concerns about things, but also you were able to write and write out what your worries were.
Robert King: So I have a feeling it’s going to be in the same world. We only wrote the pilot so far, but I have the feeling it’s going to be helpful for… What’s fun about Dante is he lived his life and hated some people and loved some people, and then he was able to write and put those people he hated in hell.
Caroline Waxler: Mm-hmm (affirmative), right.
Robert King: And put the people he loved either in purgatory or paradise. I do think there’s an element of the satirical aspect of the show will allow us to put people we don’t like somewhere bad.
Caroline Waxler: So should we be looking for different network executives?
Michelle King: Never. Never, never, never. Of course not.
Caroline Waxler: I once did an article where I interviewed this pharmaceutical, this billionaire, and he was saying that he and his father always used to have a discussion, because the father was in a Nazi internment camp, about whether people are naturally evil or not. Where do you all fall on that? And the father thought that people were naturally evil. The son, who was a yachtsman-
Michelle King: All people?
Caroline Waxler: Yeah, he thought people were naturally evil-
Robert King: There was something… Right
Caroline Waxler: … and the son thought they were naturally good. And he had a great life. Drove yachts and had a wonderfully easy life.
Michelle King: For me, I wouldn’t say people are all either good or evil. And I think there are people that are evil despite every reason not to be. And then there are also people that are good despite all reason not to be.
Robert King: God, that’s poetic. I think being the Catholic, I believe in original sin, that there’s something that humans have to try to conquer in themselves that leads them toward doing bad acts. I don’t know if I call that evil, but I think people lean towards bad acts because they are more likely to get pragmatically what they want quicker.
Robert King: I do think, just like there are people who, in writing, are greater like Shakespeare, with writing than us, there are people who behave well like saints or missionaries in the worst places of the world, people who sacrifice their lives, or people who are in China trying to spread religion. There are people who are trying to reach that better place than a lot of us.
Caroline Waxler: So speaking of religion, between the two of you, so you’re Catholic and are you Jewish?
Michelle King: Yeah, I’m Jewish.
Caroline Waxler: How does that inform your writing both on Evil and The Good Fight, The Good Wife, does your backgrounds-
Michelle King: Well, we come from a different point of view on religion. And I think that has informed Evil more than any other project.
Robert King: Yeah, I mean, we did a little of that on Good Wife with Julianna Margulies’s character, Alicia, was an atheist. And her daughter was suddenly attracted to religion, which was just so… I mean, most of our take on religion is meant to be comic because it was very funny to find a mother who was thinking, “Why is my daughter being rebellious by becoming-
Michelle King: That that’s rebellious, finding Jesus.
Robert King: … Yeah. And then another comic angle was that the Chris Noth character…
Michelle King: Peter Florrick.
Robert King: Peter Florrick. He was trying to use religious, especially African American preachers, to advance his circle of voters. And then he began to take religion seriously because it seemed to be winning him things. So it feels like most of our take on religion is to treat it comically.
Robert King: I’m not sure that can continue with Evil, because I think there are going to be essential debates within it where neither side wins. It always feels like so much about TV is preaching to the choir. A lot of these shows know where you are about abortion and preach you what you already know. It feels like what’s fun about shows is when they leave the debate open, where both characters are right, 100% right, but are in 100% disagreement with each other. And therefore, it leaves you to the audience of not being comfortable with where the narrative ends up, but trying to think something for yourself.
Robert King: So as long as you can be honestly laying out both sides of an argument, in this case, religion vs. science, or supernatural vs. medicine, it would be very fun for the show.
Michelle King: Yeah, and the goal is to show two characters who can disagree respectfully.
Caroline Waxler: And that must be fun to write.
Michelle King: Yeah, and my hope is that people are hungry to see that because there has been very little respectful disagreement in the world. So to have a hot topic that people feel passionately about and the characters feel passionately about, but are open to listening to people who disagree with them, I think, would be fun to do.
Caroline Waxler: And will serve as a model for many at Thanksgiving dinner.
Michelle King: It would be nice.
Caroline Waxler: So this is a supernatural show, and I know Robert, at the beginning of your career, you wrote a lot of supernatural. You had some supernatural movies.
Robert King: Probably the killer cockroach movie for Roger Corman. I did The Nest. What else? I think that might be it. I’m just trying to think what else there was.
Caroline Waxler: How was that experience? And how was writing for Roger Corman?
Robert King: Roger Corman was a great start. Roger Corman because you were thrown into the deep end and forced to swim. I was working in a shoe store and I had written a short little horror script and it got to an executive over there. I was brought in, I thought just for a meeting to find out, “What are you interested in? Maybe we would find something.” But no, “Here’s a book and it’s about killer cockroaches, and we have the sets and we have-
Michelle King: We have the roaches.
Robert King: … And we’re going to shoot. We have the roaches. We have the roach handler.”
Caroline Waxler: A roach handler?
Michelle King: Yeah.
Robert King: “You have three weeks to start writing it and could you start right now?” And so it was they were in another room casting chickens for Big Bad Mama II and I was sitting on the floor with a little-
Caroline Waxler: Hilarious.
Robert King: … It must’ve been my family’s little laptop because this was a while ago. Writing, starting in because it was three weeks away, and it was like, “Okay, and here we go.” What was fun about that is there was a challenge to it and there was a sense of, “Okay, if we ask people to do the impossible, they’ll find a way to do it.”
Robert King: And so I did three movies for Roger Corman. If you want to call them movies.
Caroline Waxler: Technically that.
Robert King: And a kickboxing movie called Bloodfist. And a female Dirty Harry called Silk 2. So that was the start and-
Michelle King: And just to plug the WGA for a moment, Bloodfist is the best reason to love your Guild because it spawned, I think six sequels?
Robert King: Six sequels and they rewrite it every year. Bloodfist in Space. We know this from someone who works over at Corman.
Michelle King: And not a penny to the writer.
Caroline Waxler: No.
Michelle King: Right, because it wasn’t Guild covered.
Robert King: Yeah. This was before I was in the Guild, actually. So that was the start.
Caroline Waxler: Wow. So looking ahead to future projects, so you have Evil, is there any bucket list projects? Anything that you would really like to do?
Robert King: Well there is one more project we’re doing in September called Your Honor, which is-
Caroline Waxler: Tell us about Your Honor.
Robert King: … Bryan Cranston. Ed Berger is the director. Bryan Cranston is the star. It is based on an Israeli format. Peter Moffat will be the showrunner and writer. The writers’ room already completed it. It’ll be 10 episodes on Showtime probably early next year, but we start shooting that in September. So that will-
Michelle King: Is something else we’re involved in.
Robert King: … Yeah, that we’re producing. We have a production company run by Liz Glotzer called King Size. So those are the three projects going on now.
Robert King: That is a good question about bucket list. I kind of think we’re so swamped right now, we can’t even bucket list our life out. Which is good, but also you kind of want to know what the next thing is. I think it’s good with Evil that we’re kind of getting out of the Good Wife, Good Fight for even to kind of exercise other writerly muscles. So that’s good. And I think if you ask us in a year, maybe we’d find a bucket list, but I don’t think we have one now.
Caroline Waxler: Great. Before we wrap up, is there anything we didn’t touch on? Anything you want to convey?
Robert King: No. We’re in an interesting time in the business with the Writers Guild and their fight with the ATA. Just so you know, we staff two writers’ room without agents, basically. Which was kind of not as difficult as everyone thought it would be. It was interesting how much there has created this almost like internet-based connection between showrunners, but also writers asking for themselves. They’re sending material themselves.
Michelle King: And not only that, writers whom we worked with in the past recommending new writers to us.
Robert King: Yeah.
Michelle King: So there was a real community outreach amongst writers to make sure people got employed, including lower level writers. I think especially lower level writers. The more senior writers were very aware that they were potentially suffering, and taken care.
Robert King: Also, I know that the next concern about this is how will development go. I mean, everybody’s playing off the same seasonal sense of how network works. The next thing after room staffing is development. I’ve heard trade articles say, “How will writers go in and pitch?” And it’s like, “Well, come to us. We’re a production company.” We’ll go in with pitches if we like them. So I think that’s how it always works. It’s not like TV is going to stop making shows because there’s no agents.
Robert King: So anyway, I think we’ve survived it very well. We have two very good writers’ rooms and it was all done without the influence of agents, so for what that’s worth.
Caroline Waxler: That’s great. So did you look at the… There’s a couple hashtags. So WGAStaffingBoost.
Michelle King: Right.
Caroline Waxler: I know LaToya Morgan has done one.
Michelle King: Yes, we don’t spend a lot of time on Twitter, so we didn’t use that route, but there has been a WGA portal that we signed up for and then also writers whom we trust reaching out directly to us.
Caroline Waxler: And that didn’t happen prior, it was done-
Michelle King: Never.
Caroline Waxler: … primarily through agents. So even if they had someone, they wanted to recommend it just wasn’t-
Michelle King: Or, I’m sorry. It would-
Robert King: We would sometimes reach out to people.
Michelle King: … What would more often happen, if there were a recommendation from another writer, it would happen after we’d met someone. So we had a good meeting, and then they would’ve reached out to writer X and say, “I think you know the Kings, would you mind lobbying in a call to tell them that you like me?” So it was never the introduction, it would be one of the last pieces.
Caroline Waxler: So if a writer were interested in collaborating with you or being staffed on one of your shows in a future season, what would you recommend?
Michelle King: It’s so hard to say because it’s hard to say where we’re going to be. Whether there’s an agency back in business or not.
Caroline Waxler: Great. Well, thank you both so much for coming in.
Robert King: Thank you. Thanks for having us.
Michelle King: Thank you.
Caroline Waxler: This was terrific.
Caroline Waxler: That will do it for this episode. OnWriting is a production of the Writers Guild of America, East. Tech production and original music by Stockboard Creative. You can learn more about the Writers Guild of America, East online at WGAEast.org and follow the Guild on social media at @WGAEast. And if you liked this podcast, please subscribe and rate us. We appreciate your tuning in. Write on.