Audra McDonald shares the 1 scene that made her join 'The Good Fight'

Audra McDonald shares the 1 scene that made her join 'The Good Fight'

Audra McDonald was a year into welcoming her second child when she was tapped to join "The Good Fight."

McDonald told TODAY in an interview that she wasn't expecting to be a part of the hit spinoff of "The Good Wife" — after all, she only appeared in one episode of the original show.

"I'm just so grateful that it came back into my life at a pretty interesting point," she said. "I just had a baby. I played Liz Lawrence for one episode on 'The Good Wife' and my daughter wasn't quite a year old. And I got the phone call saying they'd really like to bring you onto the show to have your character come back in this sort of new universe of 'The Good Fight.' And it took me about two seconds to say yes."

Image: Audra McDonald and
Christine Baranski on Season 5 of 'The Good Fight'. (Alamy Stock Photo)
Image: Audra McDonald and Christine Baranski on Season 5 of 'The Good Fight'. (Alamy Stock Photo)

McDonald plays a named partner (Liz Reddick) at a historically Black firm in Chicago. The show's sixth and final season premieres Sept. 8. McDonald said this chapter of her life closing has prompted her to reflect on why she signed up for the show and everything she's accomplished since joining.

She said she agreed to the show after watching one scene in particular.

"I’d already watched some of that first season of 'The Good Fight' and found it to be very powerful and unexpected. And I think they had me at Delroy Lindo's character saying to Christine Baranski's character, Adrian saying to Diane, you'll be our diversity hire. I mean, they had me at that. When you hear that flipped on its side instead of being the the other way around — the Black person saying that to the white person. I was like, 'I’m in.' I don’t know what this is gonna be," she said, laughing.

McDonald said the show's creators, Robert and Michelle King, have given her a lot of latitude to build her character how she wanted.

"I’ve been reflecting on just joining the company in the second year of the show. Being able to be collaborative in who my character was, and how it developed, is something I’m quite grateful for. Robert and Michelle King were very, very collaborative with that, and always listened to my suggestions or thoughts, even to my objections from time to time as well. And so I’ve been very, very grateful for that. And, of course, just so grateful to have been with this cast."

McDonald said the show ending has brought her back to how she joined the show as a new parent. Her youngest daughter, Sally James McDonald-Swenson, was not quite 1 at the time and her oldest daughter, Zoe Madeline Donovan, was 17 and heading off to college soon. She said parenting children with a large age gap was a learning curve on top of starting a new job.

"All that happened while I was doing the show," she said. "The wonderful thing though — I hope that my older daughter would say the same — but I feel very, very close and very, very open with my children. I don't ever pretend like I have all the answers with them. I'm very open about the fact that mom's figuring this out, too. But mom loves you more than anything in the world and we'll figure this out together. And I always try to do what's in your best interests."

McDonald said the biggest help has been her oldest daughter Zoe, who is a rising senior at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

"The wonderful thing about having my older daughter, who's 21 now, is that she has helped me in very specific and different ways than you would think with her younger sister. Certain styles that I parented my older daughter, she's been able to say, 'You know, mom, I loved when you did this with me when I was a kid,' or say, 'Mom, maybe you shouldn't do that. You did that with me and it wasn't great.' So in that sense, it's been kind of fantastic to have. I'm getting a do-over and I'm getting real time advising."

Image: Audra McDonald and her daughter Zoe Madeline Donovan speak during PFLAG National's 2012 Straight For Equality Awards Gala on April 2, 2012 in New York City. (D Dipasupil / WireImage)
Image: Audra McDonald and her daughter Zoe Madeline Donovan speak during PFLAG National's 2012 Straight For Equality Awards Gala on April 2, 2012 in New York City. (D Dipasupil / WireImage)

McDonald's character does a lot of advising to other lawyers at the firm, especially Christine Baranski's character, Diane Lockhart. McDonald said she's admired Baranski's career from afar and doing hard conflict scenes with a trusted friend makes it easier for them both.

"I've known Christine Baranski for many, many years, but we've never worked together, and I just have known and adored her and wanted to desperately to work with her," she said. "Because there's such a level of trust and love between me and Christine, some of those things have been hard to do, but at the end, when we've done them, we then kind of fall into each arms and say that was a hard one. Or, I love you, pal, thank you. So in that way, it's the best possible scenario. Where when you work with someone you hated, who you can't stand, the last thing you want to do is be vulnerable, and to be able to trust them in that scene so I've been just so lucky."

Some of those vulnerable scenes include when Lawrence asks Lockhart to step down as named partner so a Black person can assume the role and disclosing intimate details about their marriages or divorces.

McDonald said the show will lean into that vulnerability through its usual method of incorporating real-life legal matters. There have been landmark Supreme Court reversals in recent months, such as ruling police officers do not have to read people their rights before arresting them, ruling public school staff are allowed to pray with students and engage in other religious practices, overturning abortion access case Roe v. Wade and ruling states do have some authority on Native American tribal land.

"Everything that happens in the world makes its way into our show. We don't, and the Kings don't, skip a beat. So there will be all the reversals that have happened, especially Roe, all of that will be addressed in our show in very brave and bold and raw ways" one last time, she said.

The show ending opens up McDonald's schedule to do a Broadway play, "Ohio State Murders," this fall. McDonald is no stranger to Broadway: She has six Tony awards from previous productions ("A Raisin In The Sun," "Carousel," "Ragtime," "Master Class," "Porgy and Bess" and "Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill"), more performance wins than any other person, and is the only person to win all four Tony acting categories.

At this stage in her career, McDonald said she only does projects that inspire her, and "Ohio State Murders" does.

"My goal is to continue to do work that inspires me, that challenges me. I'm getting ready to do a Broadway play this fall. That is very, very challenging. And it’s written by Adrienne Kennedy, one of our foremost Black female playwrights who's has never had a show on Broadway, so it's her Broadway debut at 91. It’s called 'Ohio State Murders.' It’s a thriller, a heavy piece about racism in America during the 40s, and 50s and as well as the present day, of course. That’s something that excites me, something that’s challenging to me."

McDonald's return to Broadway and Baranski's previous Broadway reign might just be enough for a duet on "The Good Fight." Well, at least McDonald didn't rule out the completely farfetched idea.

"Never say never is all I will say," she teased. "One never knows."

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