by Chris Harnick | Fri., May. 9, 2014 10:00 AM
The Good Wife accomplished the impossible this year when it kept the death of one of its main characters a secret from almost everybody.
Josh Charles, a series regular from the start, left the show after episode 16 of season five. His dramatic exit was kept a secret from almost everybody—fans, the media, industry players—an impressive feat considering the state of today's social media, the amount of people involved with making the show and the very nature of Internet spoilers.
The question remains: How did they do it? How did The Good Wife clam up tighter than the U.S. government?
"First of all, we are blessed with the nature of everyone that works on the show. It's not just us keeping the secret; it's us plus 500 people keeping the secret. It was the entire crew, obviously the cast, writers and editors and everyone in post [production]. Plus, all the extras coming through," Good Wife co-creator Michelle King told E! News. "We asked them specifically. Letters were written, we did what we could and then we were relying on them caring enough about the show to not tell their loved ones."
Co-creator Robert King said having Charles contracted for a portion of season five and not having his exit at the end of the year, helped with the secret keeping.
"That, and I think Josh's agent and manager, and Josh himself, were incredibly cooperative because usually where you get wind of these things it's when someone is made available for other projects. Their name goes on a list. What was great here is Josh—who really is a friend of the show, we have a great relationship—kind of wanted to play into the secret," he said. "I actually think all those things combined. I don't think it will happen again. I don't think you can keep secrets like this with the Internet."
Following his character's exit, Charles returned to The Good Wife to direct an episode and will likely return to direct during season six. The Kings have spoken about a seven-year plan for their acclaimed series and that's still on track. "As awful as it was for the audience to lose Josh Charles, what was cool, is it played right into this move for more independence for Alicia's character," Robert said. "We didn't' expect it to fit in this way, but it fit in very well when you're coming down the backside of the hump, let's say, of the seven-year plan."
Their original Good Wife plan didn't change much because of Charles' decision to leave. "We thought we'd only go to a broken-up firm, but in fact what it allowed us to do is make bolder choices. I don't think we would've made it as great an upheaval as we did because we knew we had the security blanket, that we had Will's death...that gave us the security to go big or not at all," Robert said. "I would say there's not that much else changed in the plan...All you try and do is make it seem a little bit like life. There's not a straight line between where you start and where you end up."
The Kings were quick to point out they didn't keep the secret alone. Robert said CBS publicists played a key role in helping keep Charles' exit hidden. "Lauri Metrose and Kim Kahl at CBS, they kind of made it their mission to keep it secret. In fact, they did a lot of things that we had no knowledge of that I think kind of kept it secret too. And David Stapf at CBS Studios was very intent and we had several meetings on how to keep this secret," Robert said.
Series star Julianna Margulies, who was instrumental in getting Charles to stick around for 15 episodes of the fifth season, said she's very proud the show kept the secret.
"This huge storyline was in the workings for 15 episodes and no one knew about it," Margulies told E! News. "There was a great article in the Wall Street Journal saying if only Congress could keep a secret as well as The Good Wife. I'm incredibly proud of my crew and my cast for honoring that secret and not spilling the beans. That was a feat. In today's social media, it's quite remarkable."
"It was certainly a goal that nobody knew whether we could achieve it," Michelle said.
And achieve it they did. But there's one thing that will remain a secret: Why did Will (Charles) call Alicia (Margulies) shortly before he was shot and killed? The Kings don't plan to spill the beans on that anytime soon.
"Much of it is about Alicia having to tell herself the story that makes her feel good," Robert said. "We kind of wanted it to be never answered because it's really what Alicia decides for herself." However, Robert said they know why Will called "only because we needed to and we needed to help Josh come to a place. Maybe Josh will tell someone some day."
"It's buried with Will," Michelle said.
The Good Wife airs Sundays, 9 p.m. on CBS.
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