EXCLUSIVE: Cush Jumbo Finds Catharsis in 'The Good Fight'

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Cush Jumbo
wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye.

One year ago, the British actress faced an unexpected dilemma: The Good Wife -- in which she played Lucca Quinn, the smart-mouthed, witty lawyer who became Alicia Florrick’s closest confidante in the seventh and final season -- was ending,and Jumbo wasn’t prepared for it.

“I definitely had mixed feelings about it. At that stage, if that was what I’d gotten, that was fine with me because it had been an amazing experience,” Jumbo, 31, told ET of the bittersweet final weeks on The Good Wife, as she packed up her life in New York City for an extended trip back to London on an early morning in March. “It was all a bit of a surprise when it extended into something else.”

That “something else” became The Good Fight, the critically-hailed spinoff that shifted its focus to Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), her goddaughter, Maia Rindell (Rose Leslie), and Lucca, one year after the events of The Good Wife finale and in the midst of the wreckage of a national Madoff-esque financial scam.

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So surprised was Jumbo by news of the spinoff that she had already committed to another role in the U.K. “I was meant to go back to London for another job, so I kind of quit that job to do The Good Fight because it seemed too exciting of an idea,” Jumbo confessed, prefacing that she had one wish for creators Robert and Michelle King: “I don’t want to do something that doesn’t do the legacy justice and something that doesn’t reflect well on what you’ve already achieved.”

While Jumbo was one of a handful of new additions inserted into the final run of The Good Wife (she was initially supposed to appear in just three episodes), she graduated to become one of three focal points on The Good Fight -- a task enticing enough for any actor. “I always want to challenge myself and forge forward and be given more meat to make dinner with,” Jumbo said, noting that her arc on the original series came without a preordained plan. “Any actor is going to jump at the opportunity to have larger storylines and explore that character more. The more screen time you get, the more time you get to explore who they are.”

CBS All Access

That’s exactly what Jumbo’s gotten to showcase on The Good Fight. With the bulk of the 10-episode season already streaming on CBS All Access, a different side to Lucca -- outside the courtroom and the law office -- has slowly been uncovered. Frankly speaking, there’s much more to the impeccably put-together attorney than her penchant for quippy zingers and GIF-able side-eye.

“Lucca’s so competent and put-together and leading the pack at work, but when it comes to building any kind of friendship or relationship, she’s kind of odd and we’re working out why that is. She’s spent most of Good Wife building a friendship with Alicia and now that Alicia’s gone, she’s back to square one,” Jumbo said, noting that Lucca’s vulnerability, for one, is an added layer she’s been keen on digging into deeper.

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“There’s something about Lucca that doesn’t deal well with vulnerability. If she thinks she’s getting vulnerable, then she definitely thinks she’s getting screwed over, which a lot of people experience,” she explained. “She’s so ballsy and assertive, especially at work, in her decision-making and speaking out, and sometimes we’re trained to believe that assertiveness is aggressive and that people aren’t going to like you for that, rather than thinking it’s OK to say what you think or say no to something and not be seen as some kind of diva monster.”

Ever since the series finale of The Good Wife, Lucca’s relationship with Diane has been rocky (at best), though there has been a growing indication that the Reddick Boseman colleagues’ icy rapport may be defrosting -- slowly, but surely.

“We’re working toward that thawing,” Jumbo hinted, adding that she hopes Lucca and Diane “find a peaceful place with each other” at the end of the day.

“We recently shot a scene in court where Justin Bartha[’s character, Assistant District Attorney Colin Morrello,] was on the stand and was being questioned about his relationship with Lucca. She was humiliated in court by having her dirty laundry aired in quite an aggressive way and you could feel that this was a mirroring of what happened to Diane. I don’t think she really understood what she did to Diane until she had this moment where she had this feeling of empathy in court.”

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In the latest episode, Lucca came face to face with Colin’s parents at his extravagant 32nd birthday party, where she learned from a Morrello family friend that she was merely a “stepping stone” as Colin worked his way up to a Senate seat. Colin, for his part, insisted that that wasn’t true. As Jumbo told it, there’s a reason Lucca’s steered clear of men like Colin, with whom she called things off soon after.

“Colin is the guy she’s avoided like the plague because they are over-competent, smarmy, obnoxious and they think they’re in control of everything,” she observed. “Through a couple of the cases that they were doing together, she saw something else in him and she’s ambushed by a feeling for him. But that puts her in a vulnerable position, so she’s playing games with him. He’s a hard one to work out and her usual tricks of sabotaging herself aren’t working.”

What is working is the ripped-from-the-headlines approach that has fueled many of the Good Fight storylines in a post-Obama era. Episodes have centered on a Milo Yiannopoulos type, NBC’s Donald Trump-Law & Order: SVU controversy and the professional ramifications of a lawyer’s support of Trump. “It’s very rare to have the opportunity to do a show that combines entertainment with being able to debate issues that are important to people,” Jumbo said. “It’s quite a talent of the Kings to be able to show the world as not a black and white place."

"Quite a lot of the time, I’ve felt like I do real life at work and that the world is fiction," she added, laughing at the thought. "It’s cathartic to be a part of that.”

It’s no surprise then that The Good Fight will continue on with a second season, though Jumbo isn’t eager to find out what the Kings have in store for Lucca just yet. “It all happened really quickly as we were wrapping up,” she said, revealing that she and the creators will discuss what's next this summer. “We’ll see where it goes.”

The Good Fight
premieres new episodes every Sunday on CBS All Access.