CBS’s hit show The Good Fight is without a doubt one of the best shows on television at the moment. The show perfectly combines real-life scenarios and the overbearing political opinions in any workplace in a way that really hits home. Season four is currently airing with Season 5 given the green light from CBS.
One of the most important pieces to the show is Michael Boatman, who portrays Julius Cain. Cain is an open Trump supporter in a workplace full of democrats who absolutely judge him for it. Julius ignores the slander and uses his political affiliations to elevate in the workspace. We sat down with Boatman to discuss the conflict of playing a Trump supporter on screen compared to his real-life politics and his overall experience with the show.
Bossip: The Good Fight has become a premier black television show and seems to perfectly resonate and connect with people, which tends to make clips go viral. How do you guys connect with audiences so well?
“What I love about that particular aspect of the show is that it’s well informed by a diverse writer’s room. I don’t know how we stack up to other drama shows at the moment. But we’ve got, ya know, a substantial number of writers of color, women writers, and LGBTQ–we really cover it all. Robert and Michelle King really wisely allow the writers and really particularly, writers of colors, to lead those conversations as it kinda plays out in the show over these last four seasons.”
B: How was it to play an undercover, but then open, black Trump supporter on screen? Is there anything else besides that you’ve had to act out onscreen that went against your political beliefs in real life?
“When they brought that (playing a black Trump supporter) to me at the beginning of the show, it was definitely a surprise. Because I (character, Julius King) had been on The Good Wife many times over the years and he had never talked about his politics. He was just sort of kind of a hatchet man for the firm. Ya know he kind of did the dirty work that needed to be done and was loyal to the firm and that’s what we knew about him. So when Robert & Michelle came to me at the beginning of season one and said, ‘Well we got some changes and we’re thinking he’s a Trump supporter’, for a minute I thought he had misspoken. I said, ‘WHAT? HE’S A WHAT?’ They said, ‘Yeah, he’s a conservative and the only Trump supporter in the office.’
Initially, I will be honest and tell you I was a little shocked and I was a little overwhelmed. Because I immediately began to think like Michael Boatman would, ya know? I had to struggle with my own feelings with the current administration, but I was able to put those aside and we, through a few conversations with the writers, just great conversations about what kind of a— when you say conservatives and what it leads to in discussions with the writers is the acknowledgment that the black community is not monolithic, that we all have certainly conservative elements in our families.
I’m from a military family and so I have people who may be conservative, even though they may vote Democrat. What it kind of opened up for me was a realization that there are different ways to be conservative. I began to try to reach into Julius’s character via conservatives I could relate to, people like Colin Powell, Michael Steele, who used to be president of the Democratic party. People who may have voted for Trump purely out of party loyalty, or may have had a specific reason, a philosophical, or religious reason. Julius was revealed, I think season in 2 as a devout Catholic with 5 kids so, ya know, with him I was able to find ways to get into the mindset that would be honorable to the character without being stereotypical. Cause at the same time I didn’t want to play something that was fake. I really wanted to understand and really portray his mindset honorably in a way that people could understand. For me, that had to come from a place of conflict. Well, ya know——I’m a black man, but I’m also a conservative, but I’m also a lawyer, and I live in Chicago, which is a city that has a horrific history of racial discrimination from police. And I grew up in Chicago really wanting to honor all of that.”
B: That’s what I love about the show, they stick the landing and your character was really well done. It doesn’t leave anyone out, politically speaking.
“And I think that’s what the writers wanted, they wanted a conversation. Robert and Michelle had said to me they sorta mirror the conversations that actually happen in workplaces all over the country. Why do you support this idea? What do you think about this particular party? People are having those conversations. They very wisely wanted to emulate the conversations people are having in real life in the show. So you know, initially, after being nervous and scared, I dove right in when we figured out we were gonna do it in a real way and not a stereotypical sort of — oh were gonna make this guy a caricature of conservative.”
B: Have the lines of your TV character and real-life been blurred by playing a conservative? Have you bumped into anyone on the streets who expresses they can relate to your character or that’s what they are going through in the workplace? Or give your character Kudos?
“Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s kind of amazing people come up to me much more about politics. I was on a show, Spin City, it was a show about politics, although it wasn’t particularly political. My character was a gay activist and obviously, you know, a liberal— and I almost liken it to that. It was the opposite reaction to what I used to get when I was on Spin City where people would come to me and think I was really gay or really an activist —- or you know what are your beliefs or you must think — and they would make assumptions about my politics — my personal politics based on that character. The same thing happened with Julius, guys come up to me on both sides. I had a woman come up to me probably a middle-aged white woman who came up to me on the street in NYC and say ‘I’m so disappointed in you,’ and I said, ‘WHAT, excuse me, ma’am?’— ‘How could you vote for Trump?’ and then I said, ‘Wait, easy that’s my character’ — ‘I just don’t think the character I watched on The Good Wife all those years would vote for Trump and I don’t think I can watch your show!’— and then she walked away from me. I was literally walking down the street and I was minding my own business. It’s very interesting…it triggers people, you know? I’ve had second amendment people come up to me and say, ‘You support, Don?!’ every take you can imagine. Religious folks, people who think my character must be this, so I must believe it. People just making assumptions but I try not to offend anybody so I just say ‘Thank you, glad you’re watching the show'”
B: Do the writers let you have any input on the creative process? Is there anything you’ve brought to the table that played out in the show that you’re proud of?
“Initially, when we start, they plan the season well in advance before we start shooting. So initially, we would have a conversation at the beginning of the season to say, ‘Hey this is what we think is going to happen for your character. What do you think about that?’ That’s when they welcome that conversation. Initially, with Julius, it was definitely the topic of conversation was what kind of conservative do you see this guy as? I think I named someone like ya know Diamond & Silk. you know those ladies? Candance Owens… I tried to think of other famous, black Trump supporters. Or the way I imagined him, which was in a Colin Powell sort of a moderate who voted strictly along party lines for his own personal reasons. Thank god we had that conversation because I don’t think I would of been able to, well I think the line we had to walk was honoring the character as he had been before when we saw him in The Good Wife. He couldn’t suddenly be this completely different, crazy guy, you know what I mean? I feel like there was a nice line that we walked, but they definitely welcomed, and on the set during shooting, if the line doesn’t sound necessarily right or organic, you can always call up the writer’s room and pitch them something.
B: Speaking of the writer’s room what’s your favorite episode and why? What’s the one episode when you immediately think of that show and years down the road you’ll say is your proudest moment on that show?
“Well, I must say where Julius takes the bench when we see him as a federal judge where he is beginning his new life as a federal judge. There is an episode in season 3 where he talks about how this is always what he wanted to do and for a while, it looked like he wasn’t going to be given the judgeship. Now, when we see him at the start of the season on the second episode he’s been there, he’s been on the bench for nine months. You see him kind of lovingly brushing off his robe and loving his space and the power of it, only to have it all kind of begin to show cracks in the facade very early on. That’s been my favorite episode because its been where I’ve gotten to show the most range as an actor. It does what I think The Good Fight does so well, which is parts of it are hilarious, then all of a sudden, you’re in a very scary, dark, shadowy place. I thought that Julius, in that episode — my character got to bear the full brunt of that tradition. I was really, really, really proud of it. I’ve had a lot of moments on the show I’m proud of, but that was one that really felt right.”
B: Where do you want your character to go from here?
“He’s going to plunge more and more into this world of memo 618 and were going to learn more and more about the kind of dangers to his career that the memo 618 represents. Of course, he will need the help of his good friend, Diane Lockheart, in the form of Christine Baranski, to come in and help and I, at this point, don’t know how he gets out of it or if he does. Obviously, I want him, the character, to continue to develop and grow. He’s also going to — and what I’m interested in is the conflict he feels as a conservative because these things are happening in the real world, what we see happening to Julius…without giving away too much. Some of the things later in the season are happening in the real world the justice system sort of being overturned and undermined by powerful people who just say, ‘No, I’m not going to answer the subpoena. No, I’m not going to show up in court today.’ What does that mean to a man who has based his whole adult life on following the law, and you know, enforcing the law? I think we see those conflicts from the deep end and those nuances. I hope to see more of that in the next season.”
“The Good Fight” is in the middle of season four as we speak and tomorrow night’s episode The Gang Offends Everyone airs on CBS All Access.
The episode sees Reddick, Boseman & Lockhart represent an Olympic hopeful who was edged out of a spot on the U.S. women’s swim team due to a last-minute change to the eligibility window. From racism to sex and gender constructs, the case quickly takes the firm into rough waters. Meanwhile, Adrian is approached by the DNC with a compelling offer, and Diane and Julius unite to track down Memo 618.
You can watch an exclusive clip from tomorrow’s episode below.