‘The Good Wife’ controversial decision: Josh Charles, creators defend violent ending

Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and Will Gardner (Josh Charles) on "The Good Wife. (John Paul Filo/CBS)
Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski) and Will Gardner (Josh Charles) on “The Good Wife. (John Paul Filo/CBS)

Open letters, YouTube videos, visits to the “Late Show With David Letterman”: “The Good Wife” stars and creators were in damage control mode the day after the most brutal episode in the show’s history on Sunday night, when Will (Josh Charles) was shot to death in a courtroom by his own client.

After it happened, the Internet exploded with emotions, as some viewers couldn’t figure out what the creators were thinking with such a violent ending to an integral character. Others swore to never watch the show again. But Charles, Julianna Margulies and creators Robert and Michelle King were on it, using every outlet possible to assure fans they knew what they were doing.

“What the hell happened? You got killed off!” Letterman said when Charles arrived as a guest on the show Monday night.

“It’s what you gotta do to get on the Letterman show,” Charles explained.

In reality, Charles said that his contract was up at the end of last year, and he was ready to move on. Instead, the creators talked him into doing 15 more episodes this year to give a “proper goodbye to the character.” (So apparently, we’re just lucky that Will Gardner wasn’t gunned down at the end of last season.)

Charles said he’s been touched by the response from viewers, who are treating it like a family member died — even though it’s just a TV show. “I really appreciate it…it’s meant a lot,” Charles said, addressing fans. “Everything’s going to be okay — I’ll call your mom later.”

In a post-mortem Facebook chat with viewers on Monday, star Julianna Margulies, who plays the main character and Will’s will-they-won’t-they-why-aren’t-they epic love interest on the show, called the move a “brilliant idea.”

“I love these writers they are amazing at keeping us all on our toes and I trust the direction will be the right direction,” Margulies wrote. “Alicia is in for a big change.”

The creators, Robert and Michelle King, wrote a long open letter where they explained that for personal and creative reasons, Will being shot to death was best for the show.

“We could ‘send him off to Seattle,’ he could be disbarred, or get married, or go off to Borneo to do good works. But there was something in the passion that Will and Alicia shared that made distance a meager hurdle. The brutal honesty and reality of death speaks to the truth and tragedy of bad timing for these two characters.”

This shocking twist will be a major turning point on the show: “Will’s death in many ways becomes a hub for the whole series, violently spinning everybody in new directions,” they added.

Meanwhile, the stars and creators also joined in for a CBS YouTube video, where they further tried to convince people it was a good idea. Charles reiterated he was “really excited” for his character’s ending. “I thought it had the element of surprise, the shock,” he said.

That’s for sure: Two days later, the Internet is still buzzing about it. And what about Charles’s future plans that made him so eager to leave? (Besides more “Good Wife” duties: He appears in next week’s episode for some devastating flashbacks, and is also still directing a couple more.)

“Oh,” he told Letterman, “I have no plan.”

Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter and pop culture blogger for the Style section. She joined the Post in May 2008, a week before she graduated from the University of Maryland, and worked on Lisa de Moraes' TV Column and blog.
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