Mere weeks after The Good Wife‘s buzzed-about finale, showrunners Michelle and Robert King are already returning to the CBS lineup. With the premiere of BrainDead on June 13, the wife and husband sat down with EW Monday to preview their new series.
Part political satire, part sci-fi thriller, BrainDead tells the story of Laurel Healy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a 29-year-old documentarian whose political dynasty of a family lures her back to Washington, D.C. to work for her brother, ambitious Democratic Sen. Luke Healy (Danny Pino). She’s not dealing with Olivia Pope-level problems, though — soon, Laurel discovers bugs are eating the brains of the nation’s leaders, wrecking havoc on the already-complicated political process.
“I didn’t feel like I needed to be liberated from The Good Wife — it wasn’t like being chained — but it’s fun to go wilder, which is what the show is,” Michelle says of the plot.
Indeed, The Good Wife fans might find their void for the Kings’ blend of comedy and drama filled by BrainDead — but make no mistake, the ridiculous antics are on steroids in the duo’s new offering.
“I read this interview I think J.J. Abrams gave after Felicity,” says Robert. “He said he just wished sometimes that Felicity could have been a secret agent and go undercover. And so that’s why he created Alias. I think we feel sometimes like, it would have been great at some point if Alicia Florrick had brain-eating bugs chasing her. That’s, I think, where this is coming from.”
And while The Good Wife episodes often explored political trends through the lens of Alicia’s life as the first lady of Illinois and an attorney in Chicago, BrainDead takes the political commentary a step further to dissect the tension between Democrats and Republicans.
“It’s really a statement that you need moderation, for people to be talking to each other,” says Michelle, “when everyone becomes too extreme that they can’t discuss, they can’t compromise, and nothing can get done. The extremism really is a dangerous thing.”
Adds Robert: “It’s a commentary about the Tea Party and about the Bernie [Sanders] bros on the other side,” explains Robert. “When people lose their sense of humor, when people lose their ability to talk to each other, nothing gets done.”
So what do the creepy bugs symbolize? “When we were thinking about how extreme government was becoming, the genre that kept coming to mind was Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” Robert says of the 1956 sci-fi horror classic. “There seemed to be some sense of people no longer thinking for themselves. They were kind of attaching themselves to a bigger ideology.”
Uniting all the themes is Winstead (Final Destination 3, 10 Cloverfield Lane), the 31-year-old actress whom the Kings praise for her presence on and off camera. “She’s a truly nice, genuine, grounded person on top of the fact that she can sell jokes,” says Michelle. “She can make unrealistic plot twists seem real.”
If that sounds familiar to King fans, there’s a good reason why. “What we got with Julianna Margulies on The Good Wife was not just someone who could do the comedy and do the drama, but was a leader on the set and kind of raised everybody else’s game,” says Robert. “And day players — she would raise their game by being so on the ball. We’ve lucked out with Mary Elizabeth Winstead. She does exactly the same thing. People come to the set, and if they don’t remember their lines, they go into the trailer at lunch and they quickly get off book. Because Mary is doing this five days a week, and then she comes in and hits it out the park.”
BrainDead also stars Aaron Tveit (Grease Live!), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), and Zach Grenier (The Good Wife). The series debuts Monday, June 13 at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.