Friday, September 30, 2011

The King and the Queen of “The Good Wife”

The Good Wife, the much-honored CBS dramatic series, has just kicked off its third season with a provocative new poster of star Julianna Margulies. A few weeks ago, Margulies picked up an Emmy for her role as a politician’s wife who returns to her legal career after her husband is disgraced in a sex scandal. Among the nominees in the Outstanding Drama Series category were the show’s creators, Robert and Michelle King. I know them both from my days at Concorde-New Horizons. Funny how working for Roger Corman can prepare you for bigger and better things.

Robert King’s association with Roger Corman started back in 1988. Robert’s entry into the Corman world began with The Nest, a film produced by Roger’s wife Julie that featured no-name actors battling a slew of killer cockroaches. (I’m still saving one of those plastic cockroaches that served as our special effects.) Robert got involved with The Nest after another writer was fired. Production was due to start in six weeks, and Julie was in a frenzy. King, who had never before earned a screenwriting credit, showed up at the Concorde office, thinking he was going to pitch his concept. Instead he was hired on the spot, for the princely sum of $3000, and hustled into a room where he was asked to crank out a story outline. In that same room, someone was casting body doubles for Big Bad Mama II, and another staffer was on the phone trying to round up a flock of chickens. For King, this first day epitomized Concorde: “an insane place where no one paid attention to you . . . . Everybody did their own thing and it was a creative hotbed, but no one took it very seriously.”

On the strength of The Nest, Robert was hired by Roger Corman to crank out Silk 2 (a Manila quickie about a sexy lady cop) and Bloodfist (a well-crafted rip-off of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s KickBoxer that was later remade by Concorde at least four more times). It wasn’t long before Robert moved on to big studio projects. One was the ill-fated Cutthroat Island, a box-office flop of historic proportions. He was also a writer and fledgling producer on Vertical Limit, a popular thriller about mountain-climbing, before finding his biggest success in television. Though Robert has moved far beyond Corman-level budgets, he insisted to me that the Concorde experience was formative for him as a writer: “I procrastinate right up to a deadline, and then force the deadline to keep me creative. That’s a very big Corman technique, which is—we need it now! Go do it!” Robert is convinced that he does his best work with his back against the wall, relying on raw panic to free him of rules and expectations. Still, though Concorde taught him practical filmmaking, he explains he was never able to use his Concorde features as industry calling cards: “You don’t show the cockroach script; you don’t show the cockroach movie. You take what you learned, and go on from there.”

On The Good Wife, marriage doesn’t fare so well. But I’m happy to report that some marriages do work out. When I first met Michelle King, she was trying to land a lowly job as Julie Corman’s assistant. But somewhere along the line, she and Robert began to write together, and the rest is television history. How nice that a romantic partnership sparked a creative partnership that has paid big dividends.


  1. How nice that this partnership brought us The Good Wife, one of the more intelligent TV dramas I've seen!

  2. Thanks for writing, Minda. I should add that the Robert-and-Michelle partnership has produced, in addition to a hit TV series, a young daughter, Sophia. Bravo to the Kings! I'll tell them about your enthusiastic endorsement of their series.

  3. I haven't watched the series - but a lot of people whose opinion I respect say it is terrific - so I know it is - I'm sure I'll catch up with it one of these days. What a wild start to a career! Congratulations to Mr. King on turning out a mighty fine cockroach movie, as they go! It's also wonderful that the Kings have worked together so well - and well done on the production of Sophia! ;) Maybe she'll write something for Mr. Corman as he's prepping his centenary year slate of movies. (crossing fingers)