Actress Audra McDonald is a powerhouse. On the Broadway stage, she has won six Tonys—more performance wins than any other actor and the only one to do so in all four acting categories. She’s also brought that brilliance to the small screen.
Over the last few years, she’s been most identifiable as Liz Lawrence, the talented lawyer who has shined even under weight of her father who built the formidable firm she guides in Paramount+ series The Good Fight, the acclaimed spinoff from the CBS hit series The Good Wife. In this sixth and final season, Liz is still facing new challenges, giving McDonald even more opportunities to use her instrument.
Speaking with EBONY, McDonald spoke about the role she plays on The Good Fight, as well as touched on her character Dorothy Scott, one of television’s rare representations of prosperous Black women in the late 1800s, in the HBO hit The Gilded Age, and her portrayal of the great Ella Baker in the upcoming Netflix film Rustin, about the pioneering LGBTQ+ civil rights activist Bayard Rustin, who was critical in organizing the historic 1963 March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom.
EBONY: How do you describe this final season of The Good Fight, and what’s in store for viewers?
Audra McDonald: Very bombastic. I think that's the best way to put it. There's a lot of violence that's swirling around the firm that seems to be swirling closer and closer and closer to the firm in different ways, both metaphorically and literally. So we deal with that. And because it's the final season, you see all our Good Fight [cast] sort of, for lack of a better term, ride off to their own sunsets. It's [The Good Fight and The Good Wife creators] Robert and Michelle [King] writing about what's happening, what they're feeling in the zeitgeist of what’s going on in the country right now.
What does your character Liz go through this final season, and what’s it like as an actress to spar with Andre Braugher who plays attorney Ri’Chard Lane on the show?
She has one, what feels like a millisecond of being settled, calm in control, finally, the true leader of the firm, and then he immediately gets blindsided by Andre Braugher coming in and sort of challenging that for Liz. As far as an actress, it was a joy to have Andre Braugher to be a part of our cast this season and to work with him and to spar with him and everything that Liz and Ri’Chard go through throughout the show. As far as Liz is concerned, their relationship is, to say the least, very contentious but it helps them to come to some pretty amazing conclusions in the end. I so much enjoyed that and just having Liz deal in that world of being blindsided within a place that is supposed to be her safe space and that’s work. So that is something she deals with. But, at the same time, we see a lot of Liz at home this season. We see a lot of Liz and her son. Liz is now a single mom raising her son and I really wanted us to focus on what it’s like for working women, for Black women, to raise children and still hold the world the way they do. And so, I really was thrilled that Robert and Michelle agreed to let the audience see Liz in both spaces.
You're playing Liz on The Good Fight, and then you're Dorothy Scott on The Gilded Age. What’s that shift like, especially since Liz is such a modern woman and Dorothy is a pre-1900s one?
The Gilded Age really takes place about 20 some odd years post Emancipation [in the 1880s]. So, yeah, it's quite a switch—from everything, from how the characters move and from how they speak. I think my character Dorothy Scott is still just as fierce as Liz, but they have to do it in different ways. Liz has all the creature comforts of a modern era and being able to vote and being able to move about the country in a relatively liberated and safe way. Whereas Dorothy Scott is still absolutely bound not only literally by the corset, but by the social mores of then and what freedoms women and, especially Black women, had at that time and still affect change in every way that they possibly can. So Dorothy is just as fierce as Liz, but she's shackled by the time and her gender and her race in a way that Liz is less so. That's a challenge, especially having done it at the same time in one season.
And, finally, can you tell us something about playing Ella Baker in the upcoming film Rustin?
So excited to be a part of that and Coleman Domingo is going to just blow everybody away as Bayard Rustin. Getting the opportunity to play basically the Godmother of the Civil Rights Movement, I think. Ella Baker's praises aren't necessarily sung all that often because she was so in the background, but she was absolutely instrumental in moving the Movement forward and encouraging the younger generations of the Movement and supporting them. She was literally the one driving through the night to carry messages here or to start up organizations there in different parts of the South. So it's great that we're going to get to see a little bit of how she had such a strong hand.
You can catch the The Good Fight on Thursdays on Paramount+.