The Good Fight is back, and punchy as ever in season five. After the departures of main cast members Delroy Lindo and Cush Jumbo, the Paramount+ series has added some intriguing new characters and guest stars. The sixth episode, “And The Firm Had Two Partners Had A Fight…” introduces Del Cooper, a comedian turned streaming service founder played by Wayne Brady. He’s also Liz Reddick’s (Audra McDonald) new boyfriend, the other half of a “power couple” in the making. Brady was a fan of the show and an even bigger fan of McDonald’s, so it didn’t take much to convince him to sign on—as he tells The A.V. Club, seeing “all these Tony winners and all this magic in one place? I was already hooked.”
It’s too much to hope that Brady, McDonald, and Mandy Patinkin, who plays a reality TV “judge” named Hal Wackner, are breaking into song between scenes (we know because we asked). But their chemistry is undeniable. The A.V. Club spoke to Brady about what Del brings to The Good Fight, the dangers of “disruptors,” and, because the Game Of Talents and Let’s Make A Deal host knows his way around a game show, which Jeopardy! guest host he’s rooting for as a permanent replacement.
The A.V. Club: How would you describe Del, and how does he fit into the world of The Good Fight?
Wayne Brady: He’s a former stand-up comedian and a comedy pro who made it big and then was able to step aside and start his own streaming service. I filled in bits of his personality in terms of the kind of guy that Liz would be attracted to. He’s definitely someone who I kind of drew from myself, which I feel that you are supposed to do as an actor. In the first few minutes you see him, where he’s in bed with her and she’s on the phone, and this minor crisis is happening, they’re talking to each other. He’s still trying to have fun with her. That’s such a big part of Del’s character: He’s a businessman, and comedy is serious business. But then he truly loves to have fun. That was the part that I wanted to focus on, the brightness that he could bring to Liz’s life. She’s this high-powered lawyer with the fate of the firm on her shoulders. She goes to work every day, dealing with this stress. She needs to have somebody who can balance her. And in one of the episodes, I say to her, “But that’s what a power couple does, baby.” And that’s how I see it, that I see what she does, and I know what I do so I’m going to be there to support her.
AVC: Del is a TV executive. You’ve been in this business long enough to have met with a few. Did you model Del off of anyone?
WB: I think it was more so the kind of exec I wish that I did have more contact with. I think execs do have a rough job. There’s a stereotype about TV execs, that sometimes they’re not creative, and they don’t know what they’re doing, or they’re a cold audience when you go in to pitch. But the reality is everybody is just trying to do a job. No one’s trying to be a villain. The thing that I think I took from the few execs that I know—I happen to know a couple who are really good people, awesome TV execs—is I wanted someone who wasn’t making decisions from fear, because he owned his own streamer. So even though he has a boss, probably somewhere way up the food chain, he’s still making decisions based on passion and what he thought would be a good business move. That’s the way that I think I played him in the back of my mind, someone who is making passionate, fearless decisions and who, ultimately, still wanted to have fun doing what he was doing.
AVC: The Good Fight is fearless about diving into cultural and political debates. Del and Hal Wackner’s storylines speak to a conversation we’ve been having in the real world about giving people a platform, and the dangers of writing someone off as merely a “disruptor.”
WB: That was definitely a part of the conversation. There’s an episode where Del talks to Liz about that, and she makes reference to The Apprentice. And he says, “Oh, so you’re afraid of Wackner becoming president?” And she says, “Well, I mean, all of my friends joked about Donald Trump when he was on The Apprentice. And then the joke became real.” I thought that was a really cool scene, because talk about bringing real life in; that was right on the nose. Someone in the cultural zeitgeist speaking their mind, saying whatever they want to say, and “Oh, I’m so sorry that shouldn’t have turned on.” Getting the reputation as a disruptor, right? But those disruptions actually becomes harmful to our country. And I loved that scene because I, as Wayne, agreed with Liz that people like Wackner—and who knows where that story arc will go even into next season—are thought of as “Ooh, he’s shaking stuff up, you don’t have to be a politician or you don’t have to really have a real court to make a decision, it’s cool.” Well, that can really mess things up.
AVC: What makes it even more complicated is you’ve got somebody like Mandy Patinkin, who’s so avuncular, playing Hal. What is it like to have him as a scene partner? And what’s it like to work with Audra McDonald so closely?
WB: Well, first off to be able to be on the same stage and on camera with Mandy Patinkin… I mean, if you are a musical theater fan or performer, Mandy Patinkin’s royalty. And if you grew up when I did and you are a big nerd, loving The Princess Bride is definitely in one of your top 10 childhood movies. So there I am on camera with Mandy Patinkin. I tried my best every day to just be cool. I’m telling people, “Hey, I’m a fan and I enjoy you,” but I didn’t want to be unprofessional and lose my sense of decorum. So I really had to get it together and make sure that my game was on point when I was in my scenes with him. He’s a consummate professional and just one of those guys that you look up to.
And Audra, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Audra once in the past, when we did Porgy and Bess at the Hollywood Bowl concert with her and Brian Stokes Mitchell. And I was in love with her then, and I am in love with everything she brings to the screen and stage now. Class and her natural talent, like just her natural ability as an actor. But she has this thing that some people do that is just a sense of, I think I would say of always classing up the joint.
AVC: You have your own history hosting game shows like Let’s Make A Deal and Game Of Talents. Have you been keeping up with the Jeopardy! guest hosts? Is there someone who you think has what it takes for the job?
WB: I think most of the people that they reached out to have what it takes in terms of they’re all viable personalities who can do it. I think people are looking at it as, oh, they have to fill Alex Trebek’s shoes. And the fact is Alex Trebek was Alex Trebek. He was his own entity and he was his own entity after... god, I don’t even know how long he was on. Over 30 years I’m assuming, because I remember watching him when I was a teenager. So I know that Alex Trebek has been there. He only became Alex Trebek and that force of TV nature after doing it for so long. So to expect someone to immediately become that thing is unrealistic.
I think everyone that they chose has their own thing. Personally, I am rooting for LeVar Burton just because growing up loving LeVar and being inspired by him and being a kid watching Reading Rainbow, I know that America knows and trusts that voice. So I think that that’s what the Jeopardy! hosts needs at the end of the day, is their own the persona. But they also need to be trusted because we have to believe that that person asking us the questions could know the answers themselves. And that was part of Alex’s magic, is you believe that he knew the answers himself.