Nearly 100 episodes of The Good Wife have passed since debonair drug lord Lemond Bishop strutted into the offices of Lockhart Gardner, dropped a trash bag filled with $200,000 cash on the desk, and asked them to be his representation. Diane (Christine Baranski) and Will (Josh Charles) were warned at the time about taking a notorious criminal as a client. You lie with the dogs, Assistant U.S. Attorney Harrison Rivers (Sharif Atkins) told Will, “You wake up with fleas.”
Well, here come the fleas.
Much has changed in the years since Lockhart Gardner first agreed to be counsel for Lemond Bishop, who has been played with such kind-hearted terror by actor Mike Colter for six seasons now. (Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD.) For one, Bishop is now represented by Julianna Margulies’ Alicia Florrick and Matt Czuchry’s Cary Agos at their new firm, which splintered from Lockhart Gardner last season. So he’s their dog now, and they have his fleas.
Last week’s explosive Season 6 premiere of The Good Wife revealed what happens when you represent a noted criminal, with Cary thrown in jail on suspicion that, as Bishop’s lawyer, he was helping the criminal and his henchman break the law without getting caught. Bishop, ever loyal as he is intimidating, has seemed keen to help him out—offering to put up bail, and then rescinding his offer when it threatened to get him in trouble legally. And let’s not forget that all of this was after sending Cary a brutal warning in jail not to become a snitch, having one of his lackeys stab him to be sure.
With things coming to even more of a head in this Sunday’s episode, “Trust Issues,” we called up Bishop’s portrayer, Mike Colter, to defend all of his character’s recent questionable deeds, which included having a witness in Cary’s case killed because he (wrongfully) assumed that he was two-timing him as an informant.
“In a perfect world, we snap our fingers and our problems go away,” Colter says. “I think Bishop seems to be able to do that more often than not.”
So what does Colter think of Bishop’s most recent finger-snapping? We grilled the actor on the hits Bishop ordered in “Trust Issues,” his complicated relationship with Cary, and how he pulls off portraying Bishop as a doting soccer dad with just as much conviction as he does a ruthless killer.
First things first: I can’t believe that Lemond withdrew the bail money from Cary!
It came with strings attached! Lemond got spooked when he sat in on the bail hearing and realized he might get caught in the crosshairs of the legal system, with the judge wanting to know where the money came from. Lemond was trying to do Cary a solid. He was looking out for his own interests, but it was a nice initial gesture—not many people will give you $1.3 million, although there was some personal interest in it himself. But, really, he could have just killed Cary. Instead of giving him that warning, he could have just had him killed!
So why didn’t he have Cary killed?
Well he’s been associated with this law firm for a few years now and I think there’s a part of him that likes the situation there. And he’s not the kind of guy, contrary to what people believe, who does things willy-nilly. He realizes that Cary is an asset. Alicia’s an asset. The firm has been good to him. He wants to make sure it’s a necessary action first, before he gets rid of Cary. And I don’t think he really wants to, either. He just wants to make sure that Cary understands the ramifications of what would happen if he were to talk or make Lemond feel uncomfortable.
When Sunday’s episode ended, Lemond had just found out from Kalinda that he had the wrong henchman killed. Does he feel guilty about that?
We just talked about loyalty with Cary. I think Lemond keeps his—I don’t want to say henchman—but his street-level drug dealers at an arm’s distance. These are not the kind of guys that he has over for BBQs or keeps around all the time. Lemond is a family guy. He keeps appearances. If you remember a few seasons ago when you visited his home he was in a nice part of town: a fancy neighborhood, very posh, but also understated. He has the money, but he doesn’t flash it. The people around him aren’t used to that lifestyle, so he keeps them at arm’s distance. He’s still very good, though, at making people feel like they’re needed. But he’s not attached to any of them. At the end of the day, it’s the cost of doing business. So I don’t think he’s feeling guilty about the guy dying, because he’s most just concerned with getting the right guy. If he has to, he’ll kill them all. It’s too bad he got the wrong one, let’s put it that way.
Whenever you’ve seen Bishop this season, he’s been around his son. He was on the soccer field watching him play in Sunday’s episode. Is showing him as such a family man a way of keeping us from remembering that he’s a killer?
I think it’s true to reality. If you think about any person of power, even if it’s the President of the United States, governors, or anyone who orders anything to be done. When you’re running a large corporation like Lemond Bishop, or even running a country, orders are being made. Things are being done. Does it make you a bad guy because you say something and then someone ends up getting killed? If you have power and control over a large empire, you’re always going to be the guy that gives the orders. No one ever passes judgment when someone in a high position says to his army, “Go out there and get it done.” No one gets into the details of who gets killed or why or did they deserve it. It just has to be done.
In this instance, it’s a guy who’s dealing with drugs among his legitimate businesses. There are people who have died. But there’s also people like Dexter Roja. He’s messed up and got Lemond in trouble. Lemond had to go to jail and, for all we know, is what Dexter’s fault. He was careless and it got Lemond in trouble. But Dexter’s still with us. He didn’t kill Dexter. There are limits to these people in power and doing what they feel in necessary. He does have loyalty. There are people who could’ve been gone a long time, but they’re still here. It’s a duality. And his son is just the reality. He has a son and he has a family, and he’s trying to do what’s best for him. But it’s either him or them, and that’s how it looks at it. It’s a black-and-white situation.
Those scenes Sunday night were great, with the juxtaposition of Bishop having those intense conversations with Kalinda while the son was just playing soccer in the background.
Life goes on, and what you’re trying to do is preserve your quality of life. But at the same time you’re doing devastation to someone else’s life. That’s just life for any man in power: kings, presidents, drug lords, corporate heads. That’s kind of how it works, you know?
You keep describing Lemond as a person in power, and a businessman. But do you think of him at all as a criminal or a killer?
I feel like it depends on who you ask. When you talk about crime it’s always a question of who’s on the right side of the law and who’s on the wrong side of the law. When I look at Lemond, I look at him as a person who is one step ahead of the law. He is just not content with abiding by the rules. And I don’t think he has a lot of regrets about it. I look at him as a person who is very complex. He doesn’t see himself as a criminal, so he doesn’t think that what he’s doing is wrong. That’s something that psychologically some people can understand and some people can’t.
Does the fact that Cary is embroiled in all of this now spark any sort of crisis of conscience? Or is it business as usual?
He did give Cary a warning, so there is something inside of him that says, “I won’t do this unless it’s absolutely necessary.” That he does have a conscience about it. He has thought this through, and getting rid of Cary is not something he wants to do. If it comes down to him and Cary, will he do it? Yeah, sure. There’s always going to be the question of risk versus reward.
Are we going to learn more about the relationship between Bishop and Cary? There seems to be something special about it. I mean he did choose to warn him instead of have him killed.
If you think about the past, going back to Will Gardner, there are similarities between Cary and Will. They’re both very much about making sure their firm stays on top. What made Will and Lemond gel so well together is that Will was always thinking that as long as the business is doing well and everyone’s out of jail—as long as Lemond is bringing in the money—then everything else is just the cost of doing business. Sure, he’ll get some flak. There might be an ethics compromise, but that’s how he looks at it. And that’s how Cary looks at it, too.
When he got caught up with Bishop’s crew, in the back of his mind did he know that he was giving them information that could possibly be used advantageously? I think he did. But when you have a lawyer on retainer, their job is to do what’s in the best interest of the client. I don’t know one lawyer that wants their client to go to jail. Most lawyers don’t even want to know if the client is guilty. They don’t want to know the truth. Cary is one of those lawyers. He wants what’s best for his client, Bishop, and as long as he didn’t consciously do anything, then he feels OK with that. His conscience is free. You notice that when Alicia was on the stand, she said what Bishop instructed her to say, that he was there for business purposes when Dexter dropped the money off. That’s a fine line between truth and a lie. And I think Bishop is always trying to ride that fine line.
What is the dynamic between Alicia and Bishop? It’s so strange and fascinating.
I think it’s one of respect and admiration. I feel like Alicia doesn’t have a moral ground, necessarily. As the audience has gotten to know her, she’s done things that are questionable morally. But at the same time they were not without cause of justification. They were things that were done in her life and her marriage that were done because there was something that motivated her. She’s gotten to know Bishop over the years and, sure, things he’s done are very, very unseemly. But at the same time when you’re in the kind of business that she’s in, she sees things like that all the time. And when you’re a person who’s powerless to do something about things, when you see someone else who’s actually doing something, not sitting by and doing whatever it takes to get things done, there’s a certain amount of respect that goes there.
So they have more in common than we might think?
Bishop is defined as a morally corrupt person, but she sees Bishop at home with his son. She sees things going on. Bishop had his divorce and then his wife mysteriously overdosed, and I think most people think Bishop had something to do with that. My personal take is that he didn’t, and had she not done that we’d be in a lengthy divorce trial and custody battle. But she had a questionable, checkered past and went back and reverted to things like relying on drugs, which could’ve led to her overdose.
Did Bishop do it? I don’t know. But when you look at it, did Alicia want to get rid of Peter when he did all that stuff? Think of how embarrassing that was for her. Would she have liked to have Peter killed? I don’t know. Did it cross her mind? I don’t know. But these are things that people actually think about. In a perfect world, we snap our fingers and our problems go away. I think Bishop seems to be able to do that more often than not.
So what can we expect next time we see you on the show?
Well, we left off with Bishop on the soccer field, and Kalinda had her proverbial back against the wall. He said that he needs to know the names. And she needs something, too. She needs to make sure the informant is alive, but he needs him dead. So the audience is thinking that we’re going to pick back up there and find out exactly what’s going to happen. Well, we are going to pick back up, and the next time you see Bishop there will be a major action happening. But it’s going to be completely different from what the audience was expecting. It’s going to shift gears in a completely different way, and another character is going to be focused on. It won’t be Cary.