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The Ruling on Rose Leslie

The actress who wooed Jon Snow on Game of Thrones suits up for The Good Fight

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In the opening scene of The Good Fight, the world of its acclaimed predecessor The Good Wife is transformed into a post-Trump world. The familiar face of Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), network television’s favorite liberal boss lady, fills the frame, and pans out to her flipping off her television before the 45th president is sworn in. She’s got better things to do than watch the inauguration. She must draw up her plans for the next chapter: namely, retirement in the South of France.

While Lockhart may be plotting her escape from America, Rose Leslie—who plays one of The Good Fight’s headlining new characters, Maia Rindell—just got here, and she has been thoroughly enjoying herself. The 30-year-old Scottish actress arrived in Brooklyn before the election to begin filming her first series on this side of the pond, and now, ahead of The Good Fight’s premiere, we’re meeting at a trendy little breakfast spot in Williamsburg. When I spot Leslie being escorted to my table, she’s chatting with the server like they’re old friends. “My mum and my sister are here, and I brought them here literally two days ago,” she explains. “Oh my god, I love it. It’s so good.”

As she eats an omelette and we compare Williamsburg to Camden Town, Leslie is all smiles. She seems ridiculously normal. Nothing about her public persona had led me to believe she wouldn’t be, but like the vast majority of fans, I’d first encountered Leslie in a completely alternate reality: north of the Wall on Game of Thrones. Seeing her as Maia Rindell on The Good Fight was almost more jolting than meeting her in person. As a newly-minted lawyer starting her first job, Maia’s fresh face and wardrobe of suits is quite a contrast with Ygritte’s fur hood and furrowed brow.

“Maia’s an intelligent girl,” Leslie says. “She’s not self-entitled despite being an only child of billionaires. And it was nice that she wasn’t covered in dirt or covered in fur.” She laughs.

Those billionaires she mentioned are good friends of Diane Lockhart, which is how Maia lands an associate position at Lockhart, Deckler, Gussman, Lee, Lyman, Gilbert, Lurie, Kagan, Tannenbaum and Associates (try saying that three times fast) one year after the series finale of The Good Wife, which ended in May. Like its predecessor, The Good Fight will feature episodic drama taking place in the courtroom as well as longer, scandalous plot lines inspired by real world events. Last time, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) was at the center of the storm as she dealt with her politician husband’s Eliot Spitzer-inspired indiscretions.

This time, it’s Maia who is unwillingly thrust into the spotlight when her father, Henry Rindell, is arrested for his alleged involvement in a Madoff-style Ponzi scheme. The kicker? Diane Lockhart is one of the victims, so her plan to fly off into the sunset now faces a nebulous hiatus. But by the end of episode one, it’s clear that Diane is one of few people not blaming Maia. They’re both on the outs at the old firm—Diane is getting heat from many of the clients she recommended to the Rindell’s investment fund—and they both manage to find positions at another firm, Reddick, Boseman, & Kolstad.

The new firm is a mostly African American one, which likely means the stage is set for the show to tackle more of the racial issues prevalent in the news—police brutality was already at the center of episode one’s case. And another issue The Good Fight will definitely be ripping from the headlines, Leslie divulges, is fake news. “We are just kind of like highlighting the fact that fake news is real, fake news is here, it is gaining momentum, and what world are we living in whereby truth is no longer relevant?” she says. “You realize that fake news is personally affecting [Maia] on social media, jeopardizing her career, and how phenomenally scary that is.” 

I ask Leslie if the show’s focus on issues was part of the attraction for her. “When I watched The Good Wife,” she says, “I remember realizing as an audience member that it was thought-provoking and intriguing, and that it stimulated conversations in a brilliant way.” She says the show was hugely popular among her friends in London. “In an effortless way, it holds up that mirror to society.”

As Maia navigates her way through a scandal that hits close to home, and the rest of us navigate our way through today’s barrage of ever more scandalous news, Leslie says she’s looking forward to detaching from her character, and really getting away from it all. When shooting wraps, she’ll head back to London, where her next role will be planning an epic vacation. “I’ve never been to Asia so I’d like to travel there. And really travel—stay in hostels and do the exploring thing through the eyes of a backpacker. I’ve never done that before, which is why it’s my full-on intention to do it properly.”

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