A little more than seven years ago, Sarah Steele first played Marissa Gold in a Season Two episode of The Good Wife. The charmingly outspoken and refreshingly blunt Marissa quickly became a fan favorite. When the spinoff series The Good Fight launched on CBS All Access, Steele was one of the first cast members announced.
As delightful as she is, Marissa has never taken center stage. That all changes in this Sunday’s episode of The Good Fight which finds Marissa at the heart of an attack on the firm. Now in its second season (the first season was just released on DVD), The Good Fight is unabashedly taking on the current political climate (the episode titles match the number of days into the Trump administration) in a buoyant, take-no-prisoners way.
Paste recently had the chance to talk to Steele, who is currently shooting the second season’s 10th episode (of 13), about Marissa’s arc this season, why fans adore her character so much, and her hopes for her character.
Paste: This Sunday’s episode, “Day 422” is a big one for Marissa. She’s really on an upward trajectory. What’s happening for her this season?
Sarah Steele: She’s starting to really kill it at her job and people are starting to notice. She meets a fella and gets involved with him and that’s super fun. One of the really enjoyable things is she gets closer with Maia (Rose Leslie). She’s establishing a presence at the firm as something other than an assistant and starts to become someone valuable to Adrian Bozeman and putting down roots in a way we haven’t seen her do before. She was always sort of flying off and making purses in Israel and doing this and doing that. I think she means it in that first episode this season when she says, “This is the longest I’ve worked in any one job” and she really wants to stay.
Paste: This is the first time we’ve seen Marissa having any kind of romance. Was that something you were hoping for?
Steele:It’s totally something I was hoping to see. We all love doing the office stuff, but I think we are all always hoping for a little bit of the personal side of things, because you get more depth that way. It’s been great and I’ve been really excited about it. I think people wonder. I think even I wonder about what the personal life of someone this singular is like, so it’s been very fun to get to explore that.
Paste: How is Marissa when she has romance in her life?
Steele: She’s got that vivacious love of life and kind of down for anything attitude, which I think has gotten her involved with someone [played by David Call] who is a bit of a loose cannon and I think she is game for that and I think she’s excited by that. In the same way she gets bored easily, that extends to her romantic life also.
Paste: What did you think when you got the script for “Day 422” and saw what a big part you would have in it?
Steele: Last season, I was doing a play [Stephen Karam’s The Humans] at the same time that we were shooting, so there was something of a limit to how much they could use me. I was a little bit like, ‘Oh gosh, I really hope I get to do a little bit more this season now that it’s my full-time job.’ So I was just really, really excited when I read that episode and I just loved the whole thing and I just thought it was so her and what’s so great about working with the Kings [executive producers and showrunners Robert and Michelle King] is that they kind of look at what you’re doing and there’s this reciprocal relationship where they’re inspiring you and you’re coming around and inspiring them and they watch their actors and see what they’re doing and write to their actor’s strengths. So it was a great moment of, “Oh, they really get what I’m doing and they’re taking it in the directions that I want to go.”
Paste: Before this season began, did you have a chance to talk to the writers about what else you would like to see happen for Marissa?
Steele: I had a meeting with the writers’ room, which was so fun and so collaborative and so great, and one of them asked me a really good question: “What do you think could really rattle Marissa?” In The Good Fight so far, she’s always so on top of things, and I said something where she really couldn’t speak her mind, where she kind of had to hold her tongue about something—that would be really hard for her. I told the writers I had this image of her going into a bathroom and screaming into her sweater because she’s so frustrated. I would love to see that. I think in this next episode we are onto something in that direction.
Paste: From the moment Marissa came on The Good Wife, viewers have really adored her. Now that you’ve played her on and off for seven years, have you been able to kind of home in on what it is about Marissa that people are responding to?
Steele: For a long time, I found it quite baffling. I would do a play and a play just takes so much out of you and is your heart and soul and I would come out the stage door and all people would talk about was loving Marissa on The Good Wife and I was like, “Really? I feel like that’s such a small thing.” It took me a long time to understand what people were responding to. And then I had this waitress once who in this simple way said, “I just really relate to her.” And I think at the end of the day that is what it really is. You don’t see a lot of—especially, God knows—women on TV that just seem like people you would meet in your life. In Marissa, the Kings have really tapped into a young woman today. I feel so often when you see young women that they’re not believable and they’re not relatable. It is just rare on TV that you see a confident woman who doesn’t look like a model. That is the other thing people appreciate about it. I am a normal looking young woman and I’m not crying that I’m not pretty enough.
Paste: Coming from the theater world, is that something you were concerned about? The way TV and film often portrays female characters?
Steele: The first real professional thing I did was a movie, but then forever I only wanted to do theater because that was the only role people would give me where I wasn’t pigeonholed into something I didn’t want to do. I also just fell totally in love with theater, but yeah, I stayed away from TV for a while because I was just so disgusted by the degrading things I would have had to do and I was like, “No, this is not who I am and this is not who the women I know are.” So I really held out.
Paste: What will we see of the Maia and Marissa friendship this season?
Steele: There are a couple episodes later in the season where Marissa just helps her have fun. I mean, what that woman’s been through. She hasn’t allowed herself to have any fun for a long time. It’s really fun to play that fun best friend and knock her off her feet in a fun way.
Paste: Forgive the clichéd question, but when did you first know acting is what you wanted to do?
Steele: I knew when I was really young, like eight. I remember I was at recess and some other kid was talking about taking acting classes in the city and it was the first time that I felt, like, insane jealously. “What is this feeling?” And thought, “I think I’m supposed to do this” and went home to my parents and said, “You need to sign me up for these acting classes.”
Paste: Starting with the episode titles, this season seems more political than the show has ever been before.
Steele: I really hope people are paying attention this season because we are doing some wild stuff that I cannot believe they let us do. I’m so proud of what they’re doing. I mean, we do an episode about the golden shower tape. I can’t believe they’re letting us to do it. I feel this season is much more in your face about it. Diane [Christine Baranski] is kind of in this “Fuck it, fuck everything” mode, and I think in a way they are, too.
New episodes of The Good Fight premiere Sundays on CBS All Access. Season One is now available on DVD from CBS Home Entertainment and Paramount Home Media Distribution.
Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and the Assistant TV Editor for Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal) or her blog .