Anthony Weiner might be feeling a little hot under the collar after his most recent headline-making scandal, but The Good Wife writers are reveling in his latest misconduct. "I think we're the happiest people writing right now because we have so much to write about," co-creator and executive producer Robert King told reporters at the Television Critics Association fall TV previews on Monday. "It's the gift that keeps on giving," star Julianna Margulies added. "We're starting Season 5 and it feels brand-new."
After years of ripping from the headlines, this season The Good Wife will borrow heavily from the case of Edward Snowden, the ex-National Security Agency contractor who leaked intel about several top-secret U.S. mass surveillance programs. "One of the things we are doing is this NSA story line, which kind of offers a framework for the year," King said. "In the third year, the law firm represented a terrorist sympathizer named Danny Marwat and what they haven't realized is that they've been listened to all this time because they are one away from a terrorist. ... It's going to bend and shape itself based on how the NSA discussion opens during the year."
CBS at TCA: Get all the latest scoop
It doesn't hurt that the show ended Season 4 with a big bombshell: Alicia (tried to) close the door on her feelings for Will (Josh Charles) by opening the door to Cary (Matt Czuchry) and agreeing to start a new firm with him. "It's basically civil war," King said.
The new season will pick up with Cary and Alicia still at Lockhart/Gardner, but plotting their way out. "We kind of want to get the audience wet with this difficulty of betraying your firm," said King, who noted that the civil war will happen "fairly quickly" in Season 5. "It's a sh-- storm. What we want is the quiet before the sh-- storm."
Although Margulies says that Alicia believes what she's doing is right, her and Cary's gutsy move will reap serious consequences and "challenge" Alicia's moral compass. "In her heart of hearts, she thinks it's a smart move," she said. "She isn't quite aware of this eruption that's about to happen because of the, basically, war that she's causing at Lockhart/Gardner. By running away from something that I think she is so emotionally and physically attracted to, she is creating mayhem, which will be interesting because I don't know how well she does in an emotional situation like that."
2013 Emmy nominations: Surprises and snubs
The conflict brewing will change the focus for Season 5. "This year we're intentionally trying to make it more centered on our main cast, by having them lock heads on so many issues," King said. "It's more about our team; not as much about all the guest stars coming in."
But this is The Good Wife after all, which means that there will still be new faces in the mix — notably Melissa George, who plays a smart, sexy and savvy in-house ethics counsel in Peter's office. "One of the questions this year is: Will Chris Noth's character, Peter, now that he's governor, find himself tempted by the women who are spinning around him?" King asked. "Obviously that puts [Eli] in a difficult position because he knows that part of Peter's ability to keep moving further in office means having Alicia onboard. And Eli cares about Alicia too. So wanting to try to curb a man's tastes."
Eli's (Alan Cumming) life will also be complicated by his own romantic entanglements when America Ferrera, who played Natalie Flores in Season 2, returns. "She brings a case into Alicia's law firm that involves immigration and who crosses paths with her is Eli," King said. "All these feelings are brought up again and we see a re-sparked relationship. There was a lot of chemistry there and we never felt like we explored it to its fullest because we couldn't get America Ferrera for more than three episodes, so we're going to try to return to it now."
Lost stars: Where are they now?
In addition to Ferrara, The Good Wife will also welcome back Carrie Preston in her Emmy-nominated role as Elsbeth Tascioni and Gary Cole as the Marlboro Man, Kurt McVeigh. "McVeigh and Diane are still on the brink of getting married," King said. "So we're going to see if Diane will sacrifice that for the judgeship or go with him."
Producers are also hoping to bring back Unforgettable's Dallas Roberts, who plays Alicia's brother Owen, for multiple episodes.
The Good Wife returns on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 9/8c on CBS.
(Full Disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)