Cush Jumbo and "The Good Fight" fit TV's new-normal world


At any time, Cush Jumbo would be interesting. You don't meet many people who have played both Josephine Baker and Mark Antony. Or, for that matter, many named Cush. But now she's also part of an interesting change in the TV world. "The Good Fight" -- which starts Feb. 19 on CBS, then moves to CBS All Access -- is her second series to reach American viewers mainly via streaming. Here's the story I sent to papers:

By Mike Hughes

In one swoop, Cush
Jumbo summarized her odd, trans-Atlantic life:

I never do anything
in the normal way,” she said.

Then again, normal
is hard to find these days ... even on CBS, TV's last refuge of
normality. Her new show (“The Good Fight”) has exactly one
episode there, then moves to a streaming service.

That's CBS All
Access, where it joins a mountain of reruns -- “we now have over
8,500 episodes” said Marc DeBevoise, head of CBS Interactive –
and, eventually, “Star Trek: Discovery.”

Consider it the new
normal. Using computers or apps, viewers try streaming services; some
are free (YouTube, Comet), most aren't. They range from Netflix, Hulu
and Amazon to specialties: Seeso has comedy; Acorn has
British/Australian TV ... which is how some Americans found Jumbo.

For two-plus
seasons, she was with Oscar-nominee Brenda Blethyn -- “I've been
lucky to work with my heroes” -- on “Vera,” a cop show that
reaches the U.S. via Acorn; in between, she did all her other
abnormal things ... including an all-female production of “Julius
Caesar.”

Even her name is
unusual. “Cush” is usually a boy's name, she said; “it's a
hippie name.” (It also was the Nubian kingdom, south of Egypt.) And
“Jumbo” is the surname of her father, who's Nigerian.

Jumbo grew up in
England, her mother's homeland, as the second of seven kids. She took
dance lessons from ages 3 to 15, started theater school at 14, and
worked constantly in TV and theater. In 2011, she won an award for
her work in Shakespeare's “As You Like It” as Rosalind, a heroine
who'd previously been played by Helen Mirren and Vanessa Redgrave.
“On stage, I can be any color.”

Or any gender. She
was nominated for England's top award (the Olivier) for her work as
Mark Antony – a natural for her, because she warms up by reciting
Antony's speech. “It's very muscular,” she said.

Jumbo reached New
York with that show ... and her one-woman Josephine Baker show ...
and “The River,” on Broadway with Hugh Jackman. Casting people
spotted her for a “Good Wife” audition.

“I'd been watching
the show from the first episode, on its first day in England,”
Jumbo said. When she was cast, she feared being “geeked out on it
so much, because it's embarrassing to come to work and know too many
things about the judges or get excited by elevator doors.”

Her character, Lucca
Quinn, did the final season and now moves to “Good Fight.” She
joined an all-black law firm that now adds three white women –
veteran lawyer Diane Lockhart (Christine Baranski), newcomer Maia
Rindell (Rose Leslie) and whip-smart aide Marissa Gold (Sarah
Steele).

That's three “Good
Wife” transplants – Baranski, Jumbo and Steele – with more in
guest roles. “There was a real reluctance on my part to let go of
what was a great job (with) great writers,” Baranski said..

And now those
writers are unfettered. The new version has more time (49 minutes on
All Access, 42 on CBS) and more freedom. “Our issues with
standards-and-practices (censors) have been reduced to nil,” said
Robert King, who produces the show with his wife Michelle.

It's an abnormal way
to work ... which is sort of normal for Jumbo. “I'll be Hamlet one
day,” she said.

-- “The Good
Fight” opener is 8 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 19) on CBS and CBS All Access.

-- The season's
other nine episodes will be available on the next nine Sundays at
www.cbsall-access.com.
That's $5.99 a month, or $9.99 commercial-free. All-Access has reruns
of other current and past shows, plus “Big Brother: Over the Top”
and the upcoming “Star Trek: Discovery