Robert and Michelle King are known for having created acclaimed series The Good Fight, The Good Wife, and Evil. But during the couple's long pandemic walks, they cooked up something wholly unexpected. The Bite is a six-episode satirical drama series co-produced by Spectrum and CBS Studios that follows the lives of two neighbors—Rachel (Audra McDonald) and Lily (Taylor Schilling)—as they embark on unprecedented times when a deadly new strain of a virus arrives...one that involves zombies.
Navigating the new normal in New York City, Rachel works from home juggling her many telemedicine clients and a shaky marriage to her husband Dr. Zach (Steven Pasquale), who has a prestigious job at the CDC miles away in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, Lily is upstairs trying to convince her Wall Street clientele that her very specific skillset is still just as valuable through a video screen as it was in person.
The theatre-heavy cast also features Will Swenson (married to McDonald in real life) as Brian Ritter, Phillipa Soo (married to Pasquale) as Cyndi Estereo, and Tony winner Leslie Uggams as Dr. Hester Boutella.
Find out how The Bite went from COVID passion project to real-life series in Playbill's interview with the Kings below.
Where did the idea for the story line of The Bite come from?
Robert: What we wanted to do was a show that utilized all these Broadway actors we knew who had no idea when Broadway was going to come back…but also was a comment on the present day. We found with The Good Fight what was most exciting to us was when it commented on what we were all going through at that moment in the Trump administration. Well we’re obviously going through a pandemic, but that kind of stuff can get very earnest and pretentious. And so what we really thought the moment felt like was these movies that are about a zombie apocalypse, because that kind of pandemic is the very basis of all those tropes in the zombie shows. So we thought that was an interesting way to combine our interests. Commenting on the present day, working with actors who we love and respect and really would love to work with during this downtime. And the third thing is having an exciting show, because it plays out with all those tropes of the zombie genre.
In terms of filming on remotely, to what extent did function dictate form for The Bite?
Michelle: I would say more than any other show ever made function dictated form. We had to make the show a certain way and tell the story a certain way because of how we wanted to film.
Robert: We were intent on keeping it from getting static. And that's why the the tropes of the genre help give it some action, give it some intensity. When you have people talking to each other and it's just about conversation, it's boring unless you think at any moment the zombie will enter the picture and eat one of them, then it's going to be exciting. Like you're waiting, you're intensely watching two people talk because at any point there could be danger.
When you started to reach out to the cast with this idea, what kinds of reactions did you get?
Michelle: You know, people were remarkably game. The one that really took a leap of faith was Audra, because I don't know that we had a script when we first started talking to her and Will, but with everybody else, there was a script that they could look at and they didn't just hear "Robert and Michelle got drunk one night." There was at least a sense of, "OK, there's a there's a plan here."
Robert: It was surprising how many people want to play zombies. So it was fun because there was a there's an element of let's entertain ourselves, but let's also try to go for the truths of a character. I know that's pretentious, but the zombies kept you from being too pretentious about the things that actually mattered to actors. What is the truth of his character? How is it consistent? What am I after? What do I want? And the stronger the zombie elements, the stronger the what I want is for an actor, which is interesting that you can kind of play bolder statements.
What were some of the unexpected benefits of filming this way and with this cast?
Robert: There were ways we played into characters. There was an episode where a character who doesn’t have much of a memory finds that when he sings he is engaging the part of his brain that does have memory. And so, obviously, when you have Broadway actors and you're asking them to sing, it's fun. I mean, obviously, it's meant to be funny, but you have two actors who are significant others, spouses, singing to each other. You're suddenly in the middle of a zombie show with drama and they're singing to each other. It got to something we rarely do on The Good Fight or Evil, which is using the best talents of your cast.