U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk talked about his faith during a cameo on Sunday’s episode of “The Good Wife,” the Chicago-set drama he watches pretty religiously.
“I happened to already be a fan of the show,” the Highland Park Republican said about the CBS series, whose producers contacted his office several weeks ago to invite him to New York to film a scene. “I was all in.”
Kirk’s appearance — kept under wraps by producers — came at the top of the episode featuring a storyline about religion and politics. He played himself as a guest on a show hosted by Pastor Jeremiah (Frankie Faison), who questioned Illinois’ junior senator about the role of God in his life.
“Pastor, they say there are no atheists in foxholes,” Kirk tells the fictional Chicago religious leader. “After my stroke, I was in a very, very deep foxhole.”
In January 2012, not too long after being elected to fill President Obama’s senate seat, Kirk suffered a massive stroke that landed him in a medically induced coma. It took a year of intense therapy before he was able to once again walk up the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
“I really danced on the edge of death for a while,” Kirk, 55, said in a phone interview Friday.
He planned to watch Sunday’s episode — “my small screen debut” — at his Highland Park home with staffers, friends and Maggiano’s takeout.
The Kenilworth Union Church parishioner said he became more religious after his near-death experience — one that included a visit from three angels asking if the senator wanted to go with them. He abstained.
“The Good Wife” co-showrunner Robert King read a post-stroke interview with Kirk about his beliefs. King figured the veteran elected official would be a perfect fit for the series, which likes to weave real-life, high-profile figures into the storylines.
“We were doing an episode about how politicians are pushed to use faith in their campaigns, and we needed two politicians who were truly religious,” said King, who also tapped Jewish U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, for a cameo. “We needed to contrast them with our fictional Alicia Florrick, who was being pushed to use her ‘faith,’ or in her case, her lack of faith, cynically.”
“Senator Kirk was wonderful,” King added via email, “and we basically just scripted his lines from his interview.”
Kirk admitted that once the cameras started rolling, it took a few times before he got it right.
“I had three or four takes,” he said. “In acting, there’s a thing that I didn’t know you could do. You just yell out, ‘Line!’ and an assistant tells you the next thing you’re supposed to say. Very different from politics.”
“The Good Wife” has had a string of cameos this season from people with local ties.
Two weeks ago, Chicago native and “The Americans” creator Joe Weisberg, the son of the city’s longtime culture czar Lois Weisberg, popped up on the show.
Two weeks before that, the Obamas’ bestie and senior POTUS adviser Valerie Jarrett dropped by for an extended cameo, urging Alicia to run for Cook County State’s Attorney.
It worked. Alicia has thrown her hat in the ring in a bid to oust incumbent James Castro (Michael Cerveris). Problem is — at least according to Alicia’s campaign manager, Johnny Elfman (Steven Pasquale) — she’s an admitted atheist.
In Sunday’s episode, Elfman persuaded her to backpedal on her non-belief when it was her turn to get grilled by Pastor Jeremiah.
“I thought it was a mistake to talk about religion,” Alicia said to Elfman.
“It is, except for Pastor Jeremiah’s interview,” he told her. “You run for office in Chicago, you have to kiss the ring.”
While it was a stroke, not a campaign, that reignited Kirk’s religiosity, the senator said he can see Elfman’s point.
“I think the writers got it right: If you’re an atheist, you’re not like 80 percent of the public,” Kirk said. “The public wants to know how you’re going to make decisions if we’re going to send you to represent us. If there’s no faith, then you don’t have an anchor.”