Julianna Margulies could easily have canceled our interview. On this freezing afternoon in late January, there’s a full-on blizzard in New York, and she might have preferred to focus on getting home.
Instead, Margulies stays late, smiles wide and welcomes me to her “fancy digs,” as she jokingly refers to her airy dressing room in the Brooklyn studios where she has just finished a day’s work on The Good Wife, now in its fifth season. On the hit CBS drama, her complex portrayal of Alicia Florrick, the wronged political wife who’s now head of her own law firm, has earned her Emmy, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards for Best Actress.
Having committed to this interview, she’s not about to let a little snow—OK, a lot of snow—stop her. “Julianna is the most dependable person you will ever meet,” says Nancy Banks, an acting coach and teacher in Los Angeles and a longtime close friend. “She’s there when you need her, across the board.”
“She’s tough,” says Michael J. Fox admiringly. He joined The Good Wife in 2010, in the recurring role of sly attorney Louis Canning, and was surprised to discover that “Julianna’s more of a broad than I thought she was. She’s got a kind of Lauren Bacall thing going. She’s all that and a bag of chips.”
Margulies, 47, has already shed the wig, makeup and form-hugging suits that help transform her into Alicia. Her own raven locks are pulled back in a ponytail, and she’s wearing a striped top, skinny jeans and high-heeled black boots. The dressing room’s picture windows offer a view of the storm, but it’s cozy inside. There’s a fridge and a microwave oven in a corner and a profusion of family photos on the walls: her husband, Harvard-educated lawyer turned corporate strategist Keith Lieberthal, and their son, Kieran, six. Does having a lawyer at home help her play one on TV? Margulies laughs, then says she only occasionally asks him to clarify complicated legal maneuvers in a script. “He loves the show, and I don’t want to ruin it for him,” she explains.
She settles in to talk on a large red sectional couch that she had shipped from the Santa Monica house she sold in 2010. That place was a last vestige of her life in L.A., where she lived for the six years she wore pink scrubs as nursing supervisor Carol Hathaway on ER, a character she loved playing and for which she won an Emmy in 1995. Longing to return to New York—she was born close to the city, went to college at suburban Sarah Lawrence and attended acting school in Manhattan—she made the decision to leave the top-rated ER in 2000 to come back east, a risky move that paid off handsomely, both professionally with The Good Wifea nd personally with a happy marriage and motherhood.
“I may work long hours, but I really love my job,” says Margulies, who puts in 12- to 15-hour days on the set. “Alicia is ever evolving. It’s a challenge and fun and hard and everything that you dreamed you’d be able to do when you were taking acting classes. Aside from an amazing cast, I get these great guest stars [including Fox, F. Murray Abraham and Nathan Lane], and I’m like, ‘Really, I get to play with you today?’ And I get to live in New York, raise my kid here and come home to my own bed every night.”
Well, OK then, that sums it up. Story told.
Actually, this is exactly why Margulies says she’s reluctant to do interviews: “I can’t bear braggarts.” Her life is pretty fab, and she’s grateful for it, but she feels it’s self-aggrandizing to say so. “I never want to talk like I’m rubbing anything in anyone’s face,” she says.