Julianna Margulies: Good Wife, Great Life

When she turned down $27 million to stay with ER, the world thought she was nuts. But after a rocky few years, Julianna Margulies now has a brilliant series, a family after 40 and a confidence she’s never known before 

by Johanna Schneller
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Photograph: Alexei Hay

Ladies and gentlemen! Step right this way and prepare to be amazed. Before us is a creature so rare, she’s practically mythological. Her name is Julianna Margulies, and she is The Woman Who Has It All.

Consider the evidence: At 45, an age when many actresses sink out of sight like stones in the sea, Margulies is doing the best work of her career, starring as law-firm associate Alicia Florrick on The Good Wife, the CBS series that boasts a passionate following and a whole shelf of awards. After decades of believing that marriage wasn’t for her, Margulies met and married Keith Lieberthal, an attorney six years her junior. A happy accident (Margulies was seven months pregnant at her wedding) brought them their son, Kieran, now four. Add to those blessings friends from coast to coast who sing her praises.

“I think the world of her,” says Christine Baranski, who plays the firm’s founding partner Diane Lockhart. “She’s the gold standard of elegance, integrity and intelligence. I know I will have great conversations with her in 10 years. It’s going to be fun to be her friend all down the road.”

“Julianna works really hard, and she doesn’t take any shit,” says Alan Cumming, who plays Alicia’s irascible colleague Eli Gold. “But she also makes it fun. It took me ages to get her name, ‘Mrs. Florrick,’ right,” he mischievously adds. “I kept calling her Mrs. Frolic. Freudian slip.”

And now here Margulies sits, sipping an iced cappuccino in the library of the Crosby Street Hotel in New York’s SoHo, a 10-minute walk from her home, looking and behaving exactly the way you’d want her to. She arrives precisely on time, wearing gray skinny jeans, gray leather ankle boots, a black cowl-neck sweater and a honking big diamond with her wedding band. Her face, untouched by knife or needle, is riveting, eyebrows like dark slashes above bottomless hazel-green eyes, strong mouth and jaw. (Frida Kahlo would have loved to paint her.) Her first laugh, delightfully throaty, occurs two minutes into our conversation; her first four-letter word arrives soon after. She has a charming habit of finishing a statement and then pursing her lips together, as if to say, “What do you think of that?!”

The Woman Who Has It All also has a healthy dose of self-effacement. When three people spy her from a table across the room, they drop any pretense of talking; soon they’re openly eavesdropping. But when I point them out, Margulies is surprised. “Honestly, I think no one knows who I am,” she says, laughing. “I’ll walk out of a store and say to my girlfriend, ‘They were so nice!’ She’ll be like, ‘Um, Julianna?’ And I’ll go, ‘Oh, right!’ I forget. Because in my real world, I don’t live that way.”

At a panel discussion of The Good Wife in a New York theater, Margulies sits center stage, flanked by Baranski, Josh Charles (who plays Alicia’s boss and sometime lover, Will) and Robert and Michelle King, the husband-and-wife team who created the show. For the uninitiated, Alicia Florrick is a former stay-at-home mother of two who restarted her career as a lawyer after learning that Peter, her powerful state’s attorney husband (played by Chris Noth), had been a regular client of a hooker named Amber. Margulies’s character has evolved from the hurt but steadfast wife of season one: Last year, she found the courage to separate from her straying spouse; in the current season, she embarked on, then halted, a hot affair of her own. All this while becoming a more confident member of the law firm.

For 45 minutes, the panel banters good-naturedly. Robert King: “The network was concerned about the number of lunges in the sex scenes. Josh was lunge heavy.”

Margulies: “Lunges? We prefer to call them thrusts.”

Then comes the Q&A period, and women rush the mics. They say what a relief it is to see female role models who aren’t catfighting and who wear clothes that are work appropriate but still sexy. “I spent two years wanting to yell at Alicia for being so composed, and now I want to be Alicia,” one woman says, earning applause from her fellow fans.

First published in the April 2012 issue of More

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Juliana says, "I'm not going to blank out my face...". She doesn't need to. More Magazine does it for her. As usual, Photoshop overkill.

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