Sooner or later, it’s going to come, Julianna Margulies believes: The day when Alicia Florrick, the tightly wound,constantly challenged, spurned spouse she plays on the CBS drama, The Good Wife, will crack. “Crack,” Margulies emphasized, drawing out the word. There are times, she added, that as an actress, she feels like crying in a scene, “But I don’t want Alicia to cry. Because if she starts now, she’ll never stop.”
The woman who shot to fame as George Clooney’s ER love is older now, married with kids, and savoring the success of her own network hit. The other night at The Paley Center for Media in New York City, she talked about the series with fellow castmates Matt Czuchry ( who plays the firm’s young male associate, Cary Agos), Josh Charles (who plays her boss—and college flame—Will Gardner) and Archie Panjabi (the firm’s scarily accomplished private detective, Kalinda Sharma).
But the New York City event didn’t really get rolling until Christine Baranski (who plays another of the firm’s partners, Diane Lockhart) arrived late—yet early enough to blurt out a key plot development her castmates had kept secret (I will, too). “Now I’m actually going to tell you what happens at the end of Lost,” Josh Charles teased the audience. “And Mad Men. It’s all coming out.”
So will Alicia end up in bed with her old flame Will? Or back in the maid’s room with devious husband Peter? “We’re happy that people are invested enough to care,” Margulies said. “The other day a lovely couple came up to me and said, ‘We’re on the Peter Florrick team.’ Then another couple came up and said, ‘We are on the Will Gardner team.’”
“I have both shirts,” said Czuchry (no one thinks that Alicia will fall for his character, who’s her younger competitor at the law firm).
On the show, Archie Panjabi’s dark hair is often pulled back sleekly, but on stage it was loose and sexy, like Margulies’s. “Archie is a character who can manipulate men—I was nervous to play her,” Panjabi admitted. “But after a while, I grew confident.” Her character’s trademark boots helped. “There’s something about the boots…as soon as I put these boots on…”
“There’s an actual blog that is dedicated to Kalinda’s boots,” Margulies said.
The Internet plays a big role in the series, both offscreen and on. “Alicia is not tech savvy at all,” Margulies says. But her children are immersed. “She’s trying to do the right thing—there was the episode where she took away Zack’s computer.” And in a future episode, she reports, we’ll see Alicia’s son apologizing for his scheming, tweeting girlfriend—and realizing how technology has hurt his mom.
To research her character, Margulies said, “I went online and looked at all the wives—pictures of them before and after.” She was particularly struck by Silda Spitzer, “how young she looked, two years earlier.” Post-scandal, “She aged 10 years. But then a few months later, she was in Vogue, she had a job, she never looked better.”
Has she heard from any of those real-life wronged wives? “I haven’t,” she answered, “but apparently Elizabeth Edwards reached out to CBS to tell them she thought I was portraying Alicia in the right light—I’m sure she wouldn’t say that now.” As for the others, “I’m sure none of them have watched it. Why would they? It’s salt on the wound.” (In fact, at a recent More lunch, Jenny Sanford confessed she had seen one episode—until her son urged her to turn it off.)
Margulies has been stunned by the similarities that keep piling on. “On the series, Peter Florrick is thinking of running again—the next day, there are the Eliot Spitzer headlines, that he’s thinking of running again. It’s no longer art imitating life.”
But when it came to casting her own straying politician, Margolies recalled, “I told them, ‘You can’t cast an Eliot Spitzer. You must cast a Bill Clinton.’ So I thought the casting of Chris Noth was genius.”
So where does Margulies see Alicia two, three, five years from now? Winning the bakeoff with Cary? Deserting Peter for Will ? Going on to yet another love? Could The Good Wife become, as Margulies laughingly suggested, The Naughty Wife?
“I have no idea,” she said. “I don’t want to know what’s going to happen. It’s more like life.”
Susan Toepfer blogs at The Bumpy Ride, http://trueslant.com/susantoepfer/