Looking Back at The Good Wife with Julianna Margulies
And so, after seven seasons, universal praise and a myriad of awards – including 12 Golden Globe nominations and one win, for Julianna Margulies, best actress/TV series/drama in 2010-The Good Wife comes to an end this Sunday.
Sprung from the minds of writers/producers Robert King and Michelle King, The Good Wife took its cue from the series of sexual scandals that rocked the US political scene in late 00s – the very public shaming of congressman Anthony Weiner, New York state governor Eliot Spitzer and ex-California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger – and ran fast and loose with it. The premise – what happens to the wife of a public personality involved in a scandal? – soon became a much larger exploration of a woman’s life – Alicia Florrick, the good wife of the title, played by Julianna Margulies- and the world around her. As Alicia progressed from sheltered housewife to powerhouse attorney with political connections, the series integrated fresh-off-the-headlines ideas and themes, with a savvy focus on technology, its uses and abuses.
We at the HFPA have been with Julianna Margulies throughout this journey, interviewing her in New York and Los Angeles. Who better than our Golden Globe winner to guide us through the groundbreaking series?
New York, November 2010 – Los Angeles, September 2011 . Seasons 1 ( September 2009-May 2010) and 2 (September 2010- May 2011) have already rolled out with enormous success. Julianna Margulies has won a Golden Globe in January of 2010, and her Alicia is making strides in the brave new world as a soon-to-be litigator at a prestigious Chicago law firm.
Julianna’s view:”One of the things you’re going to find out a little more from now on is (Alicia’s) childhood, why she is who she is. You get a sense of why she grew up the good girl thinking she always had to do the right thing. It’s a nice dichotomy against the backdrop of all the things that are happening in the law firm. She went from being this sort of Leave it to Beaver 1950s housewife in our world today, thinking she was doing everything right, to her world crumbling and that she actually finding out who she is as a woman. In the second season you see her conquer her career and her fears of the workplace and not really deal with her personal life. And then she’s betrayed in a way that she, I think, had no idea could even exist. So I think now you sort of hear her say I’ve got nothing to lose so I’m going to do what I want to do.”
The personal connection:“I feel a little lazy because when I get to bed with my script at night I don’t have to research anything. I’m like ‘honey, what’s a voir dire?’, ‘what’s a 1410 probation citing?’ and (Julianna’s husband, attorney Keith Lieberthal) can tell me. It's nice to hear it from a human perspective and understand exactly what it is. On the other hand he also loves the show and doesn’t want it to be ruined for him… so we’ve figured out a nice mix.”
“I come from a divorced family. I never want to see the day where I had do wait for a paycheck from my husband because we were divorced. For me to play this character is the journey of finding out who she is – it’s what I love about television. You get this chance to grow with your character hopefully for years.”
Los Angeles, September 2012 Season 3 (September 2011-April 2012) sees Alicia installed in what seems like her place of power, on track to become a partner at the firm. Her estranged husband (Peter Noth) plans a return to politics, and his advisor, Eli Gold (Alan Cumming) becomes a key player. Rough times ahead, but in the real world the series has amassed four Golden Globe nominations.
Julianna’s view: “(The firm is) going into bankruptcy and it’s tough times all over Throughout the season you’ll see us almost fall and then pick up our pieces and go in another direction. I meet my mother (Stockard Channing) and it’s been fun and exciting to find out who this woman is. I want to explore more from the past because that’s what formulates who you are in the future."
The personal connection: “I always feel that when I’m in Alicia’s clothes I need to sit up really straight and hold myself in. Her clothes to me say that she shops at Neiman Marcus in Chicago. I like clothes that are a little more cutting edge. I shop at funky stores in (Manhattan’s) Lower East Side and Soho and West Village.”
Los Angeles, September 2013 Alicia is made partner, her husband is running for governor of Illinois. On the trail of the series’ episodes about surveillance in the digital age Wired magazine calls The Good Wife “the most tech-savvy show on TV”. The series collects two more Golden Globe nominations – for Julianna and Archie Panjabi, who plays the complicated investigator Kalinda Sharma. As the new season rolls in, Alicia plans a big step.
Julianna’s view: “She really wanted to to start her own firm and get away from (the firm’s partner and her ex-lover Will) because as long as she was around him, it just a constant reminder of being in love with him. The problem is how. They are going at each other like cats and dogs but they’re both smart- it’s an all out civil war and it’s bringing people down with them.”
The personal connection: “I find all the cases incredibly fascinating. I learn from them. The episode about the NSA was inspired by the whole Snowden experience. It’s such a complicated episode that actually (series creator) Robert King asked me if he could call my father-in-law, who was in the Clinton administration the last 4 years, and ask him some questions.”
Los Angeles, August 2014 Season 4 ends with Alicia launching her own firm and her husband winning the election with her at his side – for a while. The series adds three new Golden Globe nominations to its stellar track record. The list of guest stars is equally impressive: Michael J. Fox, Rita Wilson, America Ferrara, Taye Diggs, Jeffrey Tambor, Matthew Goode, Morena Baccarin, Titus Welliver, Denis O’Hare, Sonequa Martin-Green, Martha Plimpton, Mamie Gummer, Anika Noni Rose, Nathan Lane, Maura Tieney and Amanda Peet, among many others.
Julianna’s view: “She’s survived everything that came her way, she’s actually coming out slighly changed and different. She’s incredibly self-reliant.”
The personal connection: “I find it fascinating playing a lawyer because they do think in a different way. They always look at two sides first, whereas one person might see injustice and want to yell and act inappropriately. I would like to be a liitle more like (Alicia) in terms of how she answers questions, because she is so articulate.”
New York, September 2015 Nobody knew it yet, but the end was near. Alicia runs for State Attorney , wins and is forced to resign after false allegations of fraud. In the real world, the political temperature is rising as an election year approaches, and the series ties into it deftly. And during a Super Bowl break the news come out in the form of a teaser for Season 7 – the series' last. Alicia Florrick has secured her place in television history.
Julianna’s view: "Alicia was sort of on top in her political life for a minute and it seemed that she was finally in a place of power . And then she gets thrown under the bus by the Democratic Committee. I think it's always best to see Alicia trying to climb back on top, what's great about Alicia is (problems) keep building her character. There comes a point in someone's life and especially I think also as a woman in her forties who spent her whole life yessing people. She's now on her own, she doesn't have to answer to anyone and she's found an incredible sense of freedom in that.”
The personal connection: "My husband and I were at the theatre and at intermission we went to get a drink at the bar and this man came up to me and said ‘I'm in the middle of a divorce and I would really like you to come on Monday to defend me.’ And I said ‘oh, thank you.’ He said ’no, no, no, I mean it. I think you're the one that can do it.’ My husband looked at him and said ‘you know, she's not a lawyer, she just plays one on TV’ and he said ‘oh, well, that doesn't matter, come anyway because I think it'll be very effective.’"