The Good Wife wrapped production on Year 5 some two months ago, but leading lady Julianna Margulies is still basking in the afterglow of a season many consider to be one of broadcast television’s best in recent memory.
At a recent SAG Foundation panel hosted by yours truly (and excerpted below), the actress — a two-time Emmy winner — reflected on the show’s extraordinary year, singled out her favorite episode (spoiler alert: it’s not one of the obvious ones!), teased Alicia’s big Season 6 dilemma, and speculated about Wife‘s (approaching) end date.
TVLINE | Many broadcast shows are petering out by the time they reach their fifth seasons. Why do you think The Good Wife was able to avoid that fate?
Well, I think [series creators Robert and Michelle King] were incredibly clever in how they set up the [rival] law firms in the first five episodes of the fifth season. It allowed us to go to so many new places. Suddenly, a show that you think you know, you don’t know anymore. People you think you know have become different people and are reacting to situations they’ve never been in. It just upped the stakes so much more.
TVLINE | When you read scripts like “Hitting the Fan” and “The Last Call” do you just get chills, like, “Oh my God, I can’t wait to dig into this?”
Yes. If it’s not on the page, it’s not on the stage. I can only do so much [with] bad scripts. But with a good script I really get to do my job, which is act. And the words speak for themselves; the actions speak for themselves. This past season was a privilege for me.
TVLINE | Anything specific stand out this season that you found satisfying? A particular episode or scene… ?
I loved “Hitting the Fan.” But the episode that I felt like we had turned a corner in terms of being [more than just] this “network television [show]” was our 100th episode, “The Decision Tree.” I loved that [we got to] see what [lawyers] do to prepare for a cross-examination. I [also] loved the sort of film noir [aspect] where all of a sudden we were in flashbacks and [left to wonder], ‘Was it all in [Will’s] head?’ And the way we it shot against this black drop with no one there but [Will and Alicia] — it felt like an existential play. I’ve never seen that in television, cable or network.
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They’d never met, but it didn’t take long for Julianna Margulies and Matthew Rhys to discover they have much in common after the two Gotham-based actors sat down with Variety’s Cynthia Littleton in early May at New York’s Gramercy Park Hotel. The lively conversation between the stunning star of “The Good Wife” and the dashing Welshman at the helm of “The Americans” touched on the struggle to balance work and family life, their mutual dislike of divas on the set and their abiding love for the stage.
Variety: In “The Good Wife” and “The Americans,” both of your characters grapple quite a bit with unrequited love. Is that a hard emotion to get across to the audience?
Julianna Margulies: I really think it all depends on who it is you’re acting opposite. With Josh Charles, I got really lucky. We had known each other for years. I had gotten him the job on the show for selfish reasons, because I knew our characters were ultimately going to get together and I wanted to be with someone who I respected and loved working with. It was so easy to act with him because it felt very natural.
Matthew Rhys: It’s the most potent kind of love to play, I think. It’s always the loves in your past where you look back and say, “That was unfulfilled” or “Was that the one?” The relationships that come up short are the “What could have been?”
Margulies: Will and Alicia wouldn’t have been as interesting if they’d stayed together. Our job as actors is to make it so enticing to make you think you want them to stay together. But if you do, within five episodes everyone’s going to get bored. OK maybe not five, maybe 10. But that’s the drama.
Rhys: We’ve all had those relationships where you think, “I wonder what they’re doing now,” “I wonder what would have happened if …”
Margulies: If the stars align, it’s great to play. If you have great writers and actors who like each other. I’ve been lucky. I’ve had Josh and George Clooney. You hear about actors who were doing five years on a series as lovers and actually hated each other. I don’t know if I could pull it off.
Variety: Matthew, how was it for you at the outset connecting with Keri Russell?
Rhys: What was great about it was we both came at it with the same approach. We both loved the central relationship in the show — these two strange people who have lived together so long masquerading as a marriage and ultimately beginning a relationship when we first meet them. The madness of it intrigued us.
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Here are some clips of Julianna and you can read an interview here.
Taken In 2014 > Session #002