Eye on Emmy: Julianna Margulies Talks Good Wife's Superior Season 5 and Alicia's Expiration Date

The Good Wife Season 6 Julianna MarguliesThe 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.

TVLINE | You often talk about the grind of doing 22 episodes a season. As you head into Season 6, are you worried about burning out?
I’m never worried about burning out. I’m worried about exhaustion. I think if I didn’t love the character so much and if I didn’t love the material so much I probably would worry about burnout. And there are days that are harder than others. And then there are days where it’s just so fulfilling that it outweighs the fatigue. I remember coming home after a 15-hour day and my husband said, “Why are you smiling?” And I said, “Because I was shooting scenes with Jeffrey Tambor and Christine Baranski and Alan Cumming and all these incredible actors.” There’s an incredible fuel that happens. This doesn’t mean you’re not tired, for sure, but it’s an exciting energy and it’s fulfilling.

TVLINE | Has Julianna the Good Wife actress ever been at odds with Julianna the Good Wife producer?
[Laughs] There are definitely times that I have to put my producer hat on and let go of being an actor, and there are things that maybe I would complain about but because I’m the producer I don’t.

TVLINE | How long do you envision the show going?
Eighteen years. [Laughs] Robert’s always said he had seven years of this show in him, and my feeling is, I want to do it as long as the writer feels he has something to write… Alicia is basically in every scene. Characters can come and go on the show, but she can’t. So as long as they’re happy to write for Alicia, I’m happy to play her. My guess is we’ll go seven seasons.

TVLINE | Regarding the Season 5 cliffhanger, do you think Alicia will run for State’s Attorney?
I want her to run. I think it would be so interesting if she ran. I actually asked Robert and Michelle, “If she ran what happens with Peter’s endorsement? Is that legal?” And they had a great answer which was, “When Kennedy was President he brought his brother in. Anything’s Julianna Margulies SAG Eventlegal if you can do it.” So I think it would set up a great story for Peter and Alicia and a great story for her professionally. I think it would be really fun. There’s something sexy about politics, and it would be sort of a different… We’re never going to top what we did [in Season 5]. So, my feeling is, the only way we can do it is to do it differently. To keep people interested we have to not try and top it but go out at a different angle.

TVLINE | I’m ending with a random question that I’ve always been curious about — what’s more challenging to recite, medical or legal jargon?
I find the medical jargon more difficult, because legal jargon I [can] decipher what it means. I don’t know what hemoglobin is. I can say it, but I don’t know what it’s going to feel like. On ER, I remember we were always saying, “Demerol IV, stat!” You say it, but, well, what is Demerol? And then I had it, and I’ll never forget it. We were in our fourth season of ER and I had this little operation, and I woke up and I was shaking cold. I was so cold. And this nurse, this beautiful nurse, leaned over and she went, “Demerol IV, stat.” [And suddenly] everything got warm and beautiful. And my first words were, “Oh, this drug is so good.”

photo credit: Luke Fontana/SAG Foundation

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  1. MrScreenAddict says:

    I thought it was clear when Season 5’s titles went from four words back down to three (instead of increasing to five) that the writers were planning a 7-season arc. Season 6 should have two-word titles, and the final season will be back to one.

    • Smigglesby says:

      My thoughts exactly.

    • Josh says:

      Titles? What do you mean?

      • analog says:

        The number of words in the episode titles. In season 1 = 1 word, 2=2 onwards. But in season 5 they went back to 3 meaning season 7 will have 1 word titles.

    • brycealexander says:

      I can’t believe I never noticed that! It’s something that I normally would have picked up on but just didn’t. It’s very clever!

    • J says:

      Was just about to post the same thing. I’m a little sad, but at the same time I will ALWAYS take a chosen ending over “more more more”. I’d be excited for the Kings to get to tell a complete story.

      Also, only one more renewal to sweat over to GET that story!

  2. David says:

    It’s such a good show and I could see it going longer than 7 seasons. The Sunday time slot after football really doesn’t do it any favors in the ratings. I’m shocked they are trying to launch Madame Secretary under those circumstances.

  3. christine says:

    I love her. One of the best shows on TV! The writing is smart. The actors are first rate. It’s a show for “grown-ups”.

  4. abz says:

    I hope it goes more than 7 seasons. If Grey’s Anatomy can reach 10 seasons and probably reaching up to 12 seasons, The Good Wife should at least match it or come close. I never want this show to end. It’s must see television each and every week. Other shows I can wait a month to catch up on if needed, but I stop almost anything to watch TGW. That’s how amazing the show is to me.

    • Diz says:

      Same here. I watch it on slight delay, but it’s 1 of very few that I watch on the night it actually airs.

  5. brycealexander says:

    I’m glad he’s gone for the creative process of the show, but it really makes you wonder why Josh Charles wouldn’t stick it out for just two and a half more years. Whatever the case, I too hope it stays on for as long as the writing’s there to support it. Also that final question was a very nice, special treat. Great read.

    • Alex says:

      “it really makes you wonder why Josh Charles wouldn’t stick it out for just two and a half more years.”

      JUST 2 1/2 years? That’s a very long time. I wouldn’t stay around doing something that didn’t feel right for any huge length of time like that!

      • Danyelle says:

        Right? Plus he’d already “stuck it out” for a 1/2 year more than he wanted. Why do “fans” like to chain actors to jobs forever?

  6. Jake says:

    Loved the good wife so much again after this phenomenal season

  7. liz says:

    season 5 was exceptional – but really, I’ve never been disappointed with this show. Every week it delivers. And I’m happy to stay for the ride as long as the Kings want to do it.

  8. liz says:

    Plus, it’s a credit to the entire team over there that they turned an actor leaving into a fantastic element on the show. I can’t imagine the season (and indeed the future of the show) had Will lived. Way to turn lemons into lemon pie.

  9. Erin says:

    After last season with Kalinda’s husband & all of that mess, I was a little nervous about the show. I feared the downfall was starting. They certainly proved me wrong with a fantastic season 5.

  10. Maxsmom says:

    I think 7 seasons of The Good Wife might be pushing it, Season 5 was so good I wish Season 6 was the series wrap up.

    Grey’s is a completely different show in that it is an ensemble, and I’d say at least half of the time Grey’s was a complete dud Grey’s had a good past season but the best thing about it and the show as a whole just left.

  11. Sandra Wilkie says:

    Julianna Marjulies is my idol. I am always impressed with her acting, and would love to meet her in person! I never miss a show of The Good Wife, and have definitely watched re-run after re-run. I wish I could have her stature, her looks, and her talent. I love Sunday evenings just so I can shut out the world and watch Julianna as The Good Wife.

  12. whitebear35 says:

    This is an incredible, mature, intelligent show with great actors. Thank you!

  13. MJW says:

    l personally am glad josh Charles has left, his character was getting to be a real bully, him and the character David are almost the same, but it is basically a series about women. But l love the character of Peter, l keep hoping that Alicia will realise that being his wife in all sense of the word is the best thing for her for the future, to put all the past where it belongs, -in the past- she should run for states attorney and that should give her what she wants in her life,something to aim for as she has already got to where she wanted before, owning her own firm, and it is a good idea that Diane moves over to Alicia and Cary, that will teach all those others at L>G a lesson, that she -diane- is not a lady to be messed with, and what has happened to her husband, we do not hear or see anything of him lately l would love it to go onto at least a seventh series, but what l am thinking is that Chris Noth has said that he has only ever liked being in a show for so long, as it gets stale, so if he was to stay on the show l think that they would have to give him a real meaty story and perhaps he will stay, l do like him he was so good over the years as Mike Logan, and he is just the right actor to be the govenor and maybe further up the ladder with Alicia following in his footsteps and making her mark on the politics of Chicago l am now trying to think of a show to watch now that season five has finished here in the UK, when will we see season six. My Thursday nights will not be the same without The Good Wife.

  14. Carolyn says:

    Wonderful show, fantastic writers, superb actors! First five seasons were amazing, and I’m looking forward to as many seasons as the Kings want to write! Their vision for the characters has been incredible! Love the way Alicia allowed her grief over Will to touch every aspect of her life because this is how we deal with death especially a sudden, violent passing. I am so looking forward to the Emmy nominations on July 10th!

  15. Sylvia Tasker says:

    Superb writing and acting. Save all the episodes and view 4/6 at a time totally immersed.
    Not worried about how many words in titles – just keep the episodes coming.
    Watched last few episodes yesterday, my 79th birthday – love to all from a Yorkshire Lass

  16. My wife and I look forward to every season and would like to see The Good Wife run for a full 10 years.

  17. Denis says:

    I hope The Good Wife runs as long as Simpsons. It is BY FAR the best show on TV.