Back in March 2008, New York governor Eliot Spitzer watched his career tumble down around his ears after he was discovered to have procured the services of prostitutes. The scandal rocked America, but his wife, Silda, stood by him. Their story partly influenced The Good Wife, the latest legal drama show to appear on MBC. In it, Julianna Margulies plays Alicia Florrick, a loyal wife whose husband is imprisoned after a sex and corruption scandal. To win back respect for her family and help to feed her children, she picks up her long-dormant law degree and decides to go back into the courtroom as a lawyer. Here, Margulies gives Time Out the lowdown.
What was it that originally attracted you to the role of Alicia?
I loved how complicated she is. This is a woman who truly thought her life was going one way for many, many years and trusted that life, and then suddenly everything crumbled. When I saw this in real life, I was so quick to judge all those women that I saw standing by their man. In my head I kept thinking, ‘Well, why are you standing there?’ So the pilot had me interested right from the opening scene, where you first see Alicia standing there; and I feel like these women really don’t get their due. These are smart women. Silda Spitzer is heading a hedge fund in New York City right now. She’s never been better. Look at Hillary Clinton. It’s not like these women are silly little wallflowers that are waiting for their husbands to come home. Most of them have two degrees, at least, and they’re incredibly accomplished. So I found it fascinating, a fascinating role to play.
How eager were you to get back into a courtroom drama after starring in 2008 TV series Canterbury’s Law?
When I met [the producers], I kept saying, ‘I don’t want to do a legal show. We have great legal shows on the air. Why would we put another one on? What interests me is finding out who these characters are.’ So it’s a great backdrop for her development, and that’s how I see it. And I think it’s a great way for her to discover who she is as a woman. And law is a man’s world, so there’s a lot of potential for development there.
Have you heard any rumblings from the real ‘good wives’?
I think all those women are way too classy to ever rumble about any of it. And this show isn’t about demeaning who they are and gaining from their downfall, because it’s very painful, what they went through.
You’ve previously played a super-confident lawyer and nurse [in ER] and so forth – is it difficult to play someone who’s very, very nervous and being overridden by this mean judge and so forth?
It’s different. It’s hard. My instincts are to be a little stronger, because that’s who I am in my own life. But I love it. Every time I think of how Alicia would react, I have to take myself out of it and start all over again. I feel like it’s fresh and new and different. It’s a challenge. It’s a very good challenge.
Why are men more prone to these kind of scandals? Why aren’t women ever involved in this king of thing?
It’s just so interesting that you said that. I just was talking about that. I said, well, maybe this show will be on long enough that we get to the point where Alicia starts having affairs. But I think women are too busy. We’re exhausted.
How much input did you have into the shaping of the character?
[The team] are very open to everything; it’s been a very lovely working relationship. I usually love everything that’s on the page, but there are moments where they’ll come up to me and say, ‘How do you think she would react to this?’ And just before we started shooting the first episode, they asked me my opinion about some things, and I was able to give it to them, and then I saw that they’d been put into the second. I know I can ask them and they can ask me and it feels great. But for the most part, I love just saying their words.
The Good Wife debuts on MBC4 at midnight on January 19.