“The Good Wife” is turning everything you know and love about the show on its head, and there’s new energy and a brand new landscape for Season 5, according to series star Julianna Margulies.
Season 4 of the critically-acclaimed CBS drama ended with Margulies’ character, Alicia Florrick, opening her door and saying, “I’m in.” She agreed to leave her law firm and start a new one with Cary Agos (Matt Czuchry).
“I was so happy too because if Will had been standing at the door, then I would’ve felt like I was in a soap opera, but with Cary standing at the door, I felt like I’m in an adult drama,” Margulies told The Huffington Post in a phone interview.
Season 5 (premieres Sunday, Sept. 29 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS) has been described as a “civil war” and a “bloodbath,” with characters who were formerly close friends — even lovers — turning on each other. Consider this: the Season 5 premiere is titled “Everything is Ending.” There will be endings, new beginnings and major changes as Alicia, Cary and the other fourth year associates plan their exit from Lockhart/Gardner in secret. This means Alicia will have to lie to her boss and one-time lover Will Gardner (Josh Charles).
“I mean, there are moments where people are going to hate my character and think she’s just awful and then literally the next scene, you’re going to understand why she did what she did and hate Will’s character and then it will flip,” Margulies said.
Keep reading for more on the big “Good Wife” changes, the new dynamics and a possible endgame plan for the series.
I watched the premiere today and loved it.
I haven’t seen it, is it good?
The pacing was great. I love when you guys are racing against the clock.
Yeah, it’s intense. I have to say, this season, every episode feels like that energy.
When we talked in April you said the first 15 episodes were mapped out and it was exciting stuff. Are you still super excited?
Well, now I’m more excited about it because now the proof is in the pudding. It’s one thing for them to tell me their ideas, it’s another thing for me to read the scripts that these ideas have formulated into. I’m not just saying this because it’s my show, but honestly — we are a network show. We do 22 episodes a year. I always say you can’t make 22 home runs. You just can’t. It’s just too hard, we never have enough time and Robert and Michelle [King, the co-creators] can only stay awake so many hours of the day. However, every episode is better than the next. I’ll email them after reading the episode and ask them, “How are you doing it? Are you awake? Are you eating?” I want to keep them healthy and fed.
When I got to Episode 5, which is truly when civil war happens … it is a gut-wrenching episode, in that I think it will be racing the whole time, at least as I read it. I don’t know how it came out. I sent [the writers room] a huge basket full of brownies, cookies and fruit. I said, “Please keep eating sugar and stay awake [laughs] because whatever you’re doing, I don’t want it to stop.” It’s so good. I truly don’t know how they’re doing it and I’m sure we can’t sustain this kind of intensity for this long. It’s the luxury of a cable show because they only do 10-12 [episodes], but so far this season we’re on Episode 7 and I’m more excited now than I was in April.
What are you looking forward to getting out of this Season 5 story?
I think what I’m most looking forward to is a whole new fresh energy and a different landscape for the show. There’s going to be a lot more at stake, not just the cases you see, but the people that you’ve cared about for the last four years are really coming into their own and showing their true colors in a way that some people will agree with and others won’t. I mean, there are moments where people are going to hate my character and think she’s just awful and then literally the next scene, you’re going to understand why she did what she did and hate Will’s character and then it will flip. The way they’ve done it is incredibly complex and so exciting to play that I feel like I’m learning all over again what Alicia is capable of and who she is.
That’s so funny you say that. My next question was: How has this decision changed Alicia and has it changed the way you play her?
Well, yeah. What I think it is is a play of the mind in a certain way, in that she’s doing this horrible betrayal to Will in so many ways. Because she wants to leave early so she doesn’t have to sit around lying to him and Diane and cut off the relationship before it blows up into something even worse, she can’t do it because these fourth years want their bonuses. It’s one of those things where you understand where they’re coming from, but to stick around and lie for three weeks to people who took you in — when no one would have you, by the way. Will Gardner is the only reason that Alicia has a job. She happens to be very good at her job and she happens to have done very well for the firm, but there are so many emotions at play here and so much at stake in her leaving, that sticking around for the extra three weeks and lying makes Episode 5 so much worse when they all find out they’re leaving. What ends up happening though is that Will starts doing things to outsmart Alicia. Alicia knows him so well and has a mind as quick as his that she then throws him curve balls by going after him in a different, unexpected way and they just keep one-upping each other. It’s so much fun to watch.
Is Will the sole force behind Alicia leaving? Is there more going on in her head that viewers aren’t privy to?
I think that the main decision was when the husband won the governorship. She knows that if she stays at Lockhart/Gardner she will always be tempted to be with the man she never fully gave herself to. She made a commitment to try this marriage and as long as she tries out this marriage, she can’t be around Will. The most important decision for her was, “How do I make this marriage work?” And I think that at that moment she realizes … when they were in the car in the very last episode and she just says, “I don’t know how to get out of this.” What do I do? I don’t get to sit in the car with the man I’m in love with. [Laughs.] I can’t go on cases with him, I can’t sit in his office late at night discussing how we won a case when all I want to do is kiss him. That was really the prime reason for her leaving.
When she sees how Diane and Will also work, there’s a very slippery slope of moral integrity that happens with Alicia. David Lee now is a much bigger fixture and he really is the most immoral character on the show. He’d throw anybody under the bus … I think she doesn’t want to be around it. She believes — or she’s trying to make herself believe — that she can have a firm with distinct morals and values that is not the path of Lockhart/Gardner. That definitely plays into it. I think if she and Will had never started anything and she didn’t know him at all, I don’t think she would have left. She’s the partner at a huge law firm doing very well.
I’ve heard the season described as “civil war” a few times, has that changed the set atmosphere?
It gets intense. Christine [Baranski] and I had a scene the other day … It’s so hard to stay angry because we love each other so much. [Laughs.] It’s hard, it’s very intense. Josh and I had a scene where it was just like dynamite was going off. It’s in the previews of the show coming up where he finds out, rips everything off my desk and tells them to escort me out. As someone who is one of Josh’s and Christine’s biggest admirers, it’s also so great to watch great acting. It’s such a privilege. After we do the scenes, we wait until they’re all over and in the can and we hug each other and say, “Oh my god, that was so great!” It’s actually very exciting.
Is there any chance the new firm won’t happen at all? Will there plans be quashed?
Well, Lockhart/Gardner is definitely doing everything in their power to make that happen. I think that’s the challenge that Alicia finds the most fun. This is a woman who was at the bottom of the barrel and scraped her way back up, got out and made it and now she has to climb out of a really big deficit and I think that’s her challenge. I think she’s really good at that. She’s now enjoying the challenge of saying, “I know you think you told me so, but watch.” It’s making her a lot stronger and a little bit, probably, act in a way she probably wouldn’t characterize herself as.
She was kind of the underdog for the first four seasons. You wanted to root for her, you wanted her to come out on top.
Right, she was the underdog. She has a great line in the pilot where she tells one of her clients. “Just be a Teflon pan. Don’t watch TV, don’t care about what people say about you, don’t listen, don’t read the papers.” She’s so used to deflecting negative energy around her when people judged and assumed who she was. I think in a certain way she’s been prepped for battle the last four years. She’s the underdog, but now she has the tools to win.
How does Alicia do with the new first lady power?
Right now it’s at the stage where he hasn’t been sworn in. It’s sort of laying down the foundation, getting the team together. There’s a very funny scene where we’re doing family pictures, I’m in the proper dress and sitting on the couch and then you just realize it’s the last place she wants to be. [Laughs.] It’s not who she is at all. I think she loves the power that comes with it. There’s a great line that Diane says to Will in the sixth episode that I just thought was brilliant and I pray to god they don’t cut it out: “They’re just like Bill and Hillary, only on steroids.” [Laughs.] It’s kind of true, the two of us just start to plow people down. Bill and Hillary didn’t plow people down, but there’s power in numbers. As a couple, I think they’re finding their stride and she loves it. She loves that part. I don’t know if she agrees with it, but she’s definitely going to utilize it while she can.
She didn’t like the spotlight, but she’s sort of learned how to play it.
You guys are celebrating 100 episodes this season, which is big.
Yeah, episode 10 is our 100th episode, which is, yeah, wow.
It’s a big feat, especially in network TV today. Do you think the show has another 100 episodes in it?
Oh my god, Chris! Did you just truly say that? Another 100? How many years would that be?! [Laughs.] How many seasons would that be?
Would that be 10? Season 10?
I don’t know! I don’t think so. I once asked Robert how many he thought he had in him … I have enough in me as long as they want to write. As long as the writing stays like this, I can keep going. He told me a while ago … he said, “I know I have seven in me. I’m not sure if I have more, but I definitely have seven.” If they’ll have us, I think seven is a great number. It’s such a feat nowadays to get to episode 100 in any television. I don’t know, as long as the writing stays crisp and fresh and exciting, why not?
“The Good Wife” Season 5 premieres Sunday, Sept. 29 at 9 p.m. ET on CBS. Stay tuned for more from Julianna Margulies after the premiere.