Saturday, March 7th (8:00pm)
Moderator: James Corden (Host, The Late Late Show)
Panelists: Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski, Matt Czuchry; Creator & Executive Producers: Robert King, Michelle King
Panels about The Good Wife generally aren’t the most uproarious of events. Network television’s leading prestige drama is often very funny, but it’s a dry kind of humor, and it’s hard to get a lot of laughs out of discussions of major character deaths and local politics. So comedian James Corden was not an obvious choice of moderator, despite his connection to star Christine Baranski (they co-starred in Into the Woods this year). He turned out to be a good choice, though. Corden brought life and levity to the panel, whether he was licking Matt Czuchry’s face or asking Julianna Margulies why her leading men are always leaving her shows. (Margulies’ answer: “I think I make them look so good that they go off and have huge movie careers.”)
Of course, there was plenty of substance, too. Major themes of the night included the relative length of The Good Wife‘s seasons compared to other prestige dramas and the death, last season, of main character Will Gardner. (As Corden said, “We have to talk about Josh Charles. What the fuck?”)
The Good Wife‘s long seasons have been a recurring topic in recent discussions of the show; they were a major element of CBS’s Emmy push this year. The subject popped up in Corden’s first question, which asked why The Good Wife has been the sole network drama to full break into the ranks of prestige television. Robert and Michelle King credited the cast and the creative freedom allowed to them by CBS, and promised they aren’t bitter about making more prestige TV than all the other shows every year.
When Will’s death came up, Baranski pointed out that the familiarity that 22-episode seasons foster with characters may have contributed to the huge fan reaction. “I don’t think they get [that reaction]from shows that are just shorter runs,” she said. Czuchry agreed, saying that he wasn’t surprised by the extreme reaction, especially in light of the fact that Will’s exit was kept completely secret until air time. The audience, he said, was going through the stages of grief right alongside the characters.
Of course, this being The Good Wife, Alicia’s romantic life was another frequent topic. Corden asked the obvious question: Will Alicia ever leave Peter? Margulies answered, simply, that Peter is useful to Alicia right now — theirs is a “Bill-and-Hillary story.” (That particular phrasing drew something of a shocked reaction from the audience.) She said that as far as she’s concerned, Alicia will leave Peter when — and only when — she truly finds love. In the aftermath of Will’s death, Margulies said, Alicia isn’t going to let love pass her by again. She did, however, say that she would “truly love” to see Alicia leave Peter.
Corden also caught up with where Baranski’s and Czuchry’s characters have been lately. In response to Corden’s question about how Diane’s career goals have changed since Will’s death, Baranski said that Diane is more or less on track, and that Will’s death energized both her and Alicia. She praised the show’s work in writing Diane as a woman of strength and integrity — someone who “has the impulse to hold things together” — without insisting on having some other part of her life falling apart. “So often powerful women have a handicap … Diane deals with the world.”
Czuchry spoke about Cary’s recent brush with jail time, tying it back to the show’s long seasons and the ability that gives the writers to have characters grow and change organically. (“Organic” was a big buzzword of the night.) He said that he and the Kings referred to Cary’s prison arc this season as “the education of Cary Agos” — an interesting phrasing, considering that the Kings referred to The Good Wife as a whole as “the education of Alicia Florrick” in their letter to the fans after Will’s death.
After giving the guest actors and political cameos their due (“I made a fool out of myself with Gloria Steinem,” Margulies said) and briefly discussing the latitude that CBS gives the show with subject matter (“They allow us to talk about all the things you’re not supposed to talk about at a dinner party,” said Michelle King) and what it’s like as a married couple to write sex scenes (“Thank God we have them fooled,” said Michelle after Margulies mentioned that the cast and crew assume that the kinkier sex stuff is written by Robert), Corden moved on to audience questions. Some of these were straightforward — “When is Alicia gonna get laid?” asked one audience member. “That’s kind of a stay-tuned answer,” said Robert King.
Others took a little more answering, as when someone asked what Diane and Cary’s feelings are about Alicia’s run for state’s attorney. Czuchry and Baranski returned to the idea that characters’ relationships are always evolving, and that neither Diane nor Cary has the relationship with Alicia that they did a year ago. Both of them mentioned that their character felt a little abandoned by Alicia; Baranski in particular mentioned Diane’s line, from the beginning of the season, that “We could be the most powerful law firm in the country run by women” — something that won’t be true if Alicia leaves.
Perhaps the most interesting of the audience questions was the final one, which asked Margulies to compare Alicia to her E.R. character Carol Hathaway. Margulies seemed to put a lot of thought into her answer, which really boiled down to the idea that the characters want very different things out of life. Carol had a simple life, and really just wanted to be happy, but Alicia, Margulies said, is caught up in the “bubble of a perfect life,” which makes her ignore a lot of things that are making her unhappy. “Carol probably would’ve seen what Peter was doing the first day he did it,” Margulies said, and she wouldn’t have put up with it. Ultimately, said Margulies, the women just come from incredibly different backgrounds.
“I don’t think they’d have a conversation,” she said. “Unless Alicia ended up in the hospital. Or Carol was suing someone. That could be fun!”
Madelyn Glymour | Contributor