Thankfully, the team behind The Good Wife wanted Margulies so badly that convincing them to film locally was easy. And preparing for the role was made simpler by the political sex scandals that seemed to be cropping up by the day. A key activity for Margulies was studying the before, during and after pictures of the wives involved: Elizabeth Edwards, Dina Matos McGreevey, Hillary Clinton, Silda Spitzer. “The one that hit me the most was Silda,” she says. “Two months before the whole thing blew up, she looked incredible. And then you saw her standing beside him at that podium, and it looked like she had aged 10 years. And then a year after that, she was in this Vogue article and she looked like a brand-new woman. There was a light in her eyes.” Anyone who saw Alicia Florrick looking haggard and drawn in the pilot of The Good Wife and then appearing sleek and regally self-sufficient in subsequent episodes will recognize this same transition.
Margulies has had to make her own adjustments since taking on the role. Her critically acclaimed performance has brought a level of public attention that has left her poor husband reeling. “We met when I was a guest on The Sopranos and doing an Off Broadway play,” she says. “I was off the radar. And now, four years later, he’s like, ‘Whoa!’” Margulies is truly bewildered by stars who draw even further attention to themselves by tweeting: “Why would you want someone to follow you on Twitter? I guess it might feel like a way of existing, if you have insecurity about your existence.”
She speaks more like a journeyman actor than a Hollywood fixture. “When a job ends for an actor, you do wonder when the next job will come,” she says. “I’m not above auditioning.” And Margulies, who spent the first two years of her career doing theater—and who, since ER, has starred in productions both on and off Broadway—longs for the day when she can again project her voice from a stage.
None of which means she’s not enjoying the success of The Good Wife. “I’m most thrilled that drama is succeeding at 10 o’clock,” she says, before launching into a critique of NBC’s failed decision to put Jay Leno on every weeknight at that hour. “It took away jobs from actors, writers, directors, producers, crew members…. It was a devastating move, and I’m so thrilled it didn’t work out.” And, of course, she’s excited about her own accolades—she admits that attending and winning at awards shows have been “fun” and “an honor.”
When it comes to tonight’s Oscars, though, Margulies is content to be a viewer. She says she will definitely tune in for the red carpet, and she’ll try to stay up to watch her old friend George Clooney vie for the best actor trophy, but she suspects that—with that big court scene left to learn and her alarm set for 5 a.m.—she might be snoozing before the first acceptance speech.