The Good Wife's Julianna Margulies is not a lawyer, she just plays one on TV. But her grandmother was an attorney at a time when very few women were, she told a sold-out crowd at the third annual "Steppenwolf Salutes Women in the Arts" luncheon held in March as part of Women's History Month.
In an interview with Steppenwolf Theatre's Artistic Director Martha Lavey, Margulies revealed The Good Wife was initially going to be shot in L.A. or Vancouver. But she refused to sign on unless it would be done in New York: "There's only so much of a gypsy life you can have if you want to be a wife or mom. Thank God, I haven't been punished for it, for choosing my family first."
In response to an audience member's question whether playing a lawyer up to 14 hours a day ever causes her to become confused as to who she really is, she said "Not now that I have a 4-year-old. He reminds me every day of my place in this world."
Margulies said she only learns her lines for a day at a time so she can stay spontaneous and in the moment -- this is also the reason why she doesn't look ahead at future scripts.
Although she has lived in Los Angeles, as a native New Yorker she prefers her hometown where she feels "grounded, can touch everything and ride the subway." As for her life in L.A., "When you have roses in your garden all year long, something's wrong."
On Chris Noth as her TV husband in CBS' The Good Wife, she said: "They ran his name by me. I thought it was genius casting -- women are drawn to him. We did Law & Order together -- it was my first TV series -- and he prophetically told me he thought he should be nice to me because one day he might be on my show!" And now he is!
Another leading man helped her out in her breakout television series, ER, where she played a suicidal nurse who was supposed to die in the pilot. As she was preparing to accept work elsewhere, co-star George Clooney left a message on her answering machine telling her, "Don't take another job. I think you're going to live." He had overhead a conversation of then-NBC program chief Warren Littlefield who had been impressed with her work in the pilot. She stayed on for five years, then left of her own volition reportedly walking away from another two years and $27 million.
Julianna Margulies won an Emmy as ER nurse Carol Hathaway, her first. Her second Emmy was last season for The Good Wife. She holds the record for Screen Actors Guild Awards at eight wins which means a lot to her, she said, because it represents actors voting for other actors. She also has a Golden Globe for The Good Wife.
Margulies is encouraged by the fact that so many pilots this year have women as leads. "Executives are realizing it's women who watch television and women who are buying the advertised products," she said.
But watch out: She has no patience for divas. "'Two hundred years ago, you were a jester in a court,' I think whenever I meet an actor who's a diva. Cure AIDS or cancer, then I'll bow down."