The Good Wife started production on season 6 Thursday, but since Christine Baranski wasn’t on the call sheet, she distracted herself that morning with coffee and a swim as the Emmy nominations were announced. “One doesn’t want to invest too much in it, but that said, when you find out that you’ve got a nomination, it’s always a wonderful thing and a great privilege,” the 12-time nominee says. With one win for Cybill, this is her fifth consecutive nomination for The Good Wife. “I always get the biggest kick to hear I’m in a category with Maggie Smith,” she says. “It just kind of blows my mind.”
Still, the day is a little bittersweet, Baranski admits. “The anticipation, for me, was my really great hope that the show would be recognized and get a nomination this year, because I thought, as so many people did, that it was an extraordinary year for the show. The Kings, Robert and Michelle, and our writers did an extraordinary job of crafting season 5 and taking the show in that brave place—so much drama, so much emotion, so much craftsmanship went into those 22 episodes. The audience was really invested in it,” she says. “We’ve got three actors with nominations [including supporting actor Josh Charles and guest actor Dylan Baker], and that’s largely because we’re just given such great writing. I don’t follow Twitter or anything,” she continues, with a laugh, “but I guess the show’s getting a lot of press for being snubbed.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Last March, there was a screening of the episode after Will was killed and a Q&A with the Kings, Julianna Margulies, and Josh. Julianna spoke about how she, essentially, negotiated Josh’s season 5 contract. What was your reaction when you heard he was leaving the show, and at what moment did you say, “Okay, this is actually going to give us a great story to tell”?
Christine Baranski: I just kept assuming he was going to change his mind. I even assumed he was going to change his mind once season 5 started, because the episode of them leaving the firm [“Hitting the Fan”]—I mean, he got to do brilliant work. I remember saying to Julianna once we were walking off the set, “Isn’t he gonna change his mind?” [Laughs] Because the season was just so powerful, and his own work was so powerful. But with all due respect, this was a decision that he made and he was going to follow through on it. I would say I was mostly in denial.
When it really hit me, it was very sad. I just remember his final day, I was at the monitor watching him do some work that was just him alone on camera. I was in tears. And then when he was in his dressing room, and I was about to leave the set, I just walked into his room and held him in my arms and sobbed. I didn’t say anything. I said, “I can’t talk to you. I’ll talk to you again.”
What episode will you submit? That episode after Will’s death when Diane fires the client and says, “If I were dead, it’s exactly what Will would do”?
There were so many beautifully-crafted episodes, but that one, when you saw how people were processing his death—who would have thought David Lee says nothing, just tells his assistants to get out, and then bursts into tears? He allows himself maybe four seconds of grief, and then you see him pull himself together. I fire the assistant who’s weeping and howling in the hall….The death of somebody can shake your world so deeply, that it was very interesting the way they wrote everybody’s grief in a particular way. Alicia couldn’t get out of bed, she was just missing in action. So yes, it may be that one [that I submit]. You know, sometimes you can have one great scene that’s in an episode where you don’t have much to do, and that happened to me a few years ago, when I tell Will off on the roof and say, “You’ve got to stop the affair.” It was just a great scene, but it was couched in an episode where the rest of the episode I didn’t have that much. So I think maybe you need an episode where you get a lot to do, and oh my God, that episode right after Will dies, for Jules and I both, it was just so much crying. [Laughs] Take after take after take after take.
The season led up to Diane asking to join Florrick/Agos because Louis Canning wants to replace her as managing partner at their firm or dissolve it. That was such a good twist.
As I said, death can have a very purifying effect on people. And you can reconfigure, reevaluate what’s important in your life, and you also think, “I’m through with a lot of bulls–t. I’m through with having to deal with people I don’t care about.” You come closer to living in your center. And that decision, when she just literally walks out, is like, I’m through with this. She’s literally leaving that building that’s so filled with the memory of she and Will. They struggled, and they weathered so many crises—to watch her firm be taken over, I think she’s had enough. She’s ready for a major change. I can’t, of course, give away where it’s gonna go, but I thought it was wonderful. At the end of that extraordinary season, there was yet one more amazing event that happened at the very end that I don’t think people saw coming. She walks out of the firm and suddenly, she’s sitting there in the enemy camp. [Laughs]
I talked to Julianna for EW’s Fall TV preview issue last year, early in production, and I could genuinely hear the excitement in her voice as she spoke about season 5. Do you feel like there’s that same energy heading into season 6?
Yeah. We’re coming off of an amazing season. Clearly people are more invested in this show than ever. So I think there’s a sense of excitement, and responsibility to the audience, and that we’ve got something really extraordinary here, and how lucky are we that we get to tell the story of our characters the next 22 episodes. It’s a real privilege. As I keep saying, that’s a real art to craft 22 in a row and do season after season of quality TV. It’s really a feather in the cap of CBS, and the Kings, and our writing staff. And let us not forget Jules, who carries the show on her back. She puts in extraordinary work, week after week. It’s not dropping in and doing half a season. 22 is a lot of work.
Last question: We’re asking everyone what show, past or present, they’d give an Emmy to simply because they love(d) it that much. What’s your pick?
You know when I was little, I watched The Dick Van Dyke Show. I remember doing a paper on it in grammar school, saying it was this great TV show. Oh my God, the pleasure it gave me. [Laughs]