'The Good Wife': Josh Charles talks Will-Alicia sexual tension (and getting whistled at)
The Good Wife returns tonight (CBS, 10 p.m. ET), and Alicia (Julianna Margulies) and Will (Josh Charles, pictured) will be dealing with the growing sexual tension that had us rewinding the March 16 episode. Charles recently phoned PopWatch for a spoiler-free chat about Mr. Gardner and Mrs. Florrick, former Georgetown classmates who now work together at a Chicago law firm. He’s a single partner; she’s a married, mother-of-two junior associate who just used her disgraced politician husband (Chris Noth) — now on house arrest and sleeping in a guest room — for sex after she and Will (finally?) shared a kiss. Yeah, you really should be watching…
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Someone told me you actually got whistled at on the street after the Will and Alicia kiss aired. True or false?
JOSH CHARLES: The other day, yeah, I was walkin’ on the street, and these three ladies were walking behind me, and they whistled at me. I didn’t know they were whistling at me, but instinctively, when someone whistles, you turn around, and one was like, “Yeah, that was for you.” [Laughs] And it made my day. My girlfriend was out of town, I was lonely, and I needed a little pick me up… That’s a joke on one level — it’s flattering and obviously, I sort of humbly laugh at that. But then there’s middle-aged men stoppin’ on the street because they just like the show. The characters are working hard both personally and professionally, so it makes things complex. There’s a sense of “I love these two people together, and there’s so many reasons why right now they shouldn’t be together as she works out her relationship with her husband, and she has two kids, and Will’s her boss.” And yet there is this sort of pull and connection between them that has some sort of tragic components to it. I’m really just happy that people are responding to that because we’re enjoying playing it.
When did you first realize that fans were as into the Will-Alicia storyline as we are?
Like everything with the show, it’s been just a wonderful surprise. I had a hint from the pilot and what was discussed with me when I joined. But I have to compliment Robert and Michelle King, the creators of the show, for letting things take their time. You read these scripts each week, and I’m just always blown away by the attention to subtlety and to nuance and at times, ambiguity. [Laughs] I feel like they write in a way that lends us, when we play the scenes, to bring a lot of subtextual interaction to it.
Like in the scene when Will and Alicia discussed why he removed her from that case. Those long stares…
That was one of those moments. There wasn’t a lot of dialogue, and the dialogue that was there had a lot of double meanings. [Laughs] When you get into matters of the heart, sometimes things aren’t spoken and a look can say a tremendous amount. You’re always trying to find the truth in any given scene, and that just felt right. The real meaning is that we still have a real connection and there’s a lot of longing and a lot of regret and a lot of what-could-have-beens. That’s been exciting, that people have been questioning me, be it on the street or what have you, just wondering what’s going on? What’s happening? What happened between these people back then? It’s not like I sit here and have all the answers. I don’t. All I can say is that I have a tremendous amount of faith –- more so than I’ve ever had actually on a television gig — in the people that created it. They have a lot of compassion for all these characters, even the darker ones, and I think that shows. It’s a very complicated equation between Will and Alicia, and I have the utmost confidence that they’ll handle it appropriately. Don’t you think the way they handled [the kiss] was good? It gives everybody a little bit of what they want, but there are obstacles that will still be in the way. That’s what makes it good drama. Also, Julianna and I are friends. We’ve known each other a long time. We bring a history, and because our characters have a history, I have to think that helps the process.
Do you know what Will and Alicia had at Georgetown? I know you’re not going to tell me, but —
Mandi, I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you, and I don’t want to kill you. You sound so sweet.
Well played. But have they told you the backstory, or do they keep you in the dark until you read it in a script?
I know a little bit but not a lot. I think Robert and Michelle, they have their master plan and certainly talk about things. Part of what’s so great about the show is that things have been surprising me. They’re writing in California and we’re shooting here in New York it, so to get to relay to them what you’re feeling as you inhabit this character — not only what they see, but what you’re experiencing physically in the moment -– is pretty great. It’s been a fun part of the job to have those emails and talks back and forth. So to answer your question, I have a little idea, but it’s still a work in progress.
Can you at least reveal whether we’ll see Will in more casual clothes? Those episodes are very popular.
[Laughs] Casual clothes? What is this? What is this?! Casual clothes?
I’m serious. People like it when you wear jeans.
No one talks about what I do as an actor, just basically how I dress and what I look like?
No, no… Now you’ve turned on me.
No, see I’m teasing you. I’m not just some piece of meat, Mandi.
I think it’s also because those are after-hour weekend cases, and they shake things up.
It’s nice, I agree. It’s almost like his suit is his armor. It’s nice to see all of the characters out of their element and dressed like normal people. When you ask what I know: What I know from talking with Robert is that when we started the show, Will was kind of bored with the law. This guy is very young to be a partner in a law firm, had achieved everything he set out to do, became a legal behemoth, richer than his parents. But after all that, he maybe had regret in life with some other things that he was interested in. Obviously, he’s athletic, and, I think, fancies himself a baseball player [Laughs], and he pursued what was drilled in him at a young age — the law. Now we’ve seen that sort of lethargic Will move in to action. And a lot of that’s brought on by the presence of Alicia, and the challenges of the year — economic challenges, legal challenges. I think he began to fall in love with the law again and set his sights even higher. When people think of the best lawyers in Chicago, he wants to be the first person that comes to mind. I think in the “Heart” episode, that same thing translates on a personal level. Having Alicia back in his world has helped see a little bit softer side of Will that in order to get where he’s gotten, he had to ignore. I think that’s where the sort of lack of commitment in his life, lack of family, the womanizing, comes in: He made his choice, and his choice was “I’m gonna be successful at all costs.” In making that choice, which a lot of people do, he put aside a part of his life, the emotional side. He has tremendous respect for Alicia as a lawyer, and their relationship is ultimately built on a friendship, but I think there’s so much else happening between them that it opens him up in a way that makes him reevaluate what it is he wants.
Are we going to see the dinner date Will suggested they have after a week of not talking about the kiss in the April 6 episode?
No. How’s that?
Will we ever see it?
Who knows? All I can tell you is that it doesn’t happen in the April 6 episode.
Have you filmed it? Or are you saying that you haven’t filmed it yet, and that’s why you’re not sure if we’ll be seeing it?
Mandi, again it goes back to you sound like a nice person. I don’t want to tell you these things. You won’t get out alive. I’d have to kill you.
Seriously though, when you signed on for this show, did you think it would become the kind of series that would have this sort of mystery surrounding it? It’s kind of amazing.
It is amazing. I agree with you. I didn’t. I knew Robert and Michelle were wonderful people who had written a great pilot. I knew it had a great cast. But other than that, what else do you know? You’re sort of jumping into this ship. The things that I was able to tell you come out of talking to Robert about the character and getting more a sense myself of the character. When you do these interviews at the beginning of the year, who the hell knows what you’re talking about. It’s a TV show, the thing’s just evolving. It’s just a baby. You’re sittin’ there tryin’ to explain everything, and it’s like well, I don’t f—in’ know what is, you know. It’s just being created. So here it is now, and you’re starting to see what they’re interested in, the political world that they’re diving into, and the underbelly of Chicago. I love that they’re not trying to overly simplify Will. He is complicated. He’s a lawyer. He’s ruthless. He seems cutthroat, very competitive. He can make hard decisions. But I also think he’s incredibly loyal, pragmatic at times, and practical. And lonely. That’s the sense I get. He’s a character that has worked really hard to achieve what he’s achieved and now he’s sittin’ there a little lonely [Laughs] and wondering if this is all there is. Not to sound corny, but that episode was called “Heart.” There’s something there that gets reawakened.
I get what you’re saying. It’s like we put Christine Baranski’s character [firm partner Diane Lockhart] on our list of TV’s Best Bitches at the start of the season, and now I don’t think we’d classify her as a bitch at all. She’s aggressive, but still fair and decent.
Right. You see her and Will together and they can butt heads, yell at each other, and completely disagree, and then also have a drink and laugh about it at the end of the night. There’s something about the way that’s been portrayed that I’ve found very authentic and also touching. People can duke it out, be partners and have different viewpoints, and also really respect each other and want their mutual endeavor to stay afloat… There’s an episode coming up where Diane and I are fighting, and someone on set said, “You’re a little mean in this scene.” I’m like, “That’s okay. We’re fighting. I can be mean in this scene. We’ve already seen them laugh and have a drink at the end of the night. That’s what people do. We know there’s the back-and-forth. We don’t have to sugarcoat anything.” [Laughs] I’m not interested in making him likeable, I’m interested in exploring his flaws, ’cause then it makes somebody more human and ultimately more understandable.
Are we going to see more of Martha Plimpton’s character, Patti Nyholm?
I hope that if she’s available they keep bringing her back. Everyone’s enjoying her on the show, and her and I going at it. [Laughs] We’ll beat the hell out of each other in court, and then we’ll have an exchange where we joke with each other, and then we’re back in court. That says so much about everything, you don’t need any other backstory. That just says it all.
Last question: We’ve seen what Will does when he works late. What about you? What do you keep with you on set?
I bring my guitar a lot. I’m a big blues fan, so I play old acoustic blues. Right now, I’m in a Skip James phase, so I’m trying to learn a lot of his tunes, which are really complicated. I started playing guitar later in my life, but it’s a real passion of mine. I’m working on trying to write a screenplay now about an old blues musician, so it’s part of me. I’m also studying Italian, so I bring my Italian books and work on that. And I bring my Scrabble on my iPhone.