Making CBS' hit drama an equal-opportunity addiction, one suit at a time.

By EW Staff
Updated December 03, 2010 at 05:00 AM EST

The first year of The Good Wife was defined by Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski, and Archie Panjabi — the show’s trio of leading ladies, all of whom scored Emmy nominations for their work. But as the much-lauded CBS drama moved into its second season, something surprising happened: We fell hard for Wife‘s six complicated male characters, too. ”They always say that behind every powerful man is a strong woman,” says Margulies, ”but truly, The Good Wife doesn’t exist without these men. It just wouldn’t happen.”

Josh Charles as Will Gardner
The word mystique is thrown around a lot about Charles’ power partner (and a forbidden love interest for Margulies’ Alicia), Will Gardner. ”The character has mystique because of who Josh is as a performer,” says Baranski, whose Diane Lockhart often goes toe-to-toe with Will at law firm Lockhart/Gardner & Bond. ”He has a marvelous ease and subtlety. Josh is a particular example of what’s good about the show.” Here’s the intrigue: Even after a year and a half, we still don’t quite know who Will is — fragments of his identity trickle out every week. ”The shades of gray are fascinating,” says Charles, 39. ”I’m not interested in playing a character and having him be called ‘likable.”’

Alan Cumming as Eli Gold
Cumming may be The Good Wife‘s biggest breakout this year, largely because his cunning campaign manager, Eli, is so against type for the Cabaret star. ”When I heard that I was going to work with Alan but he was going to play a straight Jewish ballbuster, I was like, ‘Really? Alan Cumming? Are you sure?’ ” says Margulies of Cumming’s ruthless political operative. ”And then you watch him, and you can’t imagine anyone else in the role.” The 45-year-old Cumming couldn’t agree more with Margulies’ sentiment: ”I love playing Eli because he feels so different to me. I sort of feel like I’m in drag!”

Scott Porter as Blake Calamar
”He’s a bad boy,” says Porter, 31, of his character. ”He’s hard to like. He’s not there to win friends.” There’s an edge to Porter’s combative portrayal of the investigator that only intensifies when he’s up against rival sleuth Kalinda (Panjabi). Says Panjabi, ”Scott plays Blake with just the right amount of danger.”

Chris Noth as Peter Florrick
What, exactly, would make a cheating politician who’s trying to claw his way back to the top so irresistible to TV viewers? ”Well, he’s a little dirty,” quips Noth, 56. ”The guy loves hookers, c’mon!” All kidding aside, Noth has a serious idea about Peter’s appeal. ”People enjoy — and maybe there’s a certain amount of schadenfreude in it — the downfall of people in power,” Noth posits. Adds the actor’s onscreen wife, Margulies: ”There’s a magnetism about him, and it’s something to do with powerful men. He’s tall and sexy — a woman’s going to be drawn to him.”

Matt Czuchry as Cary Agos
In May, Cary seemed like history after he was ousted from the firm in favor of Alicia. But he was snatched up by the state’s attorney’s office, a brilliant move that made him a thorn in the side of his former employers — and about a zillion times more interesting. ”Matt has balanced deep vulnerability with motivated vindictiveness,” says Panjabi. ”It results in a character you can’t help but love, root for, and fear.” Czuchry, 33, relishes that tangled dissonance: ”It’s very unexpected what his motives are, whether they’re honest or manipulative. Walking that line has been fun.”

Michael Ealy as Derrick Bond
”When you first see him, he gives you a sense of confidence,” says Baranski of Ealy’s newly added partner, Derrick. ”Diane was so intrigued with him when she brought him on board. He is supposed to save the firm from financial ruin — but that smooth-operator thing can be very hard to read. Now the audience is saying, ‘Wait a minute. Who is this guy?’ ” That’s a good question, but Ealy, 37, is playing coy. ”Derrick’s an actor,” he teases. ”He’s very Machiavellian.”