Move over, Law & Order: When it comes to stage actors on TV, no show does it better than CBS’ juicy legal drama The Good Wife. Though it’s set in Chicago, this Emmy-nominated hit is filmed in New York, so it’s not surprising to see Denis O’Hare and Joanna Gleason as judges; a jury panel that includes Tovah Feldshuh, Christopher Evan Welch, James Monroe Iglehart, Joel Hatch and Jeff McCarthy; plus James Carpinello (!) as the love interest of Emmy winner Archie Panjabi’s gorgeous gumshoe Kalinda. And get this: Six of the show’s lead actors have appeared on Broadway, a seventh has starred off-Broadway and in theaters around the country, and an eighth has graced the stage in L.A. Wow! In honor of this fabulous show’s second season premiere on September 28, let’s look back at the stage roots of The Good Wife’s multitalented cast.
The show’s luminous star brings dignity and smarts to what could have been a stock TV character: political wife Alicia Florrick, who’s forced to take a junior associate job after her cheating husband gets locked up. After famously leaving the megahit ER a decade ago, Margulies kept Nurse Hathaway’s curls to play a graduate student enthralled with Donald Sutherland’s hermetic artist in Jon Robin Baitz’s 2001 drama Ten Unknowns at Lincoln Center Theater (above), then co-starred with Benjamin Bratt in the 2003 sex comedy Intrigue with Faye at MCC Theater. She had bad luck in her only Broadway appearance, the short-lived 2006 dysfunctional family drama Festen, as the daughter of Ali MacGraw. We’d say Margulies is overdue for portraying a great love affair—on TV and on stage.
This versatile leading man (who’s flirting with a sexual harassment suit as Alicia’s boss and would-be lover, Will Gardner) has turned up on stages all over America in roles that don’t trade on his good looks. Well, one did: Just last year, Charles played the Gentleman Caller in Long Wharf Theatre’s revival of The Glass Menagerie. Winner of a 2004 Drama Desk Award in the ensemble of Neil LaBute’s The Distance from Here at MCC Theater (above, with Anna Paquin), Charles brought mystery to Adam Bock’s The Receptionist at MTC in 2007 and has starred in plays at Steppenwolf (Richard Greenberg’s The Well-Appointed Room) and ATC in San Francisco (Caryl Churchill’s A Number). Honestly, we would expect no less from a proud alum of Stagedoor Manor theater camp!
TV audiences know Christine Baranski as The Good Wife’s tough, glam senior partner Diane Lockhart and Emmy-winning scene-stealer Maryann Thorpe on Cybill. Theater fans know her as a two-time Tony Award winner for Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing (1984) and Neil Simon’s Rumors (1989, above with Boyd Gaines). Baranski is an unparalleled stage comedienne, as she’s demonstrated in hits such as Terrence McNally’s Lips Together, Teeth Apart (1992 at MTC), Paul Rudnick’s Regrets Only (2006 at MTC) and the 2008 Broadway revival of Boeing-Boeing as a sassy French maid. She can sing, too! After going out of town in Mame and Sweeney Todd, Baranski showed off her pipes as sexy Tanya in the film version of Mamma Mia! This dame does it all.
He's the go-to guy to play naughty rogues, from Mr. Big on Sex and the City to politician Peter Florrick on The Good Wife. Not so well known—until he talked about it in a 2008 Broadway.com Q&A—is Chris Noth’s extensive stage background. Just after earning an M.F.A. from Yale Drama School, he tackled Hamlet under Zoe Caldwell’s direction; 20 years later, he won raves as Teach in American Buffalo in the Berkshires (above). Pre-Good Wife, Noth starred in two plays with political themes: the 2000 Broadway revival of The Best Man, winning a Theatre World Award as an ambitious senator, and Atlantic Theater’s 2008 premiere of Beau Willimon’s Farragut North as a campaign manager. He returned to Broadway in 2011 as part of the ensemble cast of That Championship Season.
Alan Cumming’s Emmy-nominated turn as intense political consultant Eli Gold is double the fun for anyone who has met the Tony-winning actor. In real life, Cumming is a cheeky Scot who’ll pose nude (in ads for Cumming, the Fragrance), go on stage in a dress (in the National Theatre of Scotland’s acclaimed Bacchae) and dye his hair platinum on a whim. Cumming is equally at home with high art (Hamlet) and pop culture (Spice World). But we’ll never forget his performance in the role that brought him to America for good: the Emcee in Sam Mendes’ smash-hit 1998 Broadway revival of Cabaret (above). Magnetic and fearless, Cumming was the personification of pre-war decadence and made an iconic part his own. To see this free spirit on network TV in a custom-made suit, commanding a conference room? Delicious.
From the “we spotted him first” department, Graham Phillips jumped from Broadway.com Fresh Face to The Good Wife as Zach Florrick, Alicia and Peter’s confused and slightly rebellious son. The precocious California-born actor got his start at Laguna Playhouse in the title role of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, played Tiny Tim opposite Jim Dale in A Christmas Carol at Madison Square Garden and headlined the New York City Opera's The Little Prince—all before making his Broadway debut as bar mitzvah boy Evan Goldman in Jason Robert Brown’s 2008 musical 13 (above). With so many professional credits, it’s no surprise that Phillips, now 17, can hold his own in emotional scenes with Julianna Margulies.
Mary Beth Peil
Before she became America’s favorite TV grandmother (first on Dawson’s Creek and now as Jackie Florrick on The Good Wife), Mary Beth Peil spent the 1960s and 70s as a professional opera singer, appearing often at the Met. A role in Kiss Me, Kate steered her to musical theater, and she went on the road in 1983 with Yul Brynner in The King and I (above), picking up a 1985 Best Actress Tony nomination when the production came to Broadway just before the actor’s death. Peil has been in demand ever since, both in plays (The Naked Truth, A Cheever Evening) and musicals (Broadway revivals of Nine and Sunday in the Park with George). We’re excited to welcome this beautiful actress back to Broadway this fall as the Concierge in Lincoln Center Theater’s starry new musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.
We almost overlooked the actor who goes head to head with Julianna Margulies as Alicia’s scheming rival associate Cary Agos. Matt Czuchry (pronounced zoo-crie) headed west after graduating from the College of Charleston, landing in the casts of TV’s Young Americans, Hack and Gilmore Girls (as Rory’s boyfriend Logan), plus four episodes of Friday Night Lights. Still, he found time to play the title role in the Geffen Playhouse's 2007 L.A. premiere of Wendy Wasserstein’s final play, Third, about a liberal professor who’s convinced that her privileged jock student Woodson Bull III (Czuchry, above with Sarah Drew) is guilty of plagiarism. Matt, it’s time to make your New York stage debut.
Want more Photo Flashbacks? Check out our features on the casts of Mad Men and True Blood.