Julianna Margulies is a good-enough actress to have won two Emmys for her starring role in the CBS drama, "The Good Wife." And with the new TV season beginning, she's working as hard at her role as ever. Jane Pauley has our Sunday Profile:
Television audiences know Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, "The Good Wife" of a disgraced philandering politician -- a stay-at-home mom who goes back to work as a lawyer when her husband goes to prison.
As Margulies launches a seventh season, Alicia has changed -- and maybe Margulies has, too.
"I admire the way she is silent more than she speaks," she told Pauley. "And you can see the wheels turning in her head. And I realize it's so much more powerful to actually think before you speak than to just go off the top of your head, which was so the way I used to react as an actress. I hold my emotions on my sleeve, and she holds them so deep down."
It had been her idea to meet at the Booth Theatre on Broadway, but she was uncharacteristically late
"I'm sorry, I'm never late," she apologized.
"Punctuality is big with you?" asked Pauley.
"Huge. I'm a punctual girl. I think it has to do with growing up. When I was young, I was always late for school, and I hated it. And by the time I was in high school -- I lived eight miles from the school -- I got up at 5:00 and I walked. I walked to school every day in high school because I could not bear to be late!"
Her mother was a former ballerina; punctuality was not her thing. "My mom was sort of soul-searching, trying to find herself," she said.
Her father was the man who coined one of advertising's most memorable lines: "He wrote, 'Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is'!"
So, how did Margulies become the person she is? "I think it's a confluence of many different things. I was lucky to have two incredibly loving parents. But I was also the product of a divorce and of an instability in my life with where we were going to live and what country we were going to live in.
"I was born here in New York, and then we moved to France when I was very young, and then we moved to England. And then we came back to the States when I was six."
And then, back to England again! She can, she told Pauley, switch on and off her accents. "I grew up in Sussex, so it's a bit of a different accent. It's not quite London. It's a bit more country in a way."
With all the moving around, Margulies often felt like a fish out of water. "I was the American girl in England. When I came to America, I was the English girl in America. And [then] I went back to England. Like, I never quite fit in my shoes, until I got to college.
"And when I went to Sarah Lawrence College and got up on that stage, the first play I was cast in, I felt like I was home."
An actress was born.
And in 1994, at age 28, she became a star. In the role of Nurse Carol Hathaway on "E.R.," opposite George Clooney, she earned her first Emmy.
But after six years, Margulies decided to leave the show, reportedly turning down a $27 million contract, to return to the city she considers home: New York.
She made some movies (including "Snakes on a Plane"), had a recurring role on "The Sopranos," and was happily, determinedly single.
"It's so funny -- my mom, when I was about 35, I said to her, 'You know what? I never want to have kids and I never want to be married. I love my freedom.' And she said, 'Oh, darling, don't say that. Every woman should get married at least once in their life' -- which can kind of give you an idea of my colorful mother!
"And she said, 'It's important. I hope you experience it at least once.' And I rolled my eyes."
But then, at age 39, she met Keith Lieberthal. He had never even heard of Nurse Hathaway, or Julianna Margulies for that matter. But he was interested.
"Well, he was sort of hitting on me in a way," she said. "And I was charmed. But I just assumed he was an actor. We met through a mutual friend who was an agent. And it was a whole bunch of theater actors at this dinner."
Been there, done that -- she wasn't interested.
"But he said, 'No, I'm actually a lawyer.' I was so stunned. And he said, 'Well, I was a Wall Street litigator for six years, but I just recently quit. I didn't like who I was becoming.' And I thought, 'Oh my God, I like this man. He's a thinking, feeling, smart human being.'"
He proposed in Paris. And she said yes.
"We came home, and six days later I found out I was pregnant," Margulies said. "Which, you know, at 40 was not just shocking but miraculous. So I said, 'Well, we'll wait until the baby's born and then we'll get married.' And Keith just said, 'No, I want to get married with you pregnant.' And I said, 'Great.' So I waddled down the aisle at seven months!"
A year after the birth of their son, Kieran, CBS offered her a starring role in "The Good Wife." Season 7 finds Alicia Florrick restarting her legal career.
"My routine is, I go into my dressing room, and I shut the door. And I put a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door. And I lie down on my couch, and I study all my lines for tomorrow. So at least it's in there. But it's not in there too much that I'll forget the lines I need for today. But that's all I do."
Pauley asked, "What's your IQ?"
"I don't know," she laughed.
Shot on a Brooklyn soundstage, the show's proximity to Broadway has attracted theater veterans like Christine Baranski and Alan Cumming, who plays political operative Eli Gold.
"I came into it about two-thirds of the way through the first season," Cumming told Pauley. "All I knew about it was that it was about Jules and I knew it would be -- you know, she's got quality in her veins."
Quality that has been recognized with two more Emmy Awards for Best Actress -- in 2011 and last year.
And at 49, Julianna Margulies says she has much for which to be grateful. "There's a different appreciation you get for things when you're at a different time in your life. And I obviously waited for the right time, and I got lucky, I got so lucky. I mean, I pretty much say it every night when I go to bed, how lucky I am, and with everything. I love my job. "
For more info:
- "The Good Wife" (CBS)