Sunday News

Julianna Margulies’ journey from ER to The Morning Show

As she returns for a new season of her hit drama, the actor says some people have a hard time distinguis­hing between her and her characters, writes James Croot.


For almost three decades, Julianna Margulies has been a familiar face to lovers of American prime-time dramas. Between ER’s nurse manager Carol Hathaway and The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick, she created two memorable characters whose career and personal highs and lows made for compelling television.

Then there was her terrific turn as real estate agent Julianna Skiff on the final season of The Sopranos.

Her latest role is as journalist Laura Peterson, Margulies joining the already star-studded media drama The Morning Show for last year’s second season.

Ahead of its return to Apple TV+ this week, and just hours before the Screen Actors Guild strike came into force in mid-July, she sat down with Stuff to Watch via Zoom to chat about the show – and her career so far.

What was it about the character of Laura that made you want to play her?

I’d never seen a character like Laura on television – and it was such a great departure for me after seven years on The Good Wife.

People start thinking you are that person. I literally have been stopped when I was doing that show and asked to help someone in the middle of their divorce, because they were so sure that I was a lawyer.

With Laura, I loved her assurednes­s and how she handled herself in being outed on national television and fired for it. How she found out who she was really and climbed back up the chain on her own terms. I just found her to be complicate­d, but incredibly straightfo­rward.

One of the most amazing things about The Good Wife was how its storylines were often not only reflective of, but ahead of, the zeitgeist – how was that possible?

Joining an already establishe­d cast must have been challengin­g. How did you deal with any nerves that caused?

Fortunatel­y, the first scene I had was interviewi­ng Jen [Aniston] and her character [Alex Levy] is supposed to be quite nervous about me interviewi­ng her. My character is quite calm and finding it a little bit of a pain in the ass to have to interview a woman who was not gracious when all the shit went down.

But Laura also knows that she [Alex] is the ticket to be able to get back into the industry. It was a nice play – and it helped me calm down a little bit.

Between The Good Wife and ER, you must be Chicago’s most-famous non-resident. What sort of reception do you get when you do visit there?

Isn’t it weird? It is funny that the two big shows in my life that sort of catapulted me into a career were both set in

Chicago, but I’ve never lived there. I always apologise when I go there to do talks or fundraiser­s – and my niece lives there.

I had these sorts of conversati­ons with Robert and Michelle [King, the husbandand-wife showrunner­s].

We did an episode, in the third season about bitcoin and I had never heard of bitcoin and we did this whole case with [American Pie star] Jason Biggs.

I remember sitting with him and asking if he’d ever heard of it and he said: “No, this sounds insane.” I said to Robert: “I don’t know where you’re getting all this?”, and then, of course, six months later it’s all about bitcoin in the news.

I do know Robert is incredibly well read, and I think he watches everything – he’s always looking. My joke with him was “do you ever sleep?”

What do you think have been the biggest changes in the industry since you first appeared on ER in 1994?

I don’t think we were aware of how huge ER was. Forty-four million viewers was sort of the norm for us. The Game of Thrones finale [in 2018] got 19 million. Me and all my ER co-stars were laughing – that would have been a failure for us.

I think streaming has really changed the landscape of television. When I say that, there’s both good and bad. Working on the old 22-episode model, I was working on the same thing 10 months out of each year and felt like I was always just

going through a revolving door. I never had time to really sit and think about a character.

With streaming – and six to 10-episode seasons – what we used to call a mini-series – you shoot for three to five months and you have time for rehearsal, time to learn lines and to really indulge yourself in being with the character.

But, even though it was stressful, what I loved about the longer seasons was you began to realise that the writers, because they are watching you in dailies all the time, start writing to your strengths in the same way that you’re playing to their strengths.

I had a project set to go on a streaming platform just before the writers’ strike and we had to hand all 10-episodes in before we even started pre-production. That’s not to say writers couldn’t change things as we went, but the character was pretty locked already. I don’t know if that’s an advantage or a disadvanta­ge, I think that’s going to have to be one of those things where I have to see as I go – if we ever go.

I also know that while the writers and actors on The Good Wife only had three weeks off a year, it meant they had a constant income. With streaming only 10 episodes, there’s still half-a-year of income to find. It has become more of a hustle for writers and actors – and I think that’s what this fight is all about because it has changed the landscape of television. I think we need to find common ground – and we need fair pay.

 ?? ?? Margulies first made a splash as nurse manager Carol Hathaway on ER.
Margulies first made a splash as nurse manager Carol Hathaway on ER.
 ?? ?? Julianna Margulies returns as Laura Peterson for the third season of The Morning Show.
Julianna Margulies returns as Laura Peterson for the third season of The Morning Show.
 ?? ?? Margulies was the eponymous Good Wife – Alicia Florrick – for seven seasons from 2009.
Margulies was the eponymous Good Wife – Alicia Florrick – for seven seasons from 2009.
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