Julianna Margulies has no desire to direct, but she definitely earns her producer credit on The Good Wife.
CBS hosted a screening of the drama’s March 30 episode Wednesday night in New York, followed by a discussion with Margulies, co-creators Robert King and Michelle King, and Josh Charles, who makes his final appearance in the hour. By now, fans know his departure has been a year in the making. His contract expired at the end of the show’s fourth season, and the decision of whether or not to renew it coincided with when he was proposing to his wife and doing some soul-searching about his future. “Look, it’s a very long season doing a network television show, and somewhere in year 4, I kinda felt burnt out. Michelle and I had a long conversation about it, and I just felt a little fried and that I was ready for something different for me. That’s no reflection on how I feel about the show, it’s just more about what I want to do in my life,” he told moderator Charlie Rose. (“How much I’ve learned from working with Robert and Michelle about storytelling, the quality and depth of the writing — I mean, I’m afraid going out into the world,” he later admitted. “You don’t see that every day. That’s not something that I take lightly.”)
Margulies first learned Charles was thinking of not renewing his contract in March of 2013. “I got a call from Michelle and Robert, and they said, ‘We need to tell you something. Josh is gonna be leaving the show.’ And I said, ‘Why?‘ And they said, ‘Well, his contract is up, and he doesn’t want to renew.’ My head just started spinning. I said, ‘Well, well, well, wait. Did you see if he could do less episodes? Maybe offer him more directing gigs,” she recalled to much laughter. “I just became the Alicia lawyer trying to figure out how to negotiate this contract. And [the Kings] were both incredibly open about it. They said, ‘We’re open for anything. We don’t have enough time to say goodbye to his character properly in this short amount of episodes.’ Because we shoot so in advance, and they’ve written episodes and have a storyline planned. So it kinda meant his character was gonna just disappear, or someone was just gonna talk about him leaving, and I couldn’t accept that. I thought he’s been such an integral part of the show, such an integral part of my character, and I felt like if this is gonna happen, let’s do it right. And they said, ‘Good luck.’”
Once everyone finished laughing again, she continued. “I called Josh, and I gave him terrible Jew guilt. I knew he was about to get married. I’m good friends with his wife, and they’re dear friends of ours. I said, ‘Josh, how about this: 15. Think about it. Wait. Think about it. Money in the bank for 15 episodes. Do you know how expensive it is to have a baby in New York City?’ I went right to the kid thing, and it was disgusting, honestly,” she said. “We were looking at kindergarten for our son at the time, and I was like, ‘Do you know how much private school is in New York?’ I went on this whole thing about kids and family, and he was like, ‘Well, 15? Let me think about that.’ And I said, ‘And two directing slots!’ And then I hung up and called [the Kings], and I was like, ‘How about 15?’ And immediately they both said, ‘If we have an arc, and we know we can write starting next season and finish up this season as planned, we can do this.’ And so I said [to Josh], ‘They’re gonna write amazing stuff!’ And the next thing I knew, it happened.”
“No baby, yet,” she added, looking at Charles, “but that will happen, too.”