End of TV’s ‘Good Wife’ one less job opportunity for NYC stage actors

Image of "The Good Wife" TV show logoThat collective groan you heard Sunday night wasn’t because the Carolina Panthers lost the Super Bowl game. It was generated by  NYC-based stage actors who saw the commercial announcing CBS’ “The Good Wife” was ending this season after nine more episodes.

It and several other shows hire NYC actors for story arcs and guest appearances or even as series regulars. It’s kinda like supplemental income to support their theater habit.

For years Playbill bios in theater programs always included stints in TV’s “Law and Order.” And why not. The stage is the actor’s medium and it’s all about the dialogue. (Movies are the director’s medium and TV is the writers’, as the saying goes).  “TGW” was one of those rare shows with great dialogue, great plots and great direction.

 Julianna Margulies (left) and Christine Baranski in a scene from "The Good Wife."
America Ferrera (left) and Christine Baranski in a scene from “The Good Wife.”

This is the sixth season for “TGW” that stars theater favorite Christine Baranski as a partner in a law firm as well as Alan Cumming as Eli Gold, campaign manager of “good wife” Alicia’s Florick’s  (Julianna Margulies) cheating husband played by Chris Noth.

Cumming spent days between “TGW” in Greenpoint, Brooklyn at the  Broadway Stages studios and nights in “Cabaret” at Studio 54 once he became a regular on the show. Newsday reporter Linda Winer writes that casting director Mark Saks said Cumming likes to say, “I just put on the suit and the wig and become someone else. I feel like I’m working in drag.”

According to Saks, all of the series’ guests make the same union pay, called “top of show” salaries, which, depending on the union, hovers between the mid-$7,000s and low $8,000s for eight days of shooting. To read Winer’s story, click here.

Nathan Lane, a Tony Award winner for "The Producers," played a court appointed trustee to oversee the debt restructuring of the Lockhart/Gardner law firm.
Tony Award-winning actor Nathan Lane played a court appointed trustee to oversee the debt of the Lockhart/Gardner law firm in “The Good Wife.”

Other guest stars included theater favs Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwirth (she also was shooting “Blue Bloods” before taking a full-time gig in “Madame Secretary”), Audra McDonald, Dylan Baker, Kristin Chenoweth, Martha Plimpton, Jonathan Groff, Rita Wilson, Sarah Steele, F. Murray Abraham, Wallace Shawn, Christian Borle, John Benjamin Hickey, Laura Benanti, Nina Arianda, Linda Lavin, Denis O’Hare, Linda Emond, Tovah Feldshuh,  Kate Burton,  Craig Bierko, Boyd Gaines, Santino Fontana, Dick Latessa, Joanna Gleason … well, you get the idea.

Other shows that have done the same — depended on Broadway and off-Broadway talent while filing in NYC — include “30 Rock,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Gossip Girl,” “Damages”  “Ugly Betty” and “Special Victims Unit,” in which Tamara Tunie plays a medical examiner. I first saw her on stage at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey opposite Robert Cuccioli in the titles roles of “Antony and Cleopatra.”  Others who have trod the boards at that regional theater in Madison (NJ) include not only Dylan Baker but also Laila Robins, also a guest on “TGW” and “Blue Blood.” She’s also done work at McCarter Theatre in Princeton.