The Good Wives
by Harvey Solomon
In the beginning the title character in The Good Wife, Alicia Florrick (Juliana Margulies), stood agonizingly silent beside her husband Peter (Chris Noth) as he admitted to extramarital indiscretions at a boisterous press conference. By personifying Tammy Wynette’s country classic “Stand by Your Man,” she stood in for a host of wronged spouses of disgraced politicians like gay New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey; high-end prostitute patron Eliot Spitzer, New York governor; and, most recently, sexting addict Anthony Weiner, New York congressman and laughingstock mayoral candidate.
As the Emmy award-winning The Good Wife enters its fifth season on CBS beginning September 29, many characters’ romantic entanglements remain messily unresolved. The once torrid affair between Alicia and Will (Josh Charles) has cooled, and Peter has surprisingly asked her to renew their vows. Sparks still fly whenever savvy senior partner Diane (Christine Baranski) encounters her sexy on-and-off paramour Kurt (Gary Cole). The revelation of the dangerous, estranged husband Nick (Marc Warren) of crack investigator Kalinda (Archie Panjabi) exposed a torturous past and uncertain future.
In real life, the three female co-stars have happily enjoyed far more marital harmony. On October 15, Baranski celebrates her 30th anniversary with husband Matthew Cowles. The Buffalo native moved to New York City after high school, one of those countless, intrepid souls eager to become an actor. She attended Julliard and landed a role on a popular soap opera, Another World, and a small part in a feature film, Lovesick.
But it was the stage that was calling, and good notices augured for future success. “Devastating comic timing, sexiness with a grain of salt, an irrepressible urge to dance,” wrote a reviewer in The New York Times. “At full throttle, Miss Baranski is definitely a performer to die over.” Yet Broadway gigs remained scarce, so she took a role in an Ibsen play on Long Island. One night she accepted a ride back into Manhattan from fellow actor Cowles, a shaggy-haired blond who smoked unfiltered Mexican cigarettes and drove a motorcycle.
They married in 1983. The following year her anonymity ended when she won a Tony (as did co-stars Jeremy Irons and Glenn Close) in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing. The couple moved to Litchfield, Conn., where Cowles had inherited an old home. Over the next several years they welcomed two daughters, Lily and Isabel, before she resumed her career with the sitcom Cybill and movies like Reversal of Fortune.
Next, Margulies celebrates her sixth wedding anniversary with Keith Lieberthal on November 10. They met at a dinner party in New York thrown by a prospective agent. Though she ultimately wound up not signing with him, she did meet a Harvard Law School graduate that night. He was so handsome she worried he might be an actor. No, he was a lawyer and the couple clicked.
“He knows how to have a good time, how to enjoy life the right way,” says Margulies. “He is a deep thinker, but he knows, too, that life is short. He is a man who understands what a good meal and a decent bottle of wine can do.”
Her career took off with E.R., where she stayed for six years and won several awards including an Emmy. They married in a small ceremony in Lenox, Massachusetts. Seven months pregnant, she wore a white Narcisco Rodriguez gown with sheer elbow length gloves; he wore a black Armani tux with a red boutonnière. Her father Paul, a veteran adman who helped develop the Alka-Seltzer “plop plop, fizz fizz” campaign, walked her down the aisle. The honeymoon got delayed as she was shooting a Fox drama, Canterbury’s Law. The series barely lasted a month after its premiere the following March, by which time the newlyweds had welcomed son Kieran Lindsay.
Given that her character is so fiercely independent, it seems a bit jarring to discover that, in real life, Panjabi’s marriage was arranged. But unlike some arranged marriages, in which the couple never even meets before tying the knot, the actress had a choice. Her mother had met a man, businessman Raj Nihalani, and urged her to see him. “At the time it brought out my rebellious streak because I thought her taste in men was not going to be like mine,” says Panjabi. “But at the end of the day, she knows me better than anybody.”
The couple married in 1998, just as her acting career was heating up. Originally from Pakistan, her family emigrated from India to London where she was born in 1972. Though acting is considered a lowly profession by many traditional Indian communities, her family eventually encouraged her dream. Panjabi appeared in several well-regarded British television series, including East is East, which led to a role in the international film hit Bend it Like Beckham. Unable to resist the lure of Hollywood, she appeared alongside Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart, which opened up the doors to her supporting role on The Good Wife which won her an Emmy in 2010.
Harvey Solomon has written about pop culture and entertainment for more than 25 years. His latest book, featuring a celebrity wedding every day, is Weddings/365 (www.weddings-365.com).