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'The Good Wife': Top 10 things I learned on set

August 31, 2010 |  9:13 am


Sunday night, Archie Panjabi realized the dream of thousands of aspiring actors the world over when she took home an Emmy for her work on "The Good Wife."  Now, it's not quite the same thing, but not so long ago, I realized a dream of my own: I rifled through Alicia Florrick's closet.

The folks at CBS recently invited some members of the media -- including yours truly -- to take a look at what goes on behind the scenes at "The Good Wife."

"The Good Wife" is housed at Broadway Stages in the industrial hinterlands of Greenpoint in Brooklyn; neighbors include the scenic Newtown Creek Sewage Treatment Plant and a scrap metal company. There's a hip coffee shop a few blocks away, but that's as Hollywood as it gets in these parts.

Costume designer Daniel Lawson showed us the wardrobe department, and set designer Beth Kushnick guided us through the Florrick apartment, the courthouse and even the state's attorney's office -- though, sadly, not the Lockhart & Gardner office, where the cast and crew were filming on the day we stopped by.

We even met with the cast, who were surprisingly forthcoming with details about the new season (more on that later, I promise). Despite the production's unglamorous surroundings, cast members have no complaints about their outer-borough workplace.  "I'll deal with a commute to Brooklyn any day," said Manhattanite Christine Baranski.

For those of you who need a little "Good Wife" fix to get you through the next four weeks until the show's premiere on Sept. 28, I've put together this little guide. First, allow me to issue a brief SPOILER ALERT.  I haven't divulged too many specifics, but if you'd rather know nothing at all, then stop reading now (or better yet, bookmark this page and return on Sept. 29). The rest of you can get the scoop after the jump.

10.  The Florricks have a lot of books in their apartment.

Kushnick explained the theory behind her work like this: She strives to a create a "top layer of life" on set.  'The Good Wife" is mostly filmed on soundstages, which means that all the eccentricities of a lived-in (or worked-in) space have to simulated. In the Florrick household, this means a kitchen stocked full of actual food-like jars of pasta and Oreos -- and a shopping list on the fridge that calls for a half-pound of low-sodium ham. Alicia's bathroom is stocked with Frederic Fekkai shampoo (pricey, but hey, look at that hair!) and Sephora makeup, and nearly every room contains a few books. The living room is especially well stocked. I spied a bunch of books on American history and politics (including two Truman biographies) and one title that made me chuckle: "When the Husband is the Suspect," by F. Lee Bailey.


9. These walls are fake.

Well, sort of. The wood grain is actually wallpaper, and what looks like stone is the handiwork of some very talented scenic painters. Oh, and that wall behind the judge? That actually flips open to allow for behind-the-shoulder shots of the courtroom. This was the last set built for the show once it was picked up for a second season; before it was made, the production had to film on location at actual courtrooms in Queens.

8. Kalinda owns eight pairs of boots ...

And I saw them up close!  The Emmy-nominated Lawson (pictured below) took us on a guided tour of "The Good Wife" wardrobe department, which looks not unlike a giant industrial laundry. There are racks of clothes up to the ceiling, and countless bins of painstakingly organized shoes. I even noticed a bin marked "Fugg boots," which presumably, will not be worn by Kalinda. Speaking of which, I asked Lawson how many pairs of boots Kalinda "owns," and he told me she has about eight, though there are duplicates of a few pairs. I have to say, I was almost disappointed that the number wasn't higher; here I was, thinking that Kalinda was the Imelda Marcos of Chicago. Lawson also pointed out that layers are a key part of Kalinda's look and that compared with the other characters, her "colors are murkier, with a pop of color every now and then." Symbolism, much?

7. Diane is the show's real glamour-puss.

Surprise, surprise: Diane's duds are the most expensive, says Lawson, who says she's his favorite character to dress. "She's so chic and high-end." He showed off a few of Diane's luxe pieces, including a red Christian Dior jacket and a Calvin Klein blouse she'll be wearing this season. Still, even fabulous Diane loves a good bargain. Lawson beamed with pride over a $5,000 Oscar De La Renta number he found at an outlet mall for a mere $400, telling us that Baranski loved it so much, she borrowed it to wear to her daughter's wedding.

6.  Alicia is not a slave to labels.

In contrast, Lawson says Alicia -- who tends to wear "little short jackets with peplums to emphasize her tiny waist" -- is the most "shop-high, shop-low" character on "The Good Wife."  She'll wear $200 jackets from Tahari one day, and a $2,000 version by Brioni the next. Over the course of the first season, Alicia's look evolved from that of a slightly matronly political wife to a more contemporary version of the same buttoned-up look. The one constant? "She's a killer in reds and maroons," Lawson said.


5. The apple doesn't fall far from the Florrick tree.

It looks like elder Florrick offspring, Zach, will be getting more political this season. "My character is starting to get really interested politically, as far as Peter's whole campaign," said Graham Phillips. Judging from the article about enemy combatants I noticed on Zach's bedroom wall, that seems to be the case. Similarly, little sister Grace's room is decked out with Obama paraphernalia.

4.  Diane's and McVeigh's relationship may be on hold.

The prognosis on this unlikely pair remains unclear. "I'm not sure you will see much of him initially," Baranski told me.  But fear not, for McVeigh's absence may have more to do with logistics than romantic incompatibility. "Gary [Cole] went off to do a play in Australia. So, Diane is pining away. Maybe I'll have some phone calls," Baranski said. Perhaps it's best these two are apart until after the midterm elections, anyway; otherwise things could get ugly.

3. The show will continue to find inspiration in the headlines.

According to Julianna Margulies, the BP oil spill will work its greasy way into this season's storylines, and another political sex scandal -- inspired by the Rielle Hunter-John Edwards liaison -- will bring unwanted attention back to Peter and Alicia.

2. Don't expect any easy answers about Kalinda.

"Having looked at some of the stuff in Season 2, I am even more confused about her," a pre-Emmy Archie Panjabi confessed to me. This season, a new employee at the firm -- one who also happens to know some things about her mysterious past -- will challenge Kalinda's supernatural cool. "He really gets under her skin," Panjabi told me. Expect this new employee to help peel back a few of those murky layers.

1. Peter and Alicia rekindle at least one facet of their relationship.

If you're a "Good Wife" fanatic, you're probably already heard that there's a risque sex scene slated to appear in the show's season premiere. I saw the scene in question and can attest to the fact that it certainly suggests that the, ahem, dynamics of the Peter-Alicia relationship have changed in a fundamental way. As Margulies explained, "They have really discovered that they work the same way. And it's a turn-on for both of them. For those of you (insane people) rooting for Alicia and Peter, don't expect any vow renewals just yet. "I don't think the stitches are out of the wound," Chris Noth said. And what about the phone call? The season premiere picks up right where the last episode left off, with Will's phone call to Alicia. Does this mean he's got a plan?

We'll have to wait and see.

Bonus information: Whatever you do, don't ask Margulies about the aforementioned sex scene.

So, how excited are you for the return of "The Good Wife"?  Got any questions about the tour? Just ask!

-- Meredith Blake


Complete coverage of "The Good Wife" on Show Tracker

"The Good Wife": Archie Panjabi talks about the mystery of Kalinda's sexuality

"The Good Wife": Show me the plan

"The Good Wife": Josh Charles talks about what's next for Will and Alicia

Emmy newcomers steal the show

Upper photos: Christine Baranski, Julianna Margulies and Chris Noth on 'The Good Wife" set in Brooklyn. Credit: CBS

Middle photo: The courtroom set was the last one built for the show. Credit CBS

Lower photo: Emmy-nominated costume designer Daniel Lawson shows media members around the wardrobe department. Credit: CBS