‘The Good Wife’ Cast Had 24 Hours Notice to Learn Legal Dialogue

Legal dramas have long been a television drama staple. Dick Wolf’s juggernaut Law & Order and its many, many sequels have probably familiarized more people with legal jargon than actual legal studies textbooks! Along with medical dramas, series based in the courtroom face questions about just how realistic they are — especially since they often condense timelines and smooth over the boring parts to make viewing more entertaining.

Whether or not the show will stand up to scrutiny over its authenticity often comes down to the actors’ ability to convince viewers that they know what they’re talking about. For the cast of The Good Wife, that meant learning a lot of legal dialogue — often with very little notice! 

‘The Good Wife’ was a popular legal drama

Julianna Margulies as Alicia on CBS drama 'The Good Wife.'
Julianna Margulies as Alicia on CBS drama ‘The Good Wife.’ | Jeff Neumann/CBS via Getty Images

RELATED: ‘The Good Wife’ Producers Regret 1 Story Arc, Saying Audience Didn’t Want to Go There

Alicia Florrick is the protagonist of The Good Wife, and the show’s title comes from the role she has stepped into that launches the show’s premise. Alicia finds herself facing a lot of unknowns when her powerful husband — a high-profile attorney — lands himself behind bars in a sex and corruption scandal.

Alicia, making the decision that she will not let her husband’s missteps and flaws destroy her life, decides she’s going to pick herself up, dust herself off, and start her own career. That’s where the show begins. 

The seven-season run brought out plenty of fans who saw the series as a refreshing portrayal of powerful women. The plot points kept fans riveted, and they was a mix of interpersonal drama as well as courtroom scenes that kept everyone on edge. Between love affairs, feuds, and high-stakes jury decisions, the show offered something for everyone. 

Fans loved the stars of ‘The Good Wife’

Much of what made The Good Wife so successful was in the superb casting. Julianna Margulies shined brightly in the starring role as Alicia Florrick. She has become the best-known face of the series, but there were plenty of supporting stars who also left a mark.

Josh Charles — who first rose to fame as one of the students in Dead Poets’ Society — turned up the heat as Alicia’s secret lover. Chris Noth, perhaps best known as “Mr. Big” from Sex and the City, portrayed Alicia’s disgraced husband. Archie Panjabi was a fan-favorite as Kalinda

Perhaps the supporting star who has garnered the most praise is Christine Baranski. Her portrayal as Diane Lockhart on the show was so popular that it led to a spinoff series called The Good Fight focused on Diane’s work.

‘The Good Wife’ cast had to work hard to be convincing legal experts

The demanding filming schedule of a television series is challenging enough, but the stars of The Good Wife had an added challenge. They needed to be able to portray powerful, confident, and experienced lawyers day after day.

That meant that they needed to deliver their lines without any hesitation, and stumbling over the legalese that filled the script would have been a major disruption to the flow of the show. To make matters even more complicated, they often had very little time to work on memorizing their lines. 

Charles opened up to The Deadline about the pressure they were under: “Learning all of that legal dialogue on 24 hours’ notice, or 48 hours. Getting a script the night before, two nights before, while you’re shooting the (previous) episode, and looking through the script and realizing you’re in court a lot, having to say a lot of that legalese, making it sound clear, precise and succinct.”

Luckily, these professionals were able to pull it together, and the show ended up with riveting stories complete with rapid-fire dialogue that would have fit right into a real-life courtroom.