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The real reason Julianna Margulies isn’t on The Good Fight? Hollywood’s depressing pay gap

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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Julianna Margulies

The actor was asked to reprise her famous role as Alicia Florrick in The Good Wife’s spin-off. But the network didn’t want to pay her.

For seven seasons, Julianna Margulies dominated television as The Good Wife’s Alicia Florrick, trailblazing lawyer and politician whose husband Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) was embroiled in a sordid sex scandal while serving as State’s Attorney.

Until the scandal is revealed in horrifying tabloid detail in the first episode, Alicia has been living the life of the titular good political wife. But when Peter’s illegal behaviour is uncovered, Alicia packs up their two children and moved to Chicago city, getting her first job in two decades as a junior lawyer at the firm run by her old university flame Will Gardner (Josh Charles). At its most popular, the series pulled in more than 10 million viewers and score Margulies two Emmy Awards for Best Actress in 2011 and 2014.

The Good Wife was undeniably Alicia and Margulies’ show, even and especially when the supporting cast was as good as Noth, Charles, Christine Baranski as Charles’ indefatigable business partner Diane Lockhart and Archie Panjabi as Kalinda Sharma, Alicia’s friend and investigator at the lawfirm of Stern, Lockhart & Gardner. 

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Since the show concluded its seven season run in 2014, Baranski has gone onto star in a successful spin-off called The Good Fight following Diane and her goddaughter Maia (Rose Leslie) as they make their way through Chicago’s legal world. Considering the close, albeit fraught relationship between Diane and Alicia, many fans were hopeful that Margulies might make a guest appearance on the show, but Margulies shut down rumours in February when she told Deadline that “the [guest appearance] deal didn’t happen.” 

Julianna Margulies and Christine Baranski on The Good Wife
Alicia and Diane on The Good Wife

Now, we know why that was. In a new interview with Deadline, Margulies has revealed that despite a strong script for a three-episode arc involving Alicia, CBS refused to pay Margulies the fee that she asked for. CBS wanted to pay Margulies what guest stars are usually paid. This can range anywhere from $3,000-$6,2000, according to the Screen Actors Guild, although celebrity guest stars can request up to $1 million. Margulies had asked to be paid what she earned per episode on The Good Wife, which was reportedly in the $180,000 vicinity. 

“I’m not a guest star; I started the whole thing with The Good Wife,” Margulies said. “I wanted to be paid my worth and stand up for equal pay. If Jon Hamm came back for a Mad Men spin-off or Kiefer Sutherland wanted to do a 24 spin-off, they would be paid.”

Margulies elaborated on SiriusXM: “If they were to ask me to go back on The Good Fight, paying me what my salary is, of course [I would] in a heartbeat. But you have to value your worth.”

Julianna Margulies and Christine Baranski
Julianna Margulies and Christine Baranski

“I’m not a guest star,” she stressed. “You don’t pay me a guest-star salary. I would get a guest-star salary if I went and did [Law & Order] SVU – it’s not my show. I wouldn’t ask for what I got paid as Alicia Florrick [on that]. I also know for a fact that any male star who got asked to go on a spin-off of their show would have been offered at least $500,000. I know that for a fact.” 

Margulies added that the pay inequality in Hollywood has “gotta stop.” “I am in an enviable position in that I can walk away from a job,” she said. “I know how lucky I am… I wasn’t asking for a million dollars. I wasn’t even asking for $500,000 an episode… It wasn’t asking for the moon. I could have asked for the moon. I didn’t.” 

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The star toyed with not speaking up, but decided that it was more important for future generations of actors to understand that they don’t have to accept pay inequality. “It’s like the letter Jennifer Lawrence wrote when she found out about American Hustle,” Margulies said. “[Lawrence] said ‘I did a disservice to my fellow actresses and I shouldn’t have done that.’ And I thought she was so brave for writing that letter. So I thought, ‘I’ve gotta speak up, because it’s crazy to me that CBS wouldn’t honour that.’”

“This isn’t really about me at all,” she added. “This is about every other actress who doesn’t have the voice or power to be able to say that.”  

Images: Getty

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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer, podcaster and recent Australian transplant in London. You can find her on the internet talking about pop culture, food and travel.

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