On Thursday morning Christine Baranski was just coming back inside after a swim when she found out that she’d earned her fifth straight Emmy nomination for supporting actress in a drama series for her role as Diane Lockhart on CBS’ “The Good Wife.” For those keeping track, it’s the 12th Emmy nod overall for the TV veteran, who was nominated along with fellow cast members Josh Charles and Julianna Margulies.
But the joy of recognition was tempered somewhat this year for Baranski, given that the CBS legal drama was overlooked for a drama series nomination despite undergoing a creative resurgence this season.
We talked to Baranski this afternoon about the snub, whether she’ll ever grow tired of playing Diane and her admiration for Maggie Smith.
So how did you hear about your nomination this morning?
I got up and I’m at my summer home so I made a point of putting on my bathing suit and swimming so I didn’t have to think about it, but then I happily walked in and saw there was a red light on my answering machine.
Wow, you still have an answering machine?
Would you believe I don’t have cellphone service here on the lake. We have yet to get a cellphone tower where I live. Isn’t that quaint?
Your method of coping with Emmys morning is avoidance?
I think sitting by the phone is really not a good idea. I took a cup of coffee out and I just plunged myself in and thought, ‘Whatever.” I was very much hoping because we had such an exceptional season, I was very much hoping that our writers would be recognized. Three actors were, and they’ve been recognized because they were given such great writing. But it’s nice we’re still represented.
So there is some disappointment the show was overlooked in the drama series category?
Oh, yeah, I think so. It was such an exceptional season, truly dramatic things happened, and in Season 5 the show took such a daring turn. Of course there was the death of a lead character but It wasn’t just the sensationalism, it was the craftsmanship of the show, the way it was written, the way these stories unfolded over 22 episodes.
Maybe there should be another category for shows that come up with quality for 22 in a row, you know?
It takes stamina and it takes a great deal of imagination and craft to sustain a show through 22 episodes. On everybody’s part but particularly the writing. I just thought it was an exceptional year on every front. This is a show that doesn’t rely on sensationalism and violence and beheadings and rapes and women being victims of horrible circumstances. It’s really an adult program, it’s very sophisticated, and I sometimes think it’s so subtle and sophisticated that it frequently gets overshadowed by the louder, more sensational stuff. But I am very proud to be a part of the show. I start work on the sixth season on Monday, so I’m very, very grateful and fortunate.
Can you tell us what’s ahead?
Everybody says ‘What’s ahead?’ and, of course, you can’t say that. It’s again a tribute to the show that we lost Will Gardner and yet the series continues to almost half a season after that and people are wondering what’s going to happen after that. I have only been given my first script, but it’s already extraordinary. They are very brave writers, so I am sure people will be captivated.
Your category is full of some formidable characters – the Dowager Countess on “Downton Abbey” and Cersei Lannister on “Game of Thrones” – in addition to Diane Lockhart, who is also nobody’s fool. Who do you think is the toughest cookie of them all?
Well, I don’t know if you get awards for being the toughest cookie. I like to think that bringing a lot of different colors to a role works in your favor, not just being the toughest bitch of the lot. All through the process of doing “The Good Wife,” I’ve always thought that the greatest kick for me was to be in a category with Maggie Smith. I remember seeing her in a movie theater in Buffalo, N.Y., watching her Desdemona to Laurence Olivier’s Othello. To me she’s a kind of ultimate actress, she can do anything, and she’s simply one of the greatest actresses who’s ever lived, so to be in a category with her is to me the biggest kick of all.
You’ve been playing Diane for five seasons now and will be playing her for at least one more. Any chance you’ll grow tired of her?
It’s such a privilege to get to tell the story of a character for five years going into six and to spread out the story line over 22 episodes. You get to really live in front of a camera and tell the story of your character in a subtle unfolding. You have more time, more episodes, it becomes more like a novel than a short story or a one-act play. You get to really make your way into the hearts and minds of an audience. I actually have enjoyed myself more as the years have gone on, as I’ve gotten to know the characters and the relationships have become deeper and richer. The loss of Will Gardner wouldn’t have had nearly the impact if it had happened in the first couple of seasons.
The fact that as characters we were so invested in each other and our characters and in his character, when he did die it was truly shocking, it was very hard for us. It has been a very, very emotional season. You have to draw on real stuff as an actor. It’s extremely rewarding. It gets more rewarding with time, not unlike a marriage or seeing your children grow up, the relationships get richer and the experience of it becomes richer, so I’m all for long runs of 22 episodes.