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Christine Baranski revels in roles that boast great one-liners, great clothes and ‘real strength’

“The Good Fight” World Premiere
Christine Baranski attends “The Good Fight” World Premiere at Jazz at Lincoln Center on Feb. 8, 2017 in New York City.
(Ben Gabbe / Getty Images)

The Internet Movie Database is one of the most popular websites for tracking the work of actors, filmmakers and others in the movie and TV world. We’ve asked some actors to look at their own IMDb page and comment on some of their best-known roles.

“I rarely play a victim,” Christine Baranski says, looking back over the last three decades of her acting career. “I’m usually someone who’s kind of foxy with great lines. I always say that my career has been great one-liners and great clothes. I’ve been lucky. I almost consistently play characters who are famous for being well dressed. And there’s always a feistiness to the characters I play and a real strength.”

Baranski, who graduated from Juilliard before getting her start in Broadway theater, has transitioned from the wisecracking supporting character to the star on “The Good Fight,” a sequel to “The Good Wife,” which is streaming on CBS.com. Baranski reprises her role as Diane Lockhart, a character the actress was drawn to since she first read the pilot for “The Good Wife.”

The IMDB Files: Hollywood star reflect on their key roles »

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“I loved the way she was written and she has remained that consistently highly professional female figure in the workplace and a complex female character,” she notes. “It’s been a great privilege for me to have a role of such great texture for such a long time. No actor expects to get a seven-year run on anything.”

Baranski has a lengthy filmography, which includes “The Ref,” “Bulworth,” “Chicago” and her Emmy-winning role on “Cybill,” which also aired on CBS. Here, Baranski discusses some of her most iconic work.

“The Good Fight,” Diane Lockhart (2017)

Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart in the CBS television series “The Good Fight.”
Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart in the CBS television series "The Good Fight."
(Patrick Harbron / CBS)

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“I have a body of knowledge and a body of work and a familiarity with the character that’s worth gold. I have so much homework behind me already and I’m not facing new writers who have a different take on it. But that said, the character suffers a spectacular fall in the course of the pilot and she basically loses everything. So it’s familiar Diane and then you’ve never seen Diane like this. Exploring that was wonderful for me.”

“The Good Wife,” Diane Lockhart (2009-2016)

Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, from left, Chris Noth as Peter Florrick and Christine Baransk
Julianna Margulies as Alicia Florrick, from left, Chris Noth as Peter Florrick and Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart in a scene from CBS' "The Good Wife."
(Jeff Neumann / AP Photo)

“I had just finished doing nine months of a Broadway play and I had tons of theater behind me. I had done a lot of comedy. I said to my manager, ‘You know, ideally what I would love to do next is play a really powerful, intelligent woman on a dramatic series. That would be a dignified thing for me to do with my career at this point.’ I put it out there in the universe that that’s what I wanted as an actress, and lo and behold the one pilot that my manager and I were intrigued by was called ‘The Good Wife.’”

“Mamma Mia!,” Tanya (2008)

Julie Walters, from left, Meryl Streep and Christine Baranski in the 2008 movie “Mamma Mia!”
Julie Walters, from left, Meryl Streep and Christine Baranski in the 2008 movie "Mamma Mia!"
(Peter Mountain / Universal Pictures)

“If you want to approach it critically there are a million things you could take issue with, but I don’t even think that’s the point. The point is to sit back and enjoy the ABBA tunes and scenery of the Greek islands. We loved making it and people clearly love watching it.”

“Chicago,” Mary Sunshine (2002)

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“I loved the musical itself and so I loved that I was, in any way, able to participate in the project. I had worked with Rob Marshall in the past and he asked me to play Mary Sunshine, which was really the only part I would be right for. It allowed me to be in an Oscar-winning movie. How cool is that?”

“Bowfinger,” Carol (1999)

“How funny is that movie? I think it’s a cult hit. It’s genuinely funny and original. Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy – I think it might be Eddie’s funniest movie. I loved playing that actress who is so serious about her work she doesn’t even see what’s going on. When you play an actress you can send up your own profession, which I was doing playing the overly trained theater actress starring in a movie. She’s such an overripe character. I was spoofing my profession and those particular types of theater divas.”

“Cruel Intentions,” Bunny Caldwell (1999)

Selma Blair, from left, Christine Baranski and Ryan Phillippe in “Cruel Intentions.”
Selma Blair, from left, Christine Baranski and Ryan Phillippe in "Cruel Intentions."
(Melissa Moseley / Columbia Pictures)

“I had to be talked into doing that one. It was going to be shot during my first year’s hiatus from ‘Cybill’ and I was anxious to go home and be with my kids. The director begged and begged me and said, ‘It’s only a few scenes.’ I’m still making residual money off ‘Cruel Intentions.’ It might be the movie that’s made me the most in residuals because it is such a hit. I didn’t do much in that movie and yet people will come up to me and quote my lines.”

“Cybill,” Maryann Thorpe (1995-1998)

Christine Baranski, left, and Cybill Shepherd on the set of “Cybill” in 1995.
Christine Baranski, left, and Cybill Shepherd on the set of "Cybill" in 1995.
(CBS Photo Archive / Getty Images)
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“I didn’t do television until my early 40s and I resisted doing television because I was this serious theater actress and back then the choice to do television meant sort of giving up your theatrical career. I read the script and it was written by a then unknown writer named Chuck Lorre. The character was genuinely witty and tart, and I played those kinds of characters in the theater. I thought, ‘Well, there’s something here.’ But I was terrified of making the jump to television because it meant working in L.A. and I didn’t know how I was going to manage that with my family in New York. I almost backed out at the last minute. But I did make the jump and it changed the course of my career. The first season won me an Emmy award and suddenly I was nationally famous in the way that television can make you famous. And she was a genuinely original character. No one had seen that kind of woman on American television.”

“9/12 Weeks,” Thea (1986)

“I shot it when I was quite, quite pregnant. The only memorable thing about it is that I put a spoon on my nose. I have an upturned nose so I’m able to hang a teaspoon from it. When I was doing it the director loved it and had me do it in the movie. You have to do what you can to get people to remember you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

calendar@latimes.com

ALSO:

The familiar takes a few twists in ‘The Good Fight’

The IMDb files: Nick Offerman found his groove with ‘Parks and Recreation’ and has been busy ever since

IMDb Files: From ‘Fast Times’ to ‘Rogue One’ Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker looks back at his varied résumé


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