Not just anyone gets invited to hang out at Alicia Florrick’s apartment, let alone when THE GOOD WIFE is in the middle of a tense scene with Jackie, the mother-in-law who is part blessing (hello, babysitter!) and part curse (nosey much?). But during a recent visit to the CBS hit’s Brooklyn studio, that’s exactly where this TV Addict found himself. And it was during my stint as the proverbial fly on the wall that I got an up-close and personal view of exactly what goes into the making of not a show, but a single scene.
How hard can it be, right?
Wrong, naive reader. Oh, so wrong. Because even a scene as simple as the one being taped that morning for a future episode — between Julianna Margulies’ Alicia and Mary Beth Peil’s Jackie — is more complicated than anything you or I will encounter over the course of an entire day. First, there’s a script supervisor making sure that any minor dialogue detours stay true to the scribe’s original intent. In another corner, the cinematographer and several others discuss whether or not Jackie’s coat is the right color. And of course, there’s the Transformers-worthy shift in energy and focus on everyone’s part the moment director Rosemary Rodriguez shouts, “Action!” A few moments later, that word is bookended by its counterpart, “Cut!”
But, of course, the action doesn’t stop there. As Marguelies and Peil — who haven’t spent as much time working together this season as last thanks to the on-screen rift between Peter and Alicia — catch up with one another, the creative team around them buzzes about. What footage is still needed for the currently-taping scene? What details need to be re-set so that another take won’t have continuity errors?
After eavesdropping on a conversation between Margulies and Piel about the latter’s recent work with Dallas Roberts (who plays Alicia’s brother, Owen), it’s back to work when the director calls everyone together for another take of the previous scene.
“There’s more to being a great actor than simply making one specific choice that you think is the right one and sticking with it,” says Graham Phillips (better known as Alicia’s son, Zach, who has sidled up to share his thoughts. “A couple weeks ago, I shot a scene with Josh Charles (Will Gardner) for the first time — which I’m really excited to see! — and I noticed they give multiple renditions of the scene, which is really important to give the editor material to work with.” He added that giving a different performance in each take of a scene “lets them play the arc of the story in different ways.”
As if to illustrate Phillips point, the actors give subtle but distinctly different performances during this version of Jackie and Alicia’s scene. And so it goes for the rest of the morning until the director has what she needs in the can and, as eventually happens to every fly on every wall, we are shooed away.
Coming Next Week: Exclusive Interviews with Stars Graham Phillips and Mary Beth Peil.
New episodes of THE GOOD WIFE air Sundays at 9PM on CBS (10PM on Global TV in Canada) and stars Julianna Margulies, Matt Czuchry, Archie Panjabi, Josh Charles, Christine Baranski, Chris Noth, Makenzie Vega, Graham Phillips, Alan Cumming and Mary Beth Peil. Catch up on past episodes you may have missed for free online at clicktowatch.tv