When THE GOOD WIFE launched, it was largely focused on the literal trials and accompanying tribulations faced by Alicia Florrick in the wake of hubby Peter’s arrest. After all, right there in the title, it told us our attention should be focused on the wife. But as the show developed, the rest of Peter’s family was fleshed out and increasingly focused on, including the pair’s son, Zach. As a result, the troubled teen’s portrayer, Graham Phillips, has seen his own star rise. Already known in Broadway circles for his role in Thirteen and by movie lovers from Evan Almighty (opposite THE OFFICE’s Steve Carell, Phillips was probably better prepared to be thrust into the spotlight that comes with starring on a major hit series than was poor Zach. But to get the scoop on growing up Florrick, we went straight to the horse’s mouth for this exclusive chat!
How easy is it to relate to a character like Zach?
Graham Phillips: Well Zach is a kid who is in the midst of finding himself and figuring out what kind of role he has to play in protecting the family, what is he supposed to share and what is he supposed to keep secret. He’s in a much more difficult situation than a lot of teens are but at the same time what he’s going though mirrors what a lot of kids go through with divorce, people trying to butt into the family’s affairs, etc. But I think that in the third season he has found himself a bit more and I’ve found that I’m becoming more like him because I’m two years older than the character. So it’s bizarre seeing Zach go through a lot of the same things that I went through two years ago.
Ever since last May’s steamy elevator ride between Alicia and Will [Josh Charles], your TV mom has been incredibly secretive about her personal life. When do you think she’s going to start filling Zach and Grace in on what’s going on?
I think later in the season she’s going to start addressing a lot of the issues she’s been putting off. Throughout the season thus far she really hasn’t been as upfront with us as she used to be and I think that’s because she’s no longer the perfect role model, the title of the show. She’s the rebellious ex-wife and I think because of that she’s kind of afraid of these family meetings because for the first time she’s arguably in the wrong in her kids eyes. I think the first scene with Will [Josh Charles] was really funny because it’s just so awkward on his part, he’s trying to bond, be on the cool side with me and it just crashes and burns and it really sets up this great dynamic later in the season if he continues to come to the house and if they start seeing each other more, which I think he’s going to happen.
Fans have always had a sense that Zach was rooting for his parents to reconcile. Do you think the official introduction to Will cause him to rebel?
Zach has always wanted his parents to stay together and he’s always been on the side of his father on issues — somehow — and that was kind of just a naive child just wanting to have a father still in his life and not understanding why he can’t be with both of his parents. That said, as you might have seen in a recent episode, I have a talk with my dad [Peter] and he’s a little more candid with how he hurt my mom and the degree to which he hurt his mom and how he might have hurt her even more than she knows now. And I think that’s the first time that this idolized version of my father starts to deteriorate and the scene immediately after is me helping my mom with the dishes and asking if she thinks I’m like my dad and that’s sort of the beginning of me becoming more of a ‘Momma’s boy’ in the show. I think I start becoming less frustrated by her decisions and I start realizing that she’s a parent above everything else. She’s not just like a parent who’s making me do things just for the sake of giving rules, she’s a person and there comes a time in every kid’s life when they realize that their parents aren’t just perfect people, they’re just trying to find their way just like the kids are.
Having two such strong parental figures as he does, have you ever given much thought as to what parent he might choose to emulate more going forward?
Sort of like a Harry Potter/Voldemort thing going on with him and his father! I would say that he would like to be more like his mother in many ways. I think there are things that he likes about his father just by the way he carries himself and by his work ethic and how strong he is mentally, but now that he’s seen behind the curtain there’s a part of him that will always be fighting the urge to be like his dad in a lot of ways and so I’m interested to see how that dynamic plays out, that love/hate relationship with his father.
Based on scenes we were fortunate enough to just witness it appears that Zach’s next girlfriend [whose identity we're not about to spoil here!] may be the offspring of a character fans have already come to know and love. What can you tease about that?
I’ve played the first scene with her and it was kind of flirty, but the writers didn’t really tell us whether it was supposed to be flirty as if it was going somewhere or whether we were just intellectually sparring with each other. We were trying to play it both ways at the same time and I think it came out very well. It’s very funny that Zach seems to always have a new girl! I don’t think anyone really realizes this but Zach has had more relationships than anyone on the show. Well, except maybe Kalinda, but that’s never really shown. I think that sort of epitomizes his likeness to his father and I think that is one of the reasons why he asks his Mom in a recent episode if she thinks he’s like his Dad because his relationships do end really quickly.
Lastly, we can’t end this interview without asking about your on-screen sibling. Is there any chance you can shed some light on where Grace’s relationship with her tutor might be going?
Well, between you and me I’m very confused about it myself! It seems like Grace is possibly more confused about who she is than Zach. In the past two seasons she’s become some sort of Ethicist, a religious fanatic and now she’s hanging out with this rebellious sort of off-color street dancing physics tutor which is a very bizarre relationship and I think that it just sort of epitomizes how she is sort of taking in whatever she is hearing from whomever is around her and becoming that person. Which I see in so many other kids around me, that’s such a basic survival technique socially that kids use. Whatever anyone else is doing, do that, and you’ll be okay and I think that’s kind of what she’s doing.
Hangin’ with THE GOOD WIFE
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