Josh Charles played lawyer Will Gardner on The Good Wife for four and a half seasons, until his character’s sudden and violent gunshot death in the March 23 episode. Fans around the world are mourning both the loss of a favourite character and the definitive ending of the on-again, off-again love he had with the character of Alicia Florrick (played by Julianna Margulies). Post-Will, Charles shares why he decided to leave the show, his thoughts on why Will was so loved, and his appreciation for his fans.Why did you decide you wanted to move on from the show?
Charles: This show, this experience, has been one of the most rewarding in my career. So it’s not just a decision I made without giving a lot of thought to.
But, you know, four and a half years. Four full seasons working nine plus months out of the year, long hours doing the same role. I felt like I had really explored a lot of what I wanted to explore and was just ready for some new creative experiences.
My contract was up and I just chose not to renew and actually stayed well past my contract. I did that because I love the show and I really wanted to give the character a proper good-bye and do right by the show. That was always my intention. I wanted to do it so it would help them out as much as possible.
How did you react when you learned the shocking end of your character?
Charles: In the fourth season I had a conversation with Robert King, one of the show’s creators, about how we want to handle this. And I wanted to make sure that we could leave the character and the show in a good way.
And we all had this sort of back and forth about doing more episodes this year past when my contract expired to be able to give the character a more proper good-bye and really kind of be a part of what was happening this year with the show. It sounded kind of exciting.
Knowing that I was leaving gave them a few options and I think they took the more dramatic, more shocking option and I supported that.
How many people knew on set about Will’s death at the beginning and throughout the shooting of the season? And how hard was it to keep a secret?
Charles: I told a lot of people actually. I mean, I wasn’t supposed to but I told people that I knew could keep a secret.
As far as people on set, I think in the beginning we really kept it to just a few that knew and then as it got closer, more and more people. I would sort of reach out to some people that I got a chance to and let them know quietly what was happening. We tried to keep it as quiet as possible. In this day and age to be able to keep that kind of secret, I mean, it was difficult but between CBS and the producers and myself and the other cast and crew, we did a good job.
Which kind of reactions are you getting from fans?
Charles: First of all, it’s nice to have fans. It’s nice to have people care about what you do. One of the beauties of social media is that I’ve been able to reach out to some of the fans.
It was pretty profound for me to sort of feel like ‘oh, this character touched a lot of people’ and how could I not be moved by that because me, Josh, the actor, at the same time was going through a grieving process as well saying good-bye to people, and a character I had played for four and a half years.
I’m still trying to be as sensitive as I can to the fans because I realize people get very attached to characters and it means a lot to me, honestly.
It means the writing of the character was great and the show is great and also, hopefully in some small way I contributed to it to make people care about that person. People have come up to me or written me and said ‘I feel like I lost a family member.’ And, hopefully fans will understand that I love this show very much and am still directing on the show. I’m going to direct one next year. Just finished directing an episode this year. It’s my family, you know, everybody there is really special to me.
How do you think you’ve changed as an actor since the beginning of The Good Wife?
Charles: I think you’re always changing as an actor. I mean I think that’s one of the beauties of acting. It’s a profession, like many others, that you could just keep growing in and deepening and trying to get better and better.
And I think what the rigors of a television schedule force you to do is learn material very quickly and turn it around very quickly and get it on its feet.
It worked a different muscle for me as an actor so it’s helped sort of strengthen that. I mean, I’ve done television before but never this long.
And are these skills helping you, now that you’ve started directing?
Charles: I think actually what’s most helped me as an actor is that I started directing. I always wanted to do that even though that’s a horrible cliché and please print that I’m admitting that, as I say it.
I have started to do that on the show for the first time professionally – yes, it’s taught me a lot about acting. First of all, because I’ve directed myself. I directed my peers, people who I admire greatly. But you kind of see the kind of acting that you like, when you’re behind the camera.
And you’re just judging it and you’re seeing it from a different point of view. And when you’re in the editing room, my own work included, and you see what you like and what you don’t like. And so it just sort of helped me sort of figure out the kind of acting I like. You know, that’s really good, honest, feels organic and authentic.
You know, all that stuff that I like to watch. So it helped me want to strive to do that much more in my acting and realize, you know, I can, because I’m seeing it from the other side. I can hopefully try to keep aspiring to do that more.
A lot of the focus after Will’s death has been on the impact on the Will/Alicia relationship. But the show had such a great partnership and relationship between Will and Diane (played by Christine Baranski). What made that relationship so strong and how is Diane going to cope with this tragic event?
Charles: Yes, I can answer the first part. And the second part, I just know that she will cope. Diane’s a very strong woman and she will adapt and shift accordingly and she’ll be just fine.
But as far as the first part, I think again it starts with the writing. But I also think that Christine and I – it started when I shot the pilot and were sort of doing some rehearsals.
We were just making each other laugh very, very quickly. You know, I didn’t know anyone on the show going in except Julianna who brought me into the show and thought of me for the role. And she was a friend and will always remain a friend after.
And Christine, I will tell you I didn’t know at all. I admired her work. But from just the get-go, we just became thick as thieves and it became one of the relationships in the show, both on and off set that I will miss quite a lot because she’s a very special person.
I absolutely will miss working with her. I mean I’ll still work with her as a director but I’ll miss acting with her because I really was fond of that relationship and with her particularly.
What do you want to do next? Can you say anything about your plans?
Charles: There’s a couple different things. I’ll be in things, you know. I did just finish a film but I’m really just looking at exploring other projects.
I think it’s just the idea of having time to do, to do other things throughout the year be it travel and spend time with my family, work on a little project.
And I feel like I’m in a good place, a place where I really want to take more risks. I’m ready for that and I feel like some of my best work is ahead of me and that’s an exciting place to be.
(Josh Charles chatted with GlobalTV.com and other reporters via phone)
Read an open letter from The Good Wife creators about “that shocking moment.”
When is The Good Wife on TV? In Canada, The Good Wife airs Sundays at 10 et/pt on Global TV
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