Margulies plays the show's lead character on the three-year-old series, Alicia Florrick, a middle-class wife and mother who returns to her legal career after discovering that her husband, a powerful politician (played by Chris Noth) has cheated on her.
"I think the whole journey so far is Alicia finding herself in the big modern world, and all the people she meets along the way are helping her redefine who she is, how she works, how she parents, how she deals with her lover and her ex-husband," she notes. "I think she has been a very repressed human being, and this journey has been about her waking up."
The actress admits she's been surprised by some of the virulent reaction she's encountered to Alicia's decisions to not only separate from her husband, but also to begin an affair with her law school sweetheart -- and current boss -- Will Gardner (played by Charles). "A lot of people have written in and said 'why don't you change the title of the show to The Good Slut," she notes. "People yell at me at the street for cheating on my husband, even though he cheated me on first."
Charles says he also hears a lot from the show's fans. "One of the downsides of doing a network series where you work for nine months is that it makes it hard to find the time to do theater. I miss that immediate audience reaction at times," he notes. "But what makes up for that is all the people I see on the subway who tell me what they feel about what I am doing on the show."
Baranski, a two-time Tony Award winner who plays the law firm's senior partner, Diane Lockhart, spoke repeatedly about how proud she is that the series encourages portrayals of modern women. "When I shot the pilot, I wasn't sure where Diane would go, and I didn't want to be just the bitch," she notes. "I am so thrilled that they've let me play this strong, single, middle-aged lady who doesn't go home every night and just drink herself into a stupor. So many women I meet have responded to our characters. I truly believe that TV can move culture forward in how it sees women."
Another topic addressed at the panel was the frequent use of theater stars in supporting and guest roles, including Alan Cumming, Mary Beth Peil, Bill Irwin, Martha Plimpton, Mamie Gummer, Anna Camp, and Linda Emond, to name a few. (The series is set in Chicago, but shoots in New York City at Margulies' insistence, so she can be with her family.)
"I think it's great that we can get actors of this quality to be on our show, some while they are on Broadway, and that we can manipulate the shooting schedule to accommodate them," says Robert King.
Margulies adds that Piel -- who plays her mother-in-law Jackie -- has worked only on Mondays or early afternoons during her current Broadway run in Follies. "Sometime, we have to work 18-hour days on Monday to get it done or start early to make sure actors are done before 8pm, but it's worth it."