Mark Saks, casting director of CBS drama “The Good Wife,” is the architect of the most fascinating, pedigreed and counterintuitive roster of guest-stars on television right now.
But in a way, he’s got the woman he found to star in the show — Julianna Margulies — to thank.
When Margulies signed onto the series nearly three years ago, all hopes of shooting it in L.A. disappeared. The actress’s contract stipulated that she wouldn’t have to leave the east coast.
“I knew anything she did would have to be in New York,” said Saks. “And to have New York as a casting palate — I thought, ‘wow, this is going to be really exciting.’ It’s just fresher.”
Saks’ method combines pulling from Broadway, snatching fresh faces and tearing up the typecasting on some of the business’s finest actors.
It’s a formula that has brought to the legal drama everyone from Michael J. Fox (whose Parkinson’s helped inform his character) to Alan Cumming (whose short-arc performance turned into a series-regular gig).
Tonight, Sarah Silverman guest-stars — in a role that will not include her wearing a ringer tee or making poop jokes. Like we said, counterintuitive.
And part of the reason stars want to stop by is Saks’ approach to what casting actually covers.
Witness the judges on “Good Wife.” On some procedurals, those roles get slightly better billing than chalk-outline corpses.
On this show, they’re played by people like Jerry Stiller and Ana Gasteyer.
“We didn’t just want faces on the bench like ‘Law and Order,'” said Saks. “We want them all to have individual personalities and be quirky in their own way.
“Now everybody wants to play a judge on the show, especially because they get to come back. People are pitching us almost daily at this point, and then I have my own hit list of people I want to work with.”
'She's famous for playing these uptight women, but in life she's got this wonderful grey hair, this open face -- that's what she really is.'
'I begged them to hire him. He didn't have a great deal of experience, mostly known for 'Take Me Out' on Broadway. I said, 'He'll turn this into something.' And he did that beautifully.'
'I had just seen her in 'The Royal Family' at the time. The idea here is to find someone quirky and memorable, and she just had the right sensibility.'
'When the show was exploding, in the middle of last season, his agent called and said, 'he's a big fan of the show, and he'd like to recur.' Over the summer we had a conference call and the producers pitched him idea about how to use him. They talked about him having an illness, but decided not to make it Parkinson's. And as soon as they saw the film, they knew we had to have him back. I think we'll see more of him next season.'
'We needed an elderly, elderly judge, somebody who could constantly fall asleep and wears his age in that way. First of all, I had to find somebody who'd be up for a couple days of shooting at that age. But it had to be someone who wasn't funny in a too-broad way.'
'They came to me and said, 'let's make her an offer -- we have a character for her.' In that case, America and the character came as a package.'
'The Kings wanted to write something for her. I asked if she would play a comic, but she didn't want to play a version of herself.' Silverman guest-stars on tonight's episode as the owner of an adultery-matchmaker website.
'Stockard Channing is someone I'm very interested in, but she's tied up with a pilot right now. And Jeffrey Wright -- we've made him offers but the timing hasn't been right. There are so many people we've gone to and their agents have said, 'This isn't the right time -- but please, please try us again.''
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