HFPA in Conversation: Christine Baranski, Fighting the Good Fight

by Kirpi Uimonen Ballesteros July 10, 2019
Actress Christine Baranski, Golden Globe nominee

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On our 75th episode, Christine Baranski tells HFPA journalist Ana Maria Bahiana how she feels playing Diane Lockhart - a liberal feminist lawyer - for over a decade. “It’s a wonderful revelation to go from The Good Wife to The Good Fight.  For seven years she fought a lot of battles, had a lot of setbacks and a lot of sorrow but you always felt she was the same person in the room, that she was the grownup woman, she was the Nance Pelosi: “Listen, guys, trust me on this, just behave yourself.”

On The Good Fight, Diane is now living in the epicenter of our political-cultural climate. “She was a baby boomer generation who lived through the ’60s and the Civil Rights movement and feminism and she thought there was an upward trajectory for women.  She got to be the head of the law firm, but she did not expect this setback as no woman her age of accomplishment and professionalism did. We’re all gobsmacked that we’re actually fighting for women’s rights.”

That makes Diane crazy. “She’s wide-awake; she’s not taking anything to alter her consciousness.  She got to figure out how to channel her rage and moral sensibilities.  She has to fight the good fight.”

A long career on TV wasn’t always Baranski’s plan.  As far as she can remember, she wanted to act on stage.“My grandparents were actors in the Polish theater in Buffalo.  I lived with my Nana, we shared a bedroom.  She wrote her own comedy show on the Polish radio in Buffalo.  In high school I started doing plays and just felt magical when I was on stage, I still do.”

During most of her early career, she traveled to different cities. “I was doing wonderful plays, great roles on Molière, Shakespeare, Chekhov or Shaw.  I was just always working, always packing my bags, getting on a train and going to some city.  And then in my 30s I started getting roles on Broadway and won a couple of Tony awards.  I resisted doing television because I thought, no, I’m a theater actress.  My dream was to be a great theater actress.”

When she was in her 40s she got a role in Cybill.  Playing Cybill Sheridan’s best friend brought her two Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy. She explains why she took the role: “I had two young daughters and I sort of sat down with my late husband and we did the math on what it would take to maybe put them through school”.

But it wasn’t an easy decision. “I was so reluctant to jump over because it would have meant living in Los Angeles and I didn’t want to raise my children in Los Angeles.  We had a lovely country home, my husband’s childhood home in a rural part of Connecticut and we just wanted to keep them away from the business.  The night before I was to fly out to do my final audition for the network and for Cybill, I called my manager and said I can’t, I can’t make the jump.  And she said, just get on the plane, and it changed my career.”

Suddenly she was famous and got offered roles in movies. “Mike Nichols wanted me to do The Birdcage, Warren Beatty asked me to be in Bulworth and then I did work with Jim Carrey in The Grinch - it opened up my movie career."

Listen to the podcast and hear how she liked playing Johnny Galecki character’s mother Beverly on The Big Bang Theory; why she wanted to do drama after the Broadway comedy Boeing, Boeing; why her Polish grandparents didn’t teach her Polish; what kind of LPs she enjoyed when she was a kid; when she realized she wanted to be an actress; why she loves theatre; why she thinks television is challenging; why William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was very special for her; why as an actress it is important to have a personality over good looks; what is going on with her singing career; and why she admires Maggie Smith.