On The Good Wife, Alicia Florrick is the star, and much of the drama centers on how she performs in the courtroom. It's natural to think of Alicia then as the show's top lawyer, given her top billing. But once Elsbeth Tascioni walks into The Good Wife near the end of its first season – the quirky lawyer whose fascination in the world around her helps make sure she thinks of everything in court – viewers suddenly had another hero to worship and the character quickly became a fan favorite.
For the role of Elsbeth, The Good Wife cast Carrie Preston, an actor we've seen in dramas like True Blood and Claws. In an interview with Huffington Post, Preston explained how her sincere interest in the character led writers to create a more complex arc for her on the show:
"You know, it always starts with the writing. In theater, they say, 'if it ain’t on the page it ain’t on the stage.' And, that’s the same with television, too. You know, it’s gotta be on the page first, and then the actor can really pave that and elevate it and make it into something unique, and different, and specific and singular. So, you know, on the page, she was obviously very bright, and then they would just write in little things, like her getting fascinated by a bookshelf or something, and I was, like, that is a gift to an actor. You can get really specific about what that means, and why she’s getting fascinated by someone’s blouse and how that informs how her brain works."
As Elsbeth gets drawn into The Good Wife's juicier plots, we see her become Will's go-to choice in lawyer, Alicia's biggest competition in the courtoom and then just as quickly, Alicia's partner in the courtroom. Where Elsbeth's character goes in the story is just as intriguing as all the small moments the character creates on the show to add humor. As Preston told Huffington Post, "I think once the writers started seeing my take on that mercurial way of thinking, then they started writing to that. And then I started trying to not play the same thing each episode. Okay, now they know that I know how to do things where I get fascinated by somebody’s brooch, but I have to make that different each time and each episode, to continue to make her a real human being and not just somebody who is quirky for quirky’s sake."
In Preston's very first meeting with The Good Wife series creators Robert and Michelle King, the actor said they told her to consider herself a modern Columbo, the equally quirky and infallible TV detective played by Emmy-winning actor Peter Falk. The only problem was, Preston didn't know who Columbo was. So instead, she put her own spin on the roadmap Columbo created for spunky crime TV characters, resulting in something so fresh, The Good Wife creators knew they needed to write an Emmy-winning episode for her. So, they did.
Preston said of the fourth season episode “Je Ne Sais What?" (where Elsbeth sits down for a psych evaluation), "With that scene, they called my agent and said, 'Okay, we’ve written Carrie her Emmy episode.' Now, I was like, 'Oh my god! No pressure there.' But they were really, really, sort of hell bent on getting me an Emmy nomination, because the previous year I hadn’t got one, and they were, like, 'Okay, we’re gonna write a great episode for her.' And boy did they! That episode was just chock full of material."
So chock full, in fact, Preston did take home an Emmy that year. And though her character appeared in just 14 episodes of The Good Wife, super-fans can relax. So far, Elsbeth has appeared three times on the show's spin-off The Good Fight, so there are likely plenty more court dates in her future (and likely plenty more brooches and bookshelves to catch her eye).
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