“I came from a very artistic family, and we weren’t allowed to watch TV, so we put on plays all the time and used our imagination to entertain,” Margulies said in a previous interview of growing up the youngest of three daughters in Spring Valley, N.Y. It wasn’t until her freshman year at Sarah Lawrence College that she truly realized her calling as an actor.
Margulies was cast in David Rabe’s “In the Boom Boom Room,” playing a go-go dancer. “I just remember this feeling opening night — I was in my little cage with my boots on and I got this overwhelming sense of belonging somewhere,” recalled Margulies. “It was really overwhelming and it just all fell together after that. I realized how passionate I was and the feeling I had collaborating with all these other actors … I just fell in love with it. So I decided to pursue acting from that moment on.”
The love is mutual, as Margulies will be honored with a star on the Walk of Fame on May 1. Her big break came with NBC’s smash hit “ER” in 1994, after what was supposed to be a one-off role in the pilot turned into an Emmy-winning, six-season run as Nurse Carol Hathaway.
She was recurring in a role on the NBC show “Homicide” at the time as Ned Beatty’s love interest. “I was just visiting my boyfriend at the time in L.A. and I got a wee little part in a pilot called ‘ER’ where my character died. I died in the pilot and I got my ticket home.”
It was co-star George Clooney who called and advised her not to sign on to “Homicide” permanently.
“He left me a message on my machine, and he said, ‘I think your character’s going to live, don’t take a job.’ And I was like, how? I died during the pilot? Somehow they made me live.”
It was apparently producers Steven Spielberg and Michael Crichton who saw the pilot, in which Carol’s suicide attempt greatly impacts her ex-boyfriend Doug Ross, played by Clooney. “They shot the whole thing through his eyes, so suddenly my character got elevated to people caring about her,” said Margulies. “Because in a two-hour pilot, I had seven minutes of screen time.”
The role earned Margulies her first Emmy Award, for supporting actress in a drama.
After leaving “ER,” Margulies appeared in films as varied as the indie drama “The Man From Elysian Fields” to the cult hit “Snakes on a Plane.” She also returned to TV, most notably in a powerful arc on “The Sopranos.” But it was her turn as wronged wife Alicia Florrick that brought Margulies back to TV on a regular basis.
Even though it’s well into its sixth season, the CBS hit “The Good Wife” has somehow managed to defy the odds and maintain its high quality. Some critics would even say the series is better than ever, which Margulies is quick to credit to creators Michelle and Robert King.
Still, a great deal of credit obviously belongs to Margulies, who has earned two additional Emmy Awards for lead actress in a drama. Margulies has a deep affection for her character, and has since the moment she got the pilot. “There aren’t a lot of strong women leads on network television,” she noted. “And I just loved the character. It was kind of a no-brainer.”
Julianna Margulies receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
11:30 a.m. May 1
6621 Hollywood Blvd.