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Remote Controlled: Julianna Margulies on Playing a Character ‘Like Trump’ on ‘Dietland’

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In this week’s episode, Variety‘s executive editor of TV, Debra Birnbaum, talks with Julianna Margulies, who’s making her return to series TV with AMC’s new drama “Dietland.”

Margulies says she wasn’t necessarily looking for another role after finishing her 7-year run on “The Good Wife,” but she was completely “taken” by Marti Noxon’s scripts — and the opportunity to play a character unlike anything she’d played before. “I always play the girl with her heart on the sleeve. I do miss Alicia Florrick. I still miss Carol Hathaway, but this was so far away from who they are,” she says. “The role of Kitty Montgomery, she’s such a bitch, and she has no moral center. I consider her a little bit like Trump, in that she just wants to win, whether it’s right or wrong. She likes to believe her own hype.”

Montgomery is the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine, who employs Joy Nash’s Plum Kettle to ghost write her letters for her. But Margulies worked with Noxon and the writers to make sure she was more than just a one-note caricature. “I feel selfish, because truthfully, I get the best lines,” she admits. “I get the best clothes, and I have the best schedule. I feel like I’ve finally arrived, to be honest.”

Margulies praises Nash, who’s marking her own debut as the lead in a major series. “I was so happy to be on the train with her, to just guide her through moments of exhaustion,” she says. Among the advice she imparted: the 20-minute nap rule. “No more than 20 minutes or it’s too much. No less than 20 minutes is not enough,” she says. “I learned all this through pain and suffering.”

She also praises the experience of working on a female-led set, from the showrunner to the crew members, recounting a day when she was too sick to go to work. In the past, she says, a doctor would have shown up at her bedside to “prop her up with steroids.” But on this set, everyone insisted she stay home and recuperate. “I was so shocked at the response from everyone who worked there, I kept writing thank you emails from my sick bed,” she says.

Woven into the plot is a vigilante movement by women who are frustrated with the abuses of men in positions of power, and they start getting their vengeance. Given the echoes of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement, AMC moved up the release date of the series — which is based on a book written in 2015 — to capitalize on headlines.

“It was timely when I read it, in that Trump was president, just the misogyny that’s coming out of the White House, and the racism, and the ineptitude is mind-boggling — it definitely was timely in and of itself,” says Margulies. “But then when the Me Too movement started, we all realized we had it in the bag, and we needed to let it out sooner than later.”

And while it would be natural for Alicia Florrick to make a cameo appearance on CBS Access’ “The Good Fight,” Margulies says she’s not quite ready to return to the courtroom — or to “ER,” for that matter.

“I do miss Alicia Florrick, and they did ask me in the first season to come back, I feel it would’ve done a disservice to everyone on that show,” she says. “It’s like George Clooney and I always used to say, ‘Let’s let a lot of time go by and then just have a Carol Hathaway, Doug Ross wedding. We’ll just do one,’ because enough time will have gone by. I feel like enough time has to go by for you to be able to not take the limelight away. It’s their show now, and I think they’re carrying that torch beautifully.”

You can listen to this week’s podcast here.

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday, and you can find past episodes here.

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