Margo Martindale Makes Her Move as a Power Player on ‘The Good Wife’

The Good Wife - Margo Martindale and Alan Cumming
The Good wife

Could another Chicago Democrat be the next POTUS? If you’re not a fan of the current crop of presidential wannabes, you may be interested in an Illinois governor who’s ready to declare, armed with a “Genius of Iowa” header for his underdog campaign.

As Season 7 of The Good Wife opens, Gov. Peter Florrick (Chris Noth) finally wins the blessing of his semi-estranged wife, Alicia (Julianna Margulies), to run in the Democratic primary. His secret weapon: indomitable political operative Ruth Eastman (Margo Martindale, in a recurring role). “She’s a brilliant campaign manager who wants to bring him beyond Iowa,” says Martindale, 64, who just won a guest-actress Emmy for her role as a KGB spy handler in FX’s The Americans. Her current gig has her quite aglow. “Talk about a well-oiled machine!” the much-in-demand actress says. “[This] is the most organized show I’ve ever been on.”

“The plan for the season is to follow Peter’s campaign up to the Iowa Caucus in February,” executive producer Robert King says. “His opponents will be Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.” (There’s an alternate plotline brewing if Vice President Joe Biden decides to enter the fray.) “We’ll have the episodes coincide as closely as possible with real time and the issues that come out of the campaigns.” Peter’s agenda, however, is not to become the president; he’s positioning himself as the best man for the veep position. “He’ll have to be delicate about not pissing off the frontrunner while coming in the top three in Iowa,” King reveals.

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Ruth, though, thinks her guy is aiming too low. “She sees a bit of Camelot in Peter and Alicia,” Martindale says. “She really believes in Peter.” But how much does Alicia, who has her hands full starting a new law firm, have to offer to fit Ruth’s image of a model political wife? “All she wants is for Alicia to stand by her man,” says Martindale. “The relationship between the two women doesn’t start off too well,” she adds with a laugh, admitting that Ruth tries to bully Mrs. Florrick. As fans know, that’s not an easy task.

“Don’t be fooled by Ruth’s warm Midwestern exterior,” Martindale warns. “It’s a front—she’s an absolute shark.” Not unlike Justified’s Mags (the actress’s poisonous, drug-dealing, matriarchal villain from the recently ended FX series, which won her a 2011 supporting actress Emmy). “But dressed so much better!” she adds.

A shark indeed. Ruth wrests a plum job as Peter’s No. 1 away from his cunning longtime adviser, Eli Gold (Alan Cumming). “Eli, for sure, thought he would be the campaign manager, so there’s quite a fight between those two,” the actress says. “Then he finds a place for himself that makes for a phenomenal dance for us to play. It’s really, really fun.” Seems like this dance floor will be quite a crowded one this year.

The Good Wife, Sunday, Oct. 11  9/8c, CBS