By SARAH LYALL , NEW YORK TIMES
January 05, 2015 - 3:17 PM
Lovers of “The Good Wife” found the death last spring of Will Gardner, everyone’s favorite sexily arrogant lawyer, shocking and traumatic. But even as they adjusted to the cold new reality (Will was never coming back), they were struck by a frisson of something that felt, inappropriately, like delight.
It arrived in the form of Finn Polmar, a sweet and morally upright prosecutor whose entrance just as Will was exiting provided solace to the audience and the grieving characters in the show. If this sudden attraction seemed disloyal — Will is dead; long live Someone Other Than Will — then so be it.
What does Finn, aka British actor Matthew Goode, make of all this?
“You can’t replace Will — you can’t replace a character who’s that influential and that loved,” Goode said. “But what they have tried to do with Finn was make him be one of the few people so far on the series who doesn’t have hidden agendas, who is sort of morally unambiguous.”
Goode, 36, let a wicked smile cross his face. “Although you might find out he’s a coke dealer in a couple of weeks,” he said. “Things can flip quite quickly on this show.”
‘Spectacular sense of humor’
Things can also flip quite quickly in Goode’s life. Long one of those slightly under the radar actors who log one impeccable performance after another, Goode suddenly is showing up all over the place.
Perhaps best known in America for his turn as Colin Firth’s longtime boyfriend in Tom Ford’s “A Single Man,” Goode in the past few years has played (briefly but memorably) a dashing 18th-century naval captain in “Belle,” the caddish Wickham in the BBC adaptation of P.D. James’ “Death Comes to Pemberley” and a charming yet psychopathic uncle in the thriller “Stoker.”
Most recently, he has injected a little sex appeal into “The Imitation Game,” playing a brilliant and flirtatious code breaker, a welcome foil to Benedict Cumberbatch’s aggressively unflirtatious Alan Turing.
But it is in “The Good Wife” — where he enjoys smoldering, get-a-room chemistry with the title character, Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies) — that Goode truly has made his mark. Now into its sixth season, the series remains a favorite of audiences and critics, even though Alicia is not behaving with particular goodness (or wifeliness) these days.
Charles’ decision to leave last season deprived the show of one of its most enticing plot lines, Will and Alicia’s steamily tortured on-again-off-again relationship. In looking for a replacement, show runners Michelle and Robert King sought to introduce a character of a different sort, someone who was cerebral and slyly disarming, in contrast to Will’s street-smart scrappiness.
“We wanted someone who was witty in court, who didn’t hit you with brass knuckles but when you weren’t looking might devastate you with his wit,” Robert King said.
They had seen Goode in various productions, including the pilot of the short-lived Ridley Scott miniseries “The Vatican.” They hired him without even meeting.
“He had this spectacular sense of humor on the phone, and that’s what Julianna is into — she likes having a good time with someone who is funny,” King said. “You want someone who is not too unctuous in his acting, who can take a U-turn from drama to comedy in a moment.”
Claret, veggies and marriage
Goode in person was not unctuous at all and had the added bonus of speaking in his real English-accented voice. He had all but disguised himself under a pair of large dark-framed eyeglasses and a floppy wool cap. He had just taken a shower and felt unhappy about his hair. “I’m not a blow-dry kind of guy,” he said.
Neither is he the kind of guy eager to discuss his career, necessarily. Instead he cheerfully digressed on various subjects: the asparagus, potatoes and other produce he helped cultivate as a child at his father’s garden; the oeuvre of Aaron Sorkin; a bottle of claret he bought on eBay; his success in quitting smoking and switching to e-cigarettes; the television program about wine he has signed up to film in France with his friend Matthew Rhys (the star of “The Americans” with whom he drank the claret); the joys of the Golf Channel, and the winsomeness of his wife, Sophie Dymoke, and two young daughters, Matilda and Teddie.
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