Throwback Thursday: Josh Charles Had His First Brush With Emmy in 1990

Blair Underwood, Josh Charles and Tom Hulce in "Murder in Mississippi"
Blair Underwood, Josh Charles and Tom Hulce in "Murder in Mississippi"
 NBC/Photofest/Alan Singer

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Before he was cocky lawyer Will Gardner on The Good Wife, Josh Charles was a teen dancer in John Waters' 1988 cult classic Hairspray. His first Hollywood gig consisted of just one line. "It was my first line ever," Charles recalled on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in July. "I got to ask Ricki Lake if she would ever swim in an integrated swimming pool as we were auditioning her to be a member of The Corny Collins Show."

One year after Hairspray, Charles landed his breakout role in the Oscar-winning Dead Poets Society, and in 1990, the actor took on the part of real-life civil rights activist Andrew Goodman in Murder in Mississippi, an NBC TV movie based on the last few weeks leading up to the death of Goodman and two other activists at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan in 1964. A fresh-faced newcomer among veterans Tom Hulce, Jennifer Grey and Blair Underwood, Charles "created a character that was different from what Tom Hulce was doing, and it really worked for the picture," director Roger Young tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I was very proud of that. It was his doing, not mine."

Murder in Mississippi earned two Emmy nominations, for drama or comedy special and for lead actor in a miniseries (for Hulce), and a win for cinematography. Charles earned his own Emmy nom for supporting actor in 2011 for his performance as Good Wife's Gardner (his second long-standing character role in a television series; his first was a two-year run on Aaron Sorkin's Sports Night) and another one this year.

A shocking courtroom shooting sealed his character's exit from the show during its fifth season, after Charles opted not to renew his Good Wife contract. "A broadcast schedule is 22 episodes a year. That's a long time to be playing the same character," Charles told THR in June. "I was eager to move on."

The New York-based actor, now 42, next will appear in the Ross Katz-directed comedy Adult Beginners, currently in post­production.

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