The Good Wife is known for throwing curve balls at viewers. Case in point: While the writing seemed to be on the wall that Alicia’s husband would eventually be held accountable for his questionable actions over the years, few, if any, could have guessed who would be leading the charge.
After six seasons of playing squeaky-clean small-town teacher Will Schuester on Glee, Matthew Morrison has traded the choir room for the courtroom as assistant U.S. attorney Connor Fox on the CBS legal drama in an arc beginning Sunday. The role, which comes as the series prepares to wrap this spring, marks a major departure to the dark side for Morrison, who’s fresh off a starring role in Broadway’s Finding Neverland.
“I like playing a bad guy. It’s something that I think I do well, because I’m the anti-bad guy. People don’t usually see me as that,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Bad guys are more fun, just like blondes.”
Ahead of his Good Wife debut, Morrison also spoke with THR about the surprising way his role came about, the real-life inspiration for ADA Fox and his own feelings about Peter’s guilt as a devoted series fan.
How did you first get approached about appearing on the show?
I had a sit-down meeting with [Robert and Michelle King], who created the show. And they were really pitching me for their show BrainDead, which is their new series that they’re coming out with. I loved the idea of it, but I couldn’t stop talking to them about The Good Wife, because I told them it’s like my favorite show. I love it so much. They were like, “Oh that’s great, but this other show…” And I was like, “Oh, that’s great, but Good Wife – what’s going to happen?!” The problem was…I was doing a Broadway show at the time. They have a lot of Broadway actors in their show, but they don’t like having too many because it’s just hard to schedule around everyone’s schedule. But I invited them to see my show; I was doing Finding Neverland at the time, and they loved it. When it got announced that I was ending the show in January, I got a call as soon as the announcement came out saying they want me to do this part on The Good Wife, and I said yes! I can’t even believe it because it’s the final season and I get to be a part of one of my favorite shows of all time, so it’s wonderful.
Glee was such an intense production. Were there any hesitations about diving into TV so soon after that and doing an arc on another hour-long series?
Not at all. I was kind of game for it, because right after that I went to do Broadway for the past year. I was really excited to come back into the TV world, and honestly, this is nothing like Glee. It would take eight hours to film a single number sometimes, whereas here, sometimes I go to work at 6 a.m. and I’m done by 9:30. (Laughs) It’s such a well-oiled machine. It’s such an amazing cast, an amazing crew. Everyone is so on top of their stuff and very professional. It’s wonderful.
When you’re coming off a role that is so well known and that you’re closely associated with, how consciously were you looking for something different from that role?
That is something I do kind of look at with every part I do. And this role is totally different. It’s a courtroom drama, so there is no hint of Will Schuester in there at all. I’m kind of playing the villain in this. I don’t consider him a villain because I think he’s a guy who really is passionate about the law and stands up for his beliefs, and he just wants to see the people who do bad things [punished], and we all know that Peter Florrick – he has had his hands in a lot of cookie jars that he probably shouldn’t have. (Laughs) So he’s doing the right thing by his own standards. But I don’t know if Good Wife fans are definitely going to agree with that.
Going after one of the leads of the show – what kind kind of fan reaction are you anticipating?
I don’t know. Me personally, as a Good Wife fan, I’m looking forward to Peter Florrick going down. He’s been a bad boy for a long time, so I think orange is going to look really good on Peter Florrick, if that’s where it ends up going.
This FBI investigation feels like the culmination of seven years of Peter’s various wrongdoings. As a fan of the show, it must add another layer to it for you.
Absolutely. I mean as a fan, the hardest thing going into work every day is remembering people’s real names. I just want to call her “Alicia” or call him “Eli”…. But I think that’s also the good thing about going into this show as a fan. I know all the interworkings of all their relationships, and I know everyone’s character so well that I know how the reactions are going to go, at least I think I do. Sometimes they surprise me. (Laughs)
Being a Broadway vet, did you know anyone on the cast already?
I’d met most of them. I’m friendly with Alan [Cumming]. I was telling – see, I want to call her Diane – Christine Baranski; I had scene with her the other day and I was reminding her of a movie that we did together a long, long time ago called Marci X. It was kind of an embarrassing movie, and she just started laughing. She was like, “Oh my God!” I definitely know Julianna [Margulies] through seeing her at parties and stuff like that, but everyone’s so welcoming. Even if I didn’t know them, they were so welcoming, with open arms. It’s a great group of people.
Let’s talk about your character. Obviously he’s going after Peter, so what are his first interactions with Peter, Eli and Alicia?
I think Eli is the big mediator between Connor and the Florricks. They went out and hired a lawyer, Mike Tascioni, so most of my scenes are with those people, but like I said, I don’t think he has any ill will against the Florricks, especially Alicia. I think he probably respects her. But he’s a tough, smart guy who won’t take a bribe, and he just wants to see the law upheld. He’s a man who’s just doing what’s right.
For any lawyer, this would be a huge case. You’re basically trying to bring down the governor. What kind of pressure is Connor under?
He’s actually done it before. Peter is the third governor he’s taken down. I was inspired by this guy, his name is Patrick Fitzgerald. He’s a real U.S. attorney in Illinois, and he’s taken down two governors in Illinois [Rod Blagojevich and George Ryan]. I did a lot of research on that guy, seeing how he acted and different speeches he’s made. It was really inspiring to see someone out there like my character and who really just believes in the law and just trying to do good things. He’s not malicious at all. He’s not just trying to take him down because Peter Florrick is on a pedestal. He’s just doing his job, and he’s doing it very well.
Were there any other influences or inspirations for you?
He was the big one. It’s tough because I’ve never done a lawyer show before, so I think I was a little intimidated to begin with, with all the legal jargon and everything. But honestly, when I got in that courtroom, it felt like so natural to me, because being in a courtroom is kind of like being on stage. It is a theater in its own respects, because you’re not just having a conversation with one person. You’re talking to the person on the stand and also you’re expressing all these things to a room full of people, so it feels very theatrical, which I kind of fit right into.
You said Connor isn’t going to take a bribe, but The Good Wife has proven time and time again how dirty politics are in Chicago and how people are not what they seem. Should we still be worried about his intentions? Will the city sway him?
You’re touching on something totally right. I think he goes in with the best intentions. I haven’t seen that yet in any of the scripts I’ve gotten, but I think there might be a point where he has to kind of make some tough decisions that might not be, I guess, lawful.
Seeing photos from the episode, it must be nice to ditch those vests Mr. Schue loved in favor of these suits on The Good Wife.
Oh my gosh, the costumes are so great. I want to buy all these suits after I’m done. They’re so well-fitted. I learned how to do a double windsor knot. (Laughs)
How long is your arc on the show?
Honestly, I was supposed to do four episodes and it looks like I’m going to be going all the way to very end now. If I do all of them, then it will be seven episodes.
What is it like getting that positive feedback from the creators?
It’s very validating. I’m so happy to be on this show. I was curious to see how, having just ended a long run of a television show myself, I was curious to see what the reaction of the cast would be when they got that news and everything. Everyone feels really good about it. The show is going out on top, and I have to agree with them. I feel like the show is stronger than ever, and it’s going to be sad, but I think it’s going to be the right time.
When you signed on, did you have any inclination that this might be the last season?
No idea at all. Actually, I was in the courtroom with Julianna one day and she was saying, “Yeah, we’re going to find out next week what’s happening with the show and everything,” and she was giving me all the scenarios of what might happen. I wasn’t there when they found out, but I’ve been back since then, and everyone’s good. Everyone’s like, we did what we had to do. Being on a show that long, it does get tiring, day in and day out of long hours. I think everyone is looking forward to a nice little extended hiatus after this is done.
Now that you’ve seen your arc extended on The Good Wife, has there been any more talk about BrainDead?
That’s the thing I was kind of worried about. It’s great being a guest star because I can keep my own schedule and I’m not tied to doing 22 episodes every single year. So I think I’m going to take a little break from the 22-episode series regular thing. I don’t want to jump into that right now.
Coming out of Glee, how do you think the way you read and select roles has changed, aside from not wanting to be a series regular? What are some other things you’re looking for that have changed?
It’s interesting, because that is such a commitment, and you take yourself out of the running for so many different projects because you’re never available for anything. I think knowing that now and having lived through that experience. I’m 37 now, so I think I’m playing different roles than I used to play, and it’s been exciting. I’m excited for this moment in my career. I’ve gotten offers to do a few pilots already this pilot season and they just didn’t seem right, so I’m going to let The Good Wife happen and play out and see what comes from that. In my perfect world, I would love to be doing some films or some television that is like the Netflix or Amazon or Hulu format, where it’s 13 episodes [or] 10 episodes of just really strong material. I feel like sometimes 22 episodes, it’s hard to fill up all that time and not have filler episodes. If you do 10 or 13 episodes, you can just put so much quality into those episodes, and that’s kind of what I’m looking to do next.
Almost a year after Glee ended, how often do you get approached by fans these days? What role does the show play in your life now that it’s all said and done?
I definitely get approached a lot, and it’s great. I love the exposure that it gave me and the opportunity that it gave me. I think as an actor, the only power that you have is the power to say no, and I really feel like now I can be a little more picky with the roles that I take. I don’t have to take every role, and it’s a nice feeling to have.
The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on CBS.