Cary Agos can’t catch a break. And because of that, Matt Czuchry might be getting one of the biggest breaks of his career.
Sunday night’s episode of The Good Wife saw the young lawyer take another tumble in what’s been the meatiest arc Cary has had in his six seasons on the critically hailed CBS drama. And Cary’s portrayer, Matt Czuchry? He’s nailing every scene.
The season began with Cary’s startling arrest on a charge related to his association with Chicago drug dealer Lemond Bishop. But his violent handcuffing was just the first hit. The district attorney’s office is using him as a pawn in their own crusade, setting ridiculous bail amounts and conditions in order to keep him or land him back in jail, the most upsetting of which came to a head in Sunday night’s episode.
After taking an Uber car home with a girl from a night of drinking at Ivy League mixer, he arrives to see his pretrial officer (played by Linda Lavin) waiting for him. When she discovers that the Uber drove him a half of a mile out of state on the way home, Cary is arrested again for violating his terms of bail—staying within state lines—and is released on condition that he wear an ankle monitoring device and, more tragically, limit his interactions with his good friend and co-worker, Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi).
Czuchry’s tussle of blonde hair paired with his perfectly dimpled jawline helped make him the perfect Yale charmer for his time as Rory Gilmore’s paramour, Logan, on Gilmore Girls and the ideal smugly ambitious charmer/Alicia’s adversary in the early seasons of The Good Wife. But the underrated 37-year-old actor is coming into his own with his arresting performance in this season of the show, as Cary holds a white-knuckle grip on his life as it spirals out of control—defeated and broken, but still strong-willed enough to desperately hold on to the successes and relationships he so carefully built.
What will it take for Cary to lose that grip? We chatted with Czuchry about his breakout performance, how much longer Cary will be able to hold on, and last week’s big Good Wife news: the surprising departure of Archie Panjabi at the end of this season. Will Czuchry be next to leave?
You must have been pretty stoked when you found out that Cary would have such a big, juicy arc this season.
It was more of just when I got the script the challenge of getting it right. I was excited about that, the challenges and the places I would have to go. In terms of emotionally, this is the biggest challenge for me that I’ve ever had in the past six seasons. The court room scenes, which we’ve always done, are an incredible challenge in a different way. But coming up in episodes 8, 9, and 10, the emotion and heaviness and places I’ve been required to go as an actor have been the most challenging I’ve gone to in the last six seasons. The first thing when you read something like this is, “OK, how can I make this believable, interesting, and real?” And the excitement and the passion come from that.
When people are released from prison in real life, we always ask them, “How has prison changed you?” How do you think prison has changed Cary?
Certainly in the course of these episodes we see that, even though he’s not physically in jail, he still is in jail because he can’t do the things in his normal life. In the episode that aired last night we saw that now they’re limiting his interactions with his close friends. With Kalinda or with drinking or any of these elements, there’s still a chance Cary can go back to jail. There are still all these restrictions on his life. Part of what is great and fun about this storyline is that he’s finding out about those changes along the way. In terms of, “I can’t do this. I can’t do that. I feel like a prisoner here. I can’t believe this is happening to me.” It’s constantly an evolving thing that with each new thing that comes up there’s a new change with him.
It really seems like things are being piled on him unfairly and that he can’t catch a break. How has that not totally defeated him or broken him yet?
At this particular point, you’re absolutely right. Right now we’re in the place in the episodes that are airing that each thing is building, whether it is the state’s attorney changing their tactics or Cary doing something personal, like we saw last night. We’ll see it build, and then he does break.
So that’s what we’re heading to in these next few episodes? A breakdown?
Episodes 8, 9, and 10, he’s in a new place heightened from building and building and building and then he breaks. Everything really has built up to a point where maybe he can’t handle it all.
I think the most shocking part of the last episode was Cary being told that in order for his bail to not be revoked he’d have to limit his interaction with Kalinda. How does he handle that?
That’s addressed in the next couple of episodes. I really like how they’ve handled the relationship between Cary and Kalinda. They’ve gotten closer. When Cary was jailed, Kalinda was the first person fighting for him. In moments of tragedy and trauma you find out who your friends are or aren’t. And this made her closer to him. Now you have this restriction that they can’t be together. They can’t be within 50 feet of each other, so they try to find ways to work within the system and beat the system at the same time, to maintain their closeness. And of course they have this shadow over their heads that he could go back to jail, meaning that there’s risk to them being closer together. That’s going to continue. How do they maintain that closeness with this risk over their heads?
Cary’s personal life is slipping out of his control with all of his legal troubles. But his professional seems to be, too. Diane and Alicia keep make decisions either without him or that directly go against his wishes. How is he dealing with both parts of his life escaping his grip?
In terms of the professional aspect, I really like the juxtaposition of Cary and Diane being at odds in terms of what they want for the firm—down to the fact that Cary didn’t want Diane to join at all—while at the same time Diane is representing Cary in his case. They’re both having to balance their professional disagreements with this case, where you’re basically talking about Cary’s freedom. I love that.
What I love about The Good Wife is that it’s not straightforward. It’s not just that Alicia and Cary and Diane aren’t getting along at work and that’s it. It’s the combination like we saw last night, were Alicia says, “Look, I know we’ve had disagreements at work, but we’re here for you for this case.” I think that dynamic, that gray area really makes that interesting.
Now they’re back in the Lockhart Gardner offices. Are you going to miss that warehouse?
It’s interesting. My character in Season 1 was fired and then came back to Lockhart Gardner and was there only a short period of time, was over at Florrick Agos for a while, and now is back. It’s interesting for me to be on those stages and shoot those scenes there. Because it was different for me. Kalinda or Alicia or Diane or even Will: they were all there at Lockhart Gardner longer than my character was. It’s weird for me to be on those stages to shoot those scenes because it’s more reminiscent of Cary in the earlier times than it is now.
It’s like going home in a way?
It is. It feels like we’re going full circle back to Season 1. But at the same time, Cary has gone through so much since that time. He’s a completely different person. He’s a completely different lawyer. I think that will be exciting for the audience to see as well. He’s back to where he was at Lockhart Gardner, but completely different in terms of his life experiences and who he is as a man now. He was probably more of a boy when he was there in Season 1.
I’m really intrigued by Linda Lavin as the pretrial officer. I can’t figure her out. I can’t figure out if she’s empathetic towards Cary or if she’s out to get him.
I really liked episode 3 where we saw the first interviews she had with Cary, and then the flashbacks to when he was with Kalinda. And then the interviews with Alicia and Diane, seeing Alicia and Diane and Cary protecting one another. There’s a feeling you get when you’re with Linda Lavin’s character that everyone has to be careful about what they say. We have to protect ourselves and protect each other. I like, again, that juxtaposition that, even though they might not be getting along at work, Alicia and Diane and Cary have much more of a history than you do with Mrs. Grubik, Linda Lavin’s character. I think there’s a sense, certainly, that you have to be careful with what you say in front of Mrs. Grubik. She’s very good at her job. She’s very meticulous. But that means that there’s a cost with these other characters, so you have to be careful.
You just mentioned Cary and Alicia and Diane. If you went back to the beginning seasons of this show, I think you couldn’t pick three more unlikely friends.
Absolutely. And it happened in an organic way as well. That growth from Season 1, too. Alicia and Cary arrived at the same time. Diane and Will fired Cary. But organically their professional lives have come together. And sending Cary to prison has a ripple effect for all of these characters. Some people, with traumatic events, you get closer or you get further away. And they bonded closer together. It’s an organic way these characters have grown together to where they are, bonding and protecting each other. If there was this same storyline in Season 1 it would be completely different. They would probably be on opposite sides and fighting to keep Cary in jail. Now they’re fighting to protect one another.
We’ve talked a lot about how close Cary and Kalinda have become. But we just got word that Archie Panjabi is leaving at the end of the season. How is the cast feeling about that? How are you feeling about that?
I feel excited for her. Her contract is up at the end of this season and she wants to be a lead in a show. She met with Fox and they loved her and she loved them back. I love the quote that Sharon Klein gave in the release on Deadline. It basically says that now is her time, for her to shine as the lead of a show. That’s what Archie wanted to do, and her contract was up. So for me it’s exciting. She’s a great friend of mine. I’m just excited for her because this is what she wanted, and it happened. And it’s going to happen at a place that’s really excited about her. So I feel great, knowing that she does.
When the announcement that was made that she was leaving, there were all these reports surfacing counting the number of episodes that have passed since Julianna Margulies and Archie Panjabi shared a scene together. It’s a lot of episodes.
Yes, I’m familiar with that. So much of that is story driven, in terms of where those two characters are. It’s story driven, just as Kalinda and Cary getting closer together is or Alicia, Diane, and Cary getting closer together is, Kalinda and Alicia’s characters have grown farther apart. That’s the way the whole show is dictated, by the stories that are organic to tell.
So there’s no behind-the-scenes discord going on?
It’s all story driven, as far as that’s concerned. Anything beyond that is a question to talk to the Kings about, not really a question for me. It’s story driven and it’s a showrunner’s world.
So Good Wife fans have already weathered Josh Charles leaving. Now Archie Panjabi is leaving when her contract is up. Do we have to worry about you leaving, too?
My contract is up at the end of the season as well. This is the sixth season and that’s why I signed at the beginning, a six-year contract. Josh had a different one, but Archie also signed a six-year contract. At this point, I haven’t heard anything about a Season 7 or the show going further. It’s not something I’ve had to address or think about, because that hasn’t come up. When it does then you think about the choice you want to make in terms of going forward. I love this show. I put everything I possibly can into this show and have for six years and over 100 episodes. I’m passionate about it and I think it’s showing in the work, especially this season. If I find out there’s another season and they want me to come back, then we’ll all deal with that then. But at this point that’s just not a conversation that’s been had yet.