Julianna Margulies
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Julianna Margulies

What the down-to-earth actress has learned from The Good Wife about love, marriage, and kicking butt. Lesson number one: Pick a great husband.

When Julianna Margulies gets excited about something, she uses her hands. A lot. As she describes the dinner she's making for a friend's birthday, her iced coffee is in constant jeopardy of being knocked over. "We're doing a Greek salad [tossing movements] and a skirt steak [chop chop chop] with pearl onions [arrays imaginary dish on an imaginary platter]." Then she catches herself and laughs. "It's always a joke in our family -- everyone talks with their hands."

In person, Margulies, 46, is much more animated and lighthearted than the capably composed Alicia Florrick, the litigator and political spouse she plays on The Good Wife. With just a few days left before she starts filming the fourth season of the popular CBS drama, she's been spending time with her family (lawyer Keith Lieberthal and their 4-year-old son, Kieran), organizing the house and socializing with her friends like mad. A self-described "regular New Yorker" who rides the subway and schleps to the grocery store, Margulies believes it's crucial to have a life. In fact, having a life was the reason she famously turned down a $27 million contract to stay on her first hit show, ER.

It certainly didn't hurt her career. At this point she has collected so many awards that she practically has to thank her dry cleaner in speeches (after winning her eighth Screen Actors Guild trophy last year, she got kidded for giving her in-laws a shout-out). Margulies says that it is Alicia that inspires her to go to work every day. "I wish I could speak like her and act like her," she says with a smile. "She's so smart and inspirational." Over a long afternoon chat, Margulies opened up about marriage and happiness and what she's learned about both from doing The Good Wife. Here's a sneak peek:

Knowing her husband Keith Lieberthal, was "the one:" "I think the true moment I knew I was going to marry him was when he told me I needed to raise my bar when it came to men. He was shocked at how I never expected him to pull a chair out for me. I didn't understand what chivalry was. I had never experienced it. It was such a turn-on!"

On juggling work and family: "When Keith and I come home, we put our BlackBerrys, iPhones, computer, and iPads away and don't make it a focal part of the home. The crazy outside doesn't come into our house. We're in such a media frenzied society -- I never want Kieran to feel that my device in my hand is more important than him. I know how I feel when I'm talking to someone and they're doing this [taps on imaginary device]. You feel like, Oh I guess I'm not worthy of being listened to so then I won't talk. Or I'll say, "It's okay, I'll wait."

Life with her husband: "Before Keith I used to go to dinner with a date and I'd look around the restaurant and someone else was always having a better time than me. With Keith it's like I married the party. Anne Bancroft said it about Mel Brooks -- that she always knew the party was about to begin once she heard her husband's keys in the door. That's how I feel."

Should Alicia and Peter Florrick on The Good Wife get back together: "It's so hard to give a definitive answer to that question. I know fans of the show want them to. And I think they're good together. But it's a tricky dilemma. I don't know how you find love in a physical way again without remembering what he did to the family. Politics is sexy and Chris Noth has that: He's 6-foot-2 and he's got a strong jaw and a deep voice and you kinda have to go like this [she looks up] when you talk to him, and it's a very strange aphrodisiac. But I just don't know. I don't know if I could ever forgive my husband if he cheated."

For more of our interview with the Julianna Margulies, pick up the new issue of LHJ on newsstands or get a copy on your iPad, Kindle Fire, Nook, or Google Play device at LHJ.com/digital.