For seven years, Christine Baranski has been a compelling presence on our TV screens as top lawyer Diane Lockhart – first on The Good Wife and now taking centre stage as the lead in The Good Fight. While Diane’s career may take a hit at the start of The Good Fight, the career of Christine Baranski has gone from strength to strength ever since she started on television decades ago. Need a reminder of just how much you've seen her over the years? Here’s a quick rundown on a career packed with highlights.
Despite the rumours, her career didn’t start on The Brady Bunch
For a while, the internet was happy to tell you that Christine Baranski’s career started when she worked as a child actor (under the name Chris Charney) back in the 70s, including a memorable appearance on The Brady Bunch. In bad news for the Brady family, it turns out Baranski didn’t start acting professionally until high school – so no, that’s not her making life difficult for Marcia. She then went onto New York’s famous Juilliard drama school and a string of Broadway shows, starting with Hide & Seek in 1980, a Tony award-winning role in Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing, and a second Tony award for playing Chris Gorman in Neil Simon’s Rumours. But Broadway couldn’t hold her forever…
Her big break was on Cybill
While Baranski had made occasional appearances in various New York-based television series like Law & Order and some small movie roles (including a memorable appearance in 9 ½ Weeks where she balanced a spoon on her nose), her first big TV role was as Cybill Shepard’s acid-tongued booze-hound bestie on the mid-90s sitcom Cybill.
As the wealthy, man-hungry divorcee Maryann, Baranski was the breakout star of the series, pulling in a string of awards including a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in 1995 and a Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series in 1996. The show itself was never a smash hit and was abruptly axed at the end of its fourth season. Fortunately, by this stage the movie offers were rolling in…
She had a great run of movies in the 90s
If there was a funny movie being made in the late 90s, Baranski was the actor they wanted for it. The Birdcage was a huge smash: she’s in it. Steve Martin’s Bowfinger is amazingly funny (it’s probably the last funny thing Eddie Murphy was involved with): she’s in it. Warren Beatty’s Bullworth is a political satire that has to be seen to be believed (and not just for the chance to see Beatty in 90s hip hop gear): she’s in it. And Cruel Intentions might be a trashy teen take on Dangerous Liaisons, but she’s still in it – and she’s said it’s the movie that’s paid out the most in residuals over her career because it was such a box-office hit.
She plays Leonard’s mother on The Big Bang Theory
While Baranski was off doing serious work on The Good Wife, she kept her hand in comedy with a series of semi-regular appearances as Leonard’s mum on The Big Bang Theory. To be fair, her role as Dr. Beverly Hofstadter (for which she’s received an Emmy nomination) isn’t exactly a chance to play a rapid-fire gag-meister – she’s a chilly and remote character whose relationship with her son is distant at best (Sheldon, on the other hand, she gets along with just fine). Series creator Chuck Lorre was also the brains behind Cybill, which probably didn’t hurt when he came calling to offer her the role.
She’s coming back for the Mamma Mia sequel
It seems they didn’t use up all the good ABBA songs in the first film: a Mamma Mia sequel is currently in the works, and Baranski – who played Tanya, yet another wealthy divorcee and one of the besties of Donna (Meryl Streep) – is coming back to spend more time hanging around the Greek Islands singing classic rock.
Actually, it sounds like everybody is coming back, including Streep, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Dominic Cooper and Amanda Seyfried, which isn’t a surprise considering how much money the first one made (at one point it was estimated that one in four UK households owned a copy of the DVD). This isn’t the first time Baranski has been involved in a big-screen musical smash either: she played reporter Mary Sunshine in the 2002 movie version of Chicago, which won six Academy Awards. Surely they can fit a musical number into The Good Fight somewhere…
The Good Fight season 4 premieres at 9.30pm on Wednesday 23 September on SBS. Episodes are also available at SBS On Demand after they go to air.