Professional is the main word that came to mind after spending a half day watching Matt Czuchry try on suits at a photo shoot. Not just because he looked great in them, which you can plainly see he did. In between shots, while the guys on the other side of the camera amused each other with stupid dude humor (“Why do girls drink so much Diet Coke? Because they’re fat and thirsty.”), Czuchry paced about the studio with the look of someone who was about to appear before a judge rather than a couple of fashion editors.
Maybe it’s force of habit.
For three years, Czuchry has held a supporting role on CBS’ hit law drama “The Good Wife,” on which he plays attorney Cary Agos, frenemy of Lockhart Gardner, the firm around which the show is based. For those not among the nine-million-plus viewers, Czuchry’s three-season story arch took him from go-getting, first-year lawyer pitted against Julianna Margulies in season one, to the sore loser of that square-off in season two, to conflicted member of the State’s Attorney’s staff caught in the middle of agendas in season three. “Hopefully, what we’ve seen throughout all three seasons, is whether you love him or hate him, Cary’s good at his job. He’s a damn good lawyer.”
True, but this is television, where a degree of superficiality is inherent. Czuchry is one of the show’s most attractive male cast members, whose only real competition is Josh Charles (no disrespect to Chris Noth) and, thus, is more likable than not. At the mention of this, Czuchry’s focused face broke into a smile so loaded with dimples and genuine laugh lines and topped off with a blush, it was like watching a grown man turn into a kitten. “I never turn down a compliment,” said Czuchry, who is 34 but could pass for mid-20s.
The writers don’t play Czuchry as “the hot one” as much as they could — season two was almost a complete dry spell for Cary — but it would be a waste of good looks to ground him entirely with on-the-job resolve. So, the two most recent episodes had him sleeping with his co-council Dana Lodge (Monica Raymund), while both of them individually battened up the sexual tension with the mysterious, leather-jacket-clad investigator Kalinda (Archie Panjabi). “We have this Dana-Kalinda triangle that’s been slowly building in a personal-professional way, and I love that about the show,” said Czuchry. “Anytime the show is really successful I think all the personal and professional lines come together.”
Network TV does not lack for lawyer shows, yet “The Good Wife” has managed to stand out. It’s been a critical darling, lavished with award nominations and several big wins, mostly for Margulies, who has won an Emmy and Golden Globe for her role, and is nominated for another Golden Globe in 2012 for best actress in a television drama series. But the show has taken a hit in its third season, down about two million viewers. Critics and fans complained of weak plotlines at the outset of the season, but the show’s real adversary was the move from its Tuesday night slot to Sunday at 9 p.m., where it had to contend with the NFL and its DVR-befuddling delays. All things considered, the show has emerged relatively unscathed. Asked what distinguishes “The Good Wife” from the rest of the “Law and Order”-ly pack, Czuchry brought up “Perry Mason,” an unlikely comparison given the shows’ premises are so different, and that Czuchry is at least a generation too young to be a “Perry Mason” fan. “But as a point of reference, what people really enjoyed about ‘Perry Mason’ was its brightness and its positivity in the beginning, middle, end as far as the case was always going to come out in a good way,” said Czuchry. “I think why people connect with our show is the opposite of that, when unexpected things happen, or the gray areas of the law.”
Czuchry moved from Los Angeles to New York for the show, which shoots May through July in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He lives in the West Village, where he “likes the energy.” He is not dating anyone and says he hasn’t really since he moved to New York. Primarily a television actor, Czuchry’s chosen his small-screen projects wisely, appearing on mainstream successes such as “Gilmore Girls” and “Friday Night Lights.”
The same cannot be said for the last movie he made, the film adaptation of Tucker Max’s autobiographical, best-selling bro book “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” which can be filed under “flop.” In it, Czuchry played Max, an unapologetic drunk, womanizing, overgrown frat boy. If this interview was any indication, Czuchry has little in common with that character, or that type of guy in general. Quiet to the point of shy, yet unfailingly polite, he said work is his main focus, though he has found time to take a photographer class at the International Center of Photography. When pressed about the show and any opinions on plotlines — past, current or upcoming — he would not veer from neutral praise. Finally, this being Men’s Week, he even steered the conversation toward fashion all by himself, name-checking designers he likes, such as John Varvatos, and those who like him, including Bernardo Rojo, who made Czuchry tuxedos for the Emmy and SAG awards.
His fashion interests extend beyond the red carpet. At the end of the shoot, he changed back into the John Varvatos sweater and Uniqlo jeans he arrived in, then put on a silver Varvatos necklace with a cross dangling from it that took the look in a far more style-conscious direction. “I like clothes, in what they — again, talking about energies — what it brings out in you,” said Czuchry. “If you put a leather jacket on, you feel differently than if you put a suit on, and I love that aspect of clothes.”
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