The 42 Greatest Guest Stars on The Good Wife

TV Lists The Good Wife
The 42 Greatest Guest Stars on The Good Wife

The Good Wife has always given us great guest stars.

Whether it’s a Broadway performer, a familiar face from TV or film, or an unknown discovery, the CBS series tapped the best the acting field has to offer. More than any other series, the drama proved to be an expert at bringing out stellar performances from its bevy of fabulous guest stars.

The Good Wife comes to an end this Sunday. (Let’s pause to take a sip from our collective glass of wine.) In celebration of the incredible drama’s final moments, we culled through the seven seasons to pick our favorite guest stars. There are some obvious omissions (no way Kalinda’s ex-husband was making it to this list), but others may surprise you (Nathan Lane’s Clarke Hayden story arc, for example, never quite worked).

We also stuck to actors who were always listed as recurring or guest stars (Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Jason and Matthew Goode’s Finn Polamar were both series regulars), and actors who appeared on the show at least twice. Here they are—the 42 greatest guest stars on The Good Wife.

42. Judge Charles Abernathy
Actor: Denis O’Hare
First episode: “Stripped” Season 1, Episode 2
Number of episodes: 9


Our favorite liberal judge. No I’m not crying. It’s just the pepper spray.


41. Daniel Golden
Actor: Joe Morton
First episode: “Fixed” Season 1, Episode 4
Number of episodes: 11


Long before he became Papa Pope on Scandal, Morton’s Daniel Golden helped get Peter Florrick out of jail.


40. Josh Mariner
Actor: David Krumholtz
First episode: “Sticky Content” Season 6, Episode 9
Number of episodes: 7


The most cynical member of Alicia’s campaign team for State’s Attorney, Josh was the most fun when he was clashing with Eli.


39. Mike Kresteva
Actor: Matthew Perry
First episode: “Blue Ribbon Panel” Season 3, Episode 19
Number of episodes: 4


Peter’s opponent in the governor’s race as not the Friend we were used to seeing.


38. Judge Richard Cuesta
Actor: David Paymer
First episode: “Pilot” Season 1, Episode 1
Number of episodes: 8


He seriously disliked Peter (get in line buddy) and bookended the series by presiding over the first and last cases. You never forget your first judge.


37. NSA Dudes
Actor: Michael Urie, Tobias Segal, Zach Woods
First episode: “The Bit Bucket” Season 5, Episode 2
Number of episodes: 5


Obsessed with Alicia and fairly incompetent, we so hope they aren’t an accurate representation of the guys listening in on our conversations in real life. Now let me just send you this YouTube video of goats bleeting to “I Will Always Love You.”


36. Frank Prady
Actor: David Hyde Pierce
First episode: “Message Discipline” Season 6, Episode 7
Number of episodes: 8


Alicia’s opponent in the State’s Attorney’s race always took the higher moral ground. Of course, that worked to make Alicia’s willingness to dive into the gray moral area all the worse.


35. Guy Redmayne
Actor: Ed Asner
First episode: “Dark Money” Season 6, Episode 13
Number of episodes: 2


A racist misogynist with loads of money, Guy became the best representation of how low Alicia would sink to win the election.


34. Jennifer
Actor: Anne Marsen
First episode: “A New Day” Season 3, Episode 1
Number of episodes: 6


This was Grace’s quirky tutor/friend who liked flash-mobs and roller skates. She marched to her own beat, and although her story line never quite went anywhere, it was nice that Grace found someone who understood her.


33. Ted Willoughby
Actor: Mo Rocca
First episode: “Loser Edit” Season 6, Episode 18
Number of episodes: 3


The go-to reporter when you don’t want to be asked any tough questions, Willoughby’s soft-ball queries were hilarious, and—given our current election cycle—not that far from reality.


32. Renata Ellard
Actor: Laura Benati
First episode: “Tying the Knot” Season 5, Episode 19
Number of episodes: 2


Colin Sweeney’s wife (and later, ex-wife) was just as crazy and evil as he was. It was always a special treat to watch both of them creepily vibe off each other.


31. Rowby Canton
Actor: Matthew Lillard
First episode: “Goliath and David” Season 5, Episode 11
Number of episodes: 2


Two words: Thicky Trick.


30. Joy Grubick
Actor: Linda Lavin
First episode: “Dear God” Season 6, Episode 3
Number of episodes: 3


Cary’s pretrial service officer was always dealing with some sort of personal crisis on the phone. She brought a bit of much-needed comic relief to the stress of Cary facing criminal charges.


29. Matthew Ashbaugh
Actor: John Noble
First episode: “The Decision Tree” Season 5, Episode 10
Number of episodes: 2


Matthew Ashbaugh died before we ever even met him. Appearing only in flashbacks, Ashbaugh was Alicia’s litigious and very wealthy client. He left Alicia $12 million, and in the end, Noble’s character was truly priceless.


28. James Castro
Actor: Michael Cerveris
First episode: “A Material World” Season 5, Episode 17
Number of episodes: 10

The incumbent State’s Attorney and Alicia’s would-be opponent was nasty to the core, but so much fun to watch.


27. Geneva Pine
Actor: Renee Elise Goldsberry
First episode: “Painkiller” Season 1, Episode 12
Number of episodes: 23


An attorney in Peter’s office, Geneva popped up in the show’s penultimate episode as a key witness in Peter’s trial. Did she actually have a long-standing affair with Peter? The show will probably never confirm this, but we definitely believe it.


26. Charles Lester
Actor: Wallace Shawn
First episode: “Runnin’ with the Devil” Season 4, Episode 16
Number of episodes: 3


Lemond Bishop’s lawyer had the appearance of your kind, gentle uncle. But his demeanor belied those terrifying threats, which he delivered with a smile on his face.


25. Judge Don Schakowsky
Actor: Christopher McDonald
First episode: “Bond” Season 7, Episode 1
Number of episodes: 7 episodes


Alicia’s worst enemy in bond court, Judge Schakowsky was not above a well-placed bribe.


24. Monica Timmons
Actor: Nikki James
First episode: “Lies” Season 7, Episode 6
Number of episodes: 6


Monica joined the firm after accusing them of discrimination. But I think you’ll really like her. You two have a lot in common.


23. Nora
Actor: Nicole Roderick
First episode: “Ham Sandwich” Season 2, Episode 17
Number of episodes: 18


Eli’s assistant is probably the only one who knows exactly how to handle ALL of Eli’s moods. What a trooper.


22. Ruth Eastman
Actor: Margo Martindale
First episode: “Bond” Season 7, Episode 1
Number of episodes: 13


Peter’s Presidential campaign manager was a worthy opponent to Eli, but her penchant for doing things old school style eventually cost Peter the campaign.


21. Jonah Stern
Actor: Kevin Conway
First episode: “Threesome” Season 1, Episode 9
Number of episodes: 3


The original title partner, Stern was a loose cannon (with dementia) whose departure lead to the first of many (many) name changes for the law firm.


20. Judge Lessner
Actor: Ana Gasteyer
First episode: “Fleas” Season 1, Episode 16
Number of episodes: 5


The show’s quirkiest judge (and that’s saying something), Judge Lesser had all sorts of rules for her courtroom. But still she’s one of the best judges the show ever had… in our opinion.


19. Andrew Wiley
Actor: Tim Guinee
First episode: “Silly Season” Season 2, Episode 12
Number of episodes: 10


Andrew was a Mr. Mom investigator who really knew what he was doing, and an old friend of Cary’s from the Innocence Project. Whenever we saw him he was hard at work, but also an incredible multi-tasker, dragging his children about in strollers, car seats and baby carriers all over the city.


18. Becca
Actor: Dreama Walker
First episode: “Threesome” Season 1, Episode 9
Number of episodes: 8


Zach’s high school (sort of) girlfriend was a horror show—sickly sweet to adults, obsessed with the underbelly of Florrick’s life and not afraid to take on anyone—even Eli.


17.Glenn Childs
Actor: Titus Welliver
First episode: “Pilot” Season 1, Episode 1
Number of episodes: 16


Childs took over as State’s Attorney when Peter went to jail. He had a serious vendetta against Peter, and, as a result, actually succeeded in making the governor look sympathetic.


16. Kurt McVeigh
Actor: Gary Cole
First episode: “Bang” Season 1, Episode 15
Number of episodes: 13


A gun expert who romanced Diane all the way to the altar, Kurt rarely lost his cool and brought a steamy side to Diane’s personal life.


15.Caitlin D’Arcy
Actor: Anna Camp
First episode: “Marthas and Caitlins” Season 3, Episode 5
Number of episodes: 9


One of the greatest character bait-and-switches the show ever pulled, Caitlin was introduced as an All About Eve type who wanted to usurp Alicia’s career. But in the end she left it all behind to get married and have a family. Thankfully, viewers got the chance to see her one last time this season.


14. Wendy Scott Carr
Actor: Anika Noni Rose
First episode: “Breaking Fast” Season 2, Episode 3
Number of episodes: 14


Peter’s rival in his bid for re-election to the State’s Attorney office, Carr was a strong and conniving opponent who later appeared to prosecute Will in a bribery case.


13. Robyn Burdine
Actor: Jess Weixler
First episode: “Runnin’ with the Devil” Season 4, Episode 16
Number of episodes: 19


Brought in during the fourth season to help Kalinda, Robyn was a stellar investigator who mysteriously disappeared once Cary and Alicia returned to Lockhart/Gardner. Seriously—where are you, Robyn?


12. Howard Lyman
Actor: Jerry Adler
First episode: “Great Firewall” Season 2, Episode 16
Number of episodes: 30


Prone to long naps, racist remarks and taking off his pants, Howard is not the lawyer you want when you’re in trouble. But he made for some truly fantastic subplots on the series.


11. Patti Nyholm
Actor: Martha Plimpton
First episode: “Crash” Season 1, Episode 5
Number of episodes: 5


Nobody put Will in his place like this character. The no-nonsense Nyholm took no flak from anyone, even when she was nine months pregnant—which she frequently was.


10. Jackie Florrick
Actor: Mary Beth Peil
First episode: “Pilot” Season 1, Episode 1
Number of episodes: 49


Peter’s mother never, ever saw any faults with her son, but saw many with Alicia. Her fractured relationship with her daughter-in-law provided the show with some of its best domestic scenes.


9. Owen Cavanaugh
Actor: Dallas Roberts
First episode: “Breaking Fast” Season 2, Episode 3
Number of episodes: 14


Devoted to his sister, Alicia’s brother got himself into trouble over the years, but he was the one Alicia turned to when times got really tough. Owen was loyal to a fault, and he was responsible for some of the funniest bits of dialogue on the show.


8. Veronica Loy
Actor: Stockard Channing
First episode: “A Defense of Marriage” Season 4, Episode 9
Number of episodes: 12


Alicia’s mother was a glorious mix of narcissism, motherly love, inappropriate behavior and total lack of self-control.


7. Louis Canning
Actor: Michael J. Fox
First episode: “Poisoned Pill” Season 2, Episode 6
Number of episodes: 26


Canning became an especially unforgettable character/nemesis as soon as it became clear that he wasn’t afraid of using his disability to get what he wanted—and he often got what he wanted. In his most recent appearance, Canning—who’d once tried to partner up with his former courtroom faux—told Alicia, “God I love you.” But we really, really loved him.


6. Marissa Gold
Actor: Sarah Steele
First episode: “Silver Bullet” Season 2, Episode 15
Number of episodes: 22


Eli’s daughter, who became Alicia’s body woman during her campaign, was constantly a refreshing presence. She said what she wanted to say. Always. And we’d definitely watch a spin-off where Marissa goes to law school. Now go drink your milk.


5. Nancy Crozier
Actor: Mamie Gummer
First episode: “Bad” Season 1, Episode 13
Number of episodes: 8


Oh my goodness! Not nearly as naïve as Nancy Crozier wanted us to believe, her flustered, sweet act was just that—an act. She was a snake in the legal grass.


4. Colin Sweeney
Actor: Dylan Baker
First episode: “Bad” season 1, episode 13
Number of episodes: 8


The creepiest serial killer of them all, Colin Sweeney had a nasty habit of… murdering his wives. Yup. Baker was always delightfully amusing, even when totally horrifying us.


3. Neil Gross
Actor: John Benjamin Hickey
First episode: “Great Firewall” Season 2, Episode 16
Number of episodes: 8


The tech genius behind the fictional Chumhum (the show’s search engine of choice), the ever-cocky Neil Gross is used to things always going his way and brought the show some of its most of-the-moment tech cases.


2. Lemond Bishop
Actor: Mike Colter
First episode: “Fleas” Season 1, Episode 16
Number of episodes: 21


The best criminal on prime time TV, Bishop defied viewers’ expectations of how a crime lord should act. He was a deeply devoted dad and a savvy businessman, even as he continuously left murder and mayhem in his wake.


1. Elsbeth Tasconi
Actor: Carrie Preston
First episode: “Mock” Season 1, Episode 20
Number of episodes: 14


With her quirks and stream of consciousness lawyering, Elsbeth was, arguably, the most brilliant lawyers on the show, and Preston’s portrayal of her was equally brilliant. The most beloved guest star by far, we’re still holding out hope for an Elsbeth spin-off.

Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal ®, is a Boston-based freelance writer, a member of the Television Critics Association and a regular contributor to Paste. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter or her blog.

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