By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
7:36 AM EDT, March 25, 2014
"It's crazy," Josh Charles said in a telephone interview with The Sun late Monday night. "I didn't know it would be this intense -- the kindness and emotion of the emails, the tweets and the texts. It's like you get to watch your life after you're dead. It's bittersweet, but it's really, really special."
Josh Charles has been living in a rare and weird cultural space since Will Gardner, the character he played so compellingly the last five years on CBS, died in Sunday night's episode of "The Good Wife."
Few actors get such a direct affirmation of their work as he's been experiencing since viewers realized that someone they have been so pleasurably spending time with each week is suddenly gone from their lives.
Charles says he understands the emotional commitment that viewers make to some characters, and he not only respects it, he does it himself. Furthermore, in the age of social media, Charles talks directly to some viewers about those feelings.
"I get invested in these things, too," he said. "I have this one girl who follows me on Twitter. She said her mom went to bed devastated Sunday night after Will's death. So, I got her number, and I called her mom today. And we had a nice conversation. That meant a lot to me -- what she and her mom were feeling."
Charles had some good news for fans who are going through the stages of grief at the loss of Will: his character will be seen in next Sunday's episode. And it should provide some closure. The episode will pick up where Sunday's ended.
"We'll see the ripple effect of everybody dealing with it [Will's death]," Charles said.
"When they were writing the episode, [co-creator] Robert King called and said, 'The episode needs some of you in it.' And we had agreed that if I was available I would do it... It was very moving that last day on the set. I knew that was it -- that the last moment you see of me onscreen in next week's episode is really the end."
Charles said he knew Will was going to die for "more than a year," and that it took a "coordinated effort" among the producers, network, actors and all their representatives to keep it under wraps so that the moment would have the kind of shock value it did Sunday.
"I feel like we did it the right way," he said. "The character could go out in a special way, and the show could go on in a new direction."
Charles said he stayed with "The Good Wife" an extra year after his last contract ended with the conclusion of Season 4. He stressed that it was not a case of him asking to leave the show.
"I didn't ask to be let out of a contract," he said. "In fact, I stayed the extra year because I love the show so much, and I wanted to do right by the show, and in a way, that would allow me to leave on a high note."
As much as he was feeling a little overwhelmed Monday by all the audience love for Will, Charles is very much moving forward with his career.
He just finished directing his third episode of "The Good Wife" on Monday before heading over to do David Letterman's show to talk about what happened on CBS Sunday night.
He's still in production on the independent film "I Smile Back," with Sarah Silverman.
"It's a low-budget independent film, and a real passion project for all involved," he said. "Sarah's a pal, and I'm excited for people to see her in a new light in this dramatic role."
He's also co-starring in "Bird People," a film set in Paris and directed by Pascale Ferran ("Lady Chatterley").
If it gets accepted at the Cannes Film Festival, Charles says he'll be there to help promote it.
He can also be seen April 15 on "Inside Amy Schumer" on Comedy Central. He plays a manager at a fast-food franchise, and seeing him onscreen with Schumer, you are instantly reminded what a fine comedic actor he is.
"I'm excited by this next chapter for me," Charles said Monday night minutes before his interview with Letterman, which was taped earlier in the day, was about to air.
"Excited, but definitely a little overwhelmed by the intensity of the last 24 hours."
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