Last week, Julianna Margulies discussed antisemitism and Jewish casting, as well as the recent events unfolding in Israel, at Variety’s Hollywood and Antisemitism Summit, presented by the Shine a Light and the Margaret and Daniel Loeb Foundation.
In a conversation with Claudia Eller, the chief production officer of Variety, “The Good Wife” and “The Morning Show” star said she is “trying to understand and work around why every single person in our industry isn’t standing up” after Hamas’ attack on Israelis October 7 that lead to the murder of over 1400 people and the kidnapping of over 200 Israelis, including children. “I don’t understand. It is shocking.”
“Maybe they are afraid?” Margulies asked herself and the crowd. “I don’t know what they are afraid of. Losing followers? It’s just insane to me. That’s not how I roll. Listen, the last thing I thought in my life was that I’d be the one actress speaking out for Jews. I hope I inspire other people to come out and talk and use their voice and use their platform to draw attention to this.” (To be fair, quite a few celebrities have spoken up about this, you can read about them here).
Julianna Margulies condemns silence from Hollywood on antisemitism amid the Israel-Hamas war: "I've been trying to get past feeling so disheartened by it…and understand why every single person in our industry isn't standing up…It is shocking." https://t.co/A48SVrItiz pic.twitter.com/rirP7Gbuc7
— Variety (@Variety) October 18, 2023
Margulies, 57, is the daughter of Jewish parents. In her autobiography, “Sunshine Girl,” she talks about not being raised particularly Jewish and defining herself as a Jew who celebrated Christmas growing up. Her mother was the descendant of Russian Jewish immigrants who spoke Yiddish and cooked Jewish food, but who weren’t particularly religious. Her father was the son of “Sephardic Jews that got kicked out of Spain,” she said in a “Finding Our Roots” episode. “We’re always getting kicked out of someplace.”
Margulies, who first rose to fame in her role as Nurse Carol Hathaway in “ER,” hasn’t played many Jewish roles. But in her autobiography, she wrote about how often during her audition years she heard that she looked “too ethnic.”
“What is she? Black? Hispanic? Black Irish? I never heard Jewish, but the feedback was, more often that not, that I looked un-American.”
At the summit, she discussed how she regretted not making her “The Morning Show” character, journalist Laura Peterson, Jewish.
“I love what I do, and I love creating a character,” she told Eller, after she was asked about stereotypical portrayals of Jewish characters. “I was thinking the other day, I play this lesbian journalist on ‘The Morning Show’… I realized, without thinking, in my first fitting, my costume designer, who I love, put this cross on my character… I did not think twice. I put the cross on and then the character became popular. In the next season, in my dressing room was the cross.”
Since that first fitting, Margulies partnered with the New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage: A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in creating the Holocaust Educator School Partnership — HESP. She was drawn to creating the program after hosting a CBS and MTV documentary about the Holocaust in 2022, “The Hate We Can’t Forget,” which drew her attention to the lack of Holocaust education in the country. While the project was not just about the Holocaust, but also about genocide and racism, she said in a 2023 podcast episode of People of the Pod, “For me, antisemitism is incredibly frightening because family members of mine were Holocaust survivors. I’m a Jew, I’m raising my son Jewish.” She also recalled talking to a friend who was scared of letting her son go on the subway, because he wears his Star of David necklace proudly.
Because of that work, Margulies found herself thinking, “What if Laura Peterson was wearing a Star of David or a chai?” She wondered why she didn’t ask at that fitting for her to wear the Jewish insignia, even if Preston’s religion or ethnicity wasn’t addressed on screen.”Why did I not say, hold on a minute, why am I wearing a cross?”
“I regret that. I am sorry about that. I am going to be a lot more careful in the future,” she said.
Margulies’ husband, lawyer Keith Lieberthal, is also Jewish. They got married under a chuppah when Margulies was seven months pregnant with their son, Kieran, in 2007; she recently posted a photo of Keith donning a tallis on their wedding day. Kieran recently turned 15, and on Rosh Hashanah, Margulies shared a picture of the family of three going apple picking as she wished everyone a sweet New Year.
After the October 7 Hamas attack, Margulies posted on her Instagram drawing attention to the Jewish pain and suffering taking place, sharing, among other things, a post from comedian Brett Gelman, in which he wrote that “we the Jewish people, should have been given the space to mourn, but instead have had to use all of our energy to defend not only our right to grieve, but to exist.”
She also wrote that being opposed to the Israeli government’s treatment to Palestinians doesn’t preclude one from “calling for the protection of Jews.”
“I understand many of us are afraid to voice an opinion because the crisis there is so nuanced and hard to understand, and we are afraid of saying the wrong thing,” she added, “but we can — and must — always use our voices to denounce terrorism and the senseless murder of civilians.”