"I don't watch the show, only because it's still too close to my heart," Margulies says. "I just need a little distance from it."
That may explain why Margulies's first project since being discharged from ER finds her morphing from registered nurse to warrior princess. In The Mists of Avalon — TNT's miniseries about the legend of Camelot — the actress plays King Arthur's sister, Morgaine, who's caught in the middle of the conflict between Christianity and paganism.
"It's as far away from pink scrubs as you can get," Margulies laughs of her role in the four-hour epic based on Marion Zimmer Bradley's best-selling novel. Premiering on the cable network in July, Avalon also stars Anjelica Huston, Joan Allen and Samantha Mathis.
Although Margulies calls Morgaine "the quintessential female character," she didn't get too excited when director Uli Edel forwarded her the script. "I actually tried not to read [it] because I thought, 'I'm leaving television. I shouldn't go and do television right away,'" she recalls. "And [then] I got snowed in at O'Hare Airport one day while I was doing ER and I read the script and I couldn't put it down."
For her next gig, Margulies heads back to the 20th century in Jon Robin Baitz's stage drama Ten Unknowns, which opens at New York's Lincoln Center in March. "I've been having these amazing jobs since I left [ER]," she marvels. "I'm in heaven. It was a great six years, but I'm glad it afforded me [the opportunity] to be able to do what I want now."