Archie Panjabi on Kalinda’s “Good Wife” exit and chemistry with Gillian Anderson on “The Fall”


AE: Were you able to give input on the character at all?

AP: I think at the outset of the first two seasons when nobody really knew what hit them when they kind of saw this obsession and this love for the character, there was a really good sort of—there was more time to have that input and sort of develop that character. And so we definitely had a lot more conversations, say, at the pilot stage and the first year, which I think was some of her best stuff. But you know what these things are like—once you get to Seasons 3 and 4, you have certain storylines and certain characters you have to write for and you have to manage and you have to deal with. So I think as Seasons 3, 4 went onwards there was less communication, but I think also by then everybody knows the character and everybody has an idea of what they’re doing.


AE: Kalinda has been hailed as one of the best queer characters on television. How is it to play someone like that?

AP: It’s beenwhen I first got the role I was nervous and excited working with such an established group of actors. I knew when I read it on the page this was something exciting and I really do put my heart and soul into a character. And I really didn’t want her to be defined by anything—her cultural background, her sexuality, anything about her. I just wanted Kalinda to be Kalinda. It’s been really nice to see people—often when they talk about Kalinda, just talking about her personality as opposed to her diverse background. I feel that sends a really great message out for future roles where you don’t necessarily have to be defined by your cultural difference, or your sexual difference—it could be something you address later on as a series develops. But it’s been a real honor to be accepted, for me, on an international level, to receive the love and affection from the fans and the critics for six seasons is priceless. It’s something I’m very, very touched and humbled by, the amount of love for the character, and the support the character has received.


AE: We also loved you on The Fall where you had a flirtation with Gillian Anderson’s character. 

AP: I remember reading The Fall when I was working on The Good Wife and I’d just finished a very long shoot. The creator, Alan, sent it to me and said, “Archie, would you just read it and let me know what you think—yes or no. But just read it because I’ve had you in mind for this. And I remember reading six episodes—I just couldn’t put it down. I just thought, “This is a great project. And it isn’t a huge role”—which I couldn’t really manage with The Good Wife—and time wise,  it could just slot in so well. And as soon as I arrived in Ireland and met Gillian, we just really hit it off in such a big way. We just got on incredibly well and I think they saw that sort of natural chemistry between us two women—which wasn’t sexual at all. I don’t even think—I mean the bar scene maybe a little bit [laughs] but it was just really about two women sort of getting on very well and finding each other’s company a lot more rewarding, particularly for her, as opposed to the men she was mixing with. But yeah, we just got on really well as friends and had a lot of fun on the shoot.



AE: Are you getting a lot more scripts to play more queer characters?

AP: Interestingly enough, she’s not queer—she’s married with kids, my character. It was just a moment that I don’t know really develops into something or not. But I think it is obviously labeled as being queer because of having played Kalinda for a long time. I think that people—the roles that I have gone out for I’ve been asked to read for films tend to be more strong, sexy women as opposed to being asexual or bisexual. I think that I kind of fit in that niche of being a strong intelligent sexy—which is fun to play.  And the role that I’m about to do, one of the notes that I got for costumes is “We just don’t want anything sexual about her.” Which I laughed! No leather jackets, no leather boots—it’s become so iconic now, so it kind of is going the other way, particularly in this next job. That’s for something called Shetlands, which is something I’m doing for ITV in England and in Glasgow next week. Every time I’m on hiatus I try to fit in something in England just because I love coming back here and doing British work.


AE: So will you be back for Season 3 of The Fall?

AP: Possibly, it really just depends on scheduling because I’m also with Fox in a deal where they’re trying to find me the perfect match so right now things are a little bit up in the air but in the meantime, I’m having a little bit of a flirt with different projects and different characters and like Kalinda, I’m not committing until I find the right one. So we’ll wait and see. After playing Kalinda, it’s a difficult act to follow and I’m not in any rush. I want to feel that same level of excitement when I read that script and when I read The Fall.


AE: Is there anything else you want fans to know about you or Kalinda?

AP: Like I said, I know a lot of celebrities stress their gratitude to the fans, but I really do feel this character, from the outset, kind of became what she did as a result of the fans. Because the response was so incredible, they wrote for me and they gave me an episode—I don’t know if you remember it, it was “Hi” in Season 1 which was the heaviest episode I ever had as Kalinda. That helped me go on to win the Emmy. It was the highest-watched episode in the history of The Good Wife. That response—I keep saying—that response that I got from the audience is kind of the reason I got all the accolades and CBS and the Kings kept pushing for my character, otherwise I wouldn’t have achieved that. And as you know, for the husband, when they didn’t like him, I got taken away because the audience reacted in the way that they did. 


AE: Why do you think that was?

AP: I think that character was a surprise—it was the underdog. And I think the audience became very protective of [Kalinda] and after the friendship broke up with Alicia, even then a lot of people were still pining for that friendship to get back. I don’t know—I think there’s something about the character that people connect with. When I meet people in person, the way they react to the character—not me, I know I play her but the character—is priceless. They have a twinkle in their eye. And New Yorkers, who are averse to going up to celebrities, seem embarrassed coming up to me and just wanting to say something. It’s like, “I think you’re really good, I never do this, I’ll see you later, bye!” It makes my day because that’s such a huge compliment. So just seeing that reaction from them—there’s something about her I haven’t been able to bottle or actually put my own words on it. The audience just seems connected.


AE: Thank you so much, Arcie. I’m going to be sad watching The Good Wife without you!

AP: I mean look, it’s a well-written show, it’s a classy show and I think it always has been that and as sad it will be for me to go, I think it will continue to be that. I’m grateful to have it as my first job in America and have had such a wonderful opportunity.



Follow Archie on Twitter: @panjabiarchie. “The Good Wife” Season 6 finale airs this Sunday night on CBS 9/8c.