Archie Panjabi is part of the cast of CBS's The Good Wife, which has spent much of this week hearing an earful about a major plot development on last Sunday's episode. (They discuss her feelings about the reaction, but do not specify what the development was.)
But on Saturday's Weekend Edition, she has time to talk to Scott Simon about her own character, Kalinda Sharma, a crafty woman who's not quite like any other on TV. "When was the last time on television you saw a bisexual investigator who's Indian, living in America, and who's respected by her superiors?"
Panjabi talks about not only what makes Kalinda unique, but also what connects her to other characters. Does she use her sexuality for her own gain? Yes. Is her relationship with people like Will genuine, born of a true bond? Yes.
That brings us back, of course, to that twist, and to the chatter that followed. "It just reinforces," Panjabi points outs, "how much fans and the critics are deeply invested in each of the characters on that show."
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Jaws dropped across the country this week after a popular character unexpectedly exited - I don't mean that he went on spring break, either - from the CBS hit show "The Good Wife." One of the program's most intriguing characters is Kalinda Sharma, the canny investigator in tall boots who's got a way of convincing people to spill secrets.
In this clip, she's about to walk into a crime scene brimming with police, but first unbuttons her blouse.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE GOOD WIFE")
JULIANNA MARGULIES: (As Alicia) What are you doing?
ARCHIE PANJABI: (As Kalinda) Working. These are better than subpoenas.
SIMON: Archie Panjabi plays Kalinda. At the moment, she's playing roles in two other shows, too - the BBC series "The Fall," and the high-rated ITV series "The Widower." We spoke with Archie Panjabi this week about how she came to play Kalinda.
PANJABI: I remember when I first read the script, I was in England. I put myself up for quite a number of roles and when this one came in, I just felt something inside me going, wow, this is a very exciting character.
SIMON: Did you know of her sexual orientation at first? It did take me 30 seconds to get that, didn't it?
PANJABI: But you said it beautifully.
SIMON: Thank you.
PANJABI: I did know. I did know. But they were not sure at that point which way they wanted to go with that. And to be honest with you, that was one of the aspects that I thought would be really interesting. When was the last time on television you saw a bisexual investigator who's Indian, living in America, who's respected by her superiors? So that kind of added to the attraction.
SIMON: Yeah. You know, it's hard not to be breathing and blinking this week and not know that a lot of fans of "The Good Wife" are put out over the latest major plot twist, which I will not mention on this program. But I wonder, how do you feel about that reaction?
PANJABI: I think it's absolutely incredible that, you know, a series five seasons on, 100 episodes on, is able to create such a reaction from the audience. And it just reinforces how much fans and the critics are deeply invested in each of the characters on that show. I really do applaud not only the talent in front of the camera, but also the talent behind the camera. The fact that 200 or so more people were able to keep that secret for eight months, I think, is pretty spectacular.
SIMON: A little more about Kalinda. At one point, I think, in the third season, a lawyer in the firm for which she's an investigator - played by Josh Charles - he and Kalinda are at a bar and they see a couple at the end of the bar who were sobbing. And he says to Kalinda: We're not normal people, are we? We don't get emotional. How do you feel about that?
PANJABI: I think what's so great about the Kalinda and Will relationship is that they're very detached, and they're not very emotional people. And so there is a kind of bond within that. And in the episode, in the shocker last week, you see that relationship in the bar where the two of them, you know, they just connect on the basis that they're so detached and they're so unemotional.
SIMON: But if they connect, they're not detached, unemotional.
PANJABI: Well, the question is also, what is normal? You know, I think they're more in touch with themselves even though they're not as emotional.
SIMON: Does Kalinda use her sexuality to gain?
PANJABI: Absolutely. (Laughter) Absolutely.
SIMON: Excuse me while I mop my brow.
PANJABI: I think she's very open about it. And she is aware that it's an asset and will use it when she can, to get the job done. And I think in her mind, it's always for the greater good. Even if what she does is morally questionable in her mind, it's always, you know, in search of the truth, in pursuit of the truth.
SIMON: You're born in London to Indian parents, and I understand you spent a couple of years of your childhood in Mumbai.
PANJABI: I did, that's right, when I was 10 years old.
SIMON: Tell us about - you're involved in charitable work in India and elsewhere, on eradicating polio. What's that been like for you?
PANJABI: Well, when I was 10 years old, I went to Mumbai and - I mean, just picture this kind of young, British-Indian girl moving from England to the streets of Mumbai, and seeing children on the street begging. It was a real culture shock. And I didn't quite understand it but it, you know, it did disturb me, especially when I saw children without limbs, walking around on the street. And when I would ask people about it, nobody really wanted to talk about it.
Cut to a few years later where after "The Good Wife," I was approached by Rotary International and a friend of mine, saying would you have any interest in being an ambassador to eradicate polio? And to tell you the truth, I didn't have the faintest idea. I knew it was a disease, but I didn't know exactly what polio was. And then when I learned about what it was, I immediately jumped at the chance 'cause I felt it was my way of dealing with what I saw as a young child in India.
SIMON: It sounds like this has become an important part of your life.
PANJABI: Yeah. I mean, it's strange how it happened because as a child, I remember seeing those kids and thinking, God, one day when I'm famous, I'm going to do something about it. And obviously, you think that and then, you never actually think it's going to happen. And last year, I went to India, and I actually got to meet some of the polio sufferers and got to vaccinate some of the children. And you realize, yeah, there are problems, and there are barriers in trying to totally eradicate it.
But my mother dedicated her life to helping disabled kids, at a young age. So from a very young age, I'm fully aware of how important it is to give back; but also on a personal level, how much it gives you, how much it puts life into perspective - particularly in the industry that I'm in, which I feel, you know, it's very important not only to give back, but to come out of that bubble.
SIMON: The bubble of show business and being acclaimed and...
PANJABI: Yeah. I mean, it's wonderful. I wouldn't change it for the world. But I do feel it's very unreal as well, you know, when you're on set and the work that you do, you're so involved in it. It takes up so much of your time. And doing something like this really does kind of put life into perspective.
SIMON: Archie Punjabi, who plays Kalinda Sharma on "The Good Wife," in its fifth season on CBS. She'll also be in the new season of "The Fall" on BBC and Netflix - and lots else, I'm sure. Thanks so much for being with us.
PANJABI: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.