When you ask Archie Panjabi anything about the character she plays on the CBS hit The Good Wife, she gets a gleam in her eye that always makes you think that there’s not a far distance between where the character ends and the actress begins. That said, AfterEllen.com was on the red carpet this week at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in North Hollywood and tried to solve some of the mystery about Kalinda with the actress.
Before the panel tribute to The Good Wife, Panjabi teased the return of Jill Flint in an episode that airs February 15th, what she knows about Lili Taylor making another appearance and what she’s getting teased about more these days – bashing a car with a baseball bat in a recent episode or Kalinda’s sexy wardrobe. During the panel, the British actress also commented on how she’s still trying to figure out the character that won her a Best Supporting Actress Emmy last fall.
AfterEllen.com: Kalinda is such a fascinating, mysterious character. How do you wrap your head around who she is since you’ve said you don’t know her complete backstory?
Archie Panjabi: I’m constantly writing her life. I think after this I can write a book called The Life of Kalinda. In order to play a character that you don’t know much about I think it’s a great idea to write a backstory. I continuously write stories on her which helps me feel comfortable with her so when I get to play the scene I may not know where I’m going to go with the scene but at least I’m comfortable in that character’s skin.
AE: I heard from [creator] Robert King that Jill Flint is returning. What can you tell me about that?
AP: [grins] She’s coming back. I just shot a scene with her today.
AE: And what did that scene entail?
AP: [laughs] Don’t be smart! As you know they have a history and there’s a lot of attraction between the two of them. She helps her out but you’ll have to watch the show to see the way she helps her out.
AE: Is it safe to say that Kalinda’s time with Lana will give us another window into who Kalinda is?
AP: With Kalinda you’re always given snippets of information and in the episode that [Jill is] in you’re definitely going to learn a little bit more about her.
AE: And what about Lili Taylor? Will we be seeing her again?
AP: I don’t know. We’re as surprised as you guys would be when we know someone’s coming back. Hopefully.
AE: Are you hearing a lot of jokes about you with a baseball bat?
AP: No, I’m getting a lot of thigh-high leather boot jokes but I don’t mind. It’s clothing that both men and women seem to love.
AE: So what else is coming up for Kalinda?
AP: The tension between Blake (her nemesis played by Scott Porter) and Kalinda rises and, as you know, there’s always been…you don’t know whether they’re going to have sex with each other or whether they’re going to be fighting with each other but the temperature goes so high that it has to go one way or another.
AE: Why can’t it go both ways?
AP: [laughs] It might go both! Actually, that’s interesting because it might just do that.
And during the panel, which also included co-stars Julianna Margulies and Matt Czuchry as well as the shows creative team, Panjabi fielded a few more questions about her compelling character.
On shooting the now-infamous “baseball bat” scene …
AP: I wasn’t sure about that scene when I first read it like a lot of the scenes, I called up Robert, we had a discussion … I didn’t think it would work out the way that it did. I was surprised and I was really happy with Blake and Kalinda’s character work together and I think by the end of that scene in the episode people thought “Are they going to have sex with each other or hit each other?”
One thing she loves about Kalinda …
AP: What I do love doing in the show very much is the devious methods that she adopts in trying to get information. In one episode, she steals another lawyer’s SIM card and copies all the information and that helps get one of the clients off. I like that.
On trying to figure out Kalinda …
AP: The thing about playing Kalinda is that it’s probably the most complex characters I’ve ever played in my career, period. She’s so mysterious and I think Robert will agree that we’re still really trying to figure out [who she really is] and that’s one of the biggest challenges in playing her. How do you play a character that everybody else finds mysterious but you yourself can’t quite understand what’s going on in her head? I got to the point where I felt comfortable if I didn’t know where I was going in a scene but I’d put on the boots [and] put on the jacket. A lot of times Robert would phone me up and say “You know what? Kalinda really surprises me!” and I’d say “Robert, she surprises you! I’m playing her!”
The Good Wife airs on CBS every Tuesday at 10/9c.