Archie Panjabi won an Emmy for her portrayal of Kalinda Sharma in The Good Wife.ARCHIE Panjabi has an intriguing theory. What if the ”good wife” behind the title of the excellent US drama series The Good Wife is not Julianna Margulies’ Alicia Florrick, but rather Panjabi’s own cooly dexterous investigator Kalinda Sharma? Four years into the role, it’s a concept Panjabi has begun to seriously mull over.
The early episodes of the fourth season, which Channel Ten has been airing swiftly after the US, has seen the introduction of Kalinda’s husband, Nick, played by British actor Marc Warren.
The interplay between the reunited couple has been as jarring as it is odd. There’s some brusquely explicit sexual interactions and surprisingly violent altercations. Yet even for a leather-clad character who frequently indulges in both, their raw primal nature is almost shocking to watch.
The Good Wife has always crossed genres: those of the case-of-the-week procedural, political thriller, romance and legal drama. Presumed ”good wife” Ms Florrick was humiliated by politician husband Peter (Chris Noth), who was caught cheating on her with prostitutes.
As the show began, Noth’s character was in jail and Florrick returned to the workforce, joining the law firm Lockhart/Gardner. With the exception of Alan Cumming as Eli Gold, the show has quickly become centred on its outstanding female cast, led by Margulies and Panjabi.
The London-born Panjabi says the initial (uncomfortable) direction of this season was written with the intention of giving the audience an intimate insight into a toxic relationship.
”In typical Good Wife fashion, all the loose ends will be tied up. Everything will eventually connect. It’s not obvious at first.”
The aggressive nature of the scenes, she says, was to provide insight into the most intimate relationship the bisexual, sexually promiscuous Kalinda has had.
”They have taken risks with Kalinda from day one,” she says. ”The storyline with Nick, which is so intense, is a big risk, but I think eventually, as things start to unravel, you will get an insight into why Kalinda is the way that she is. A lot of unanswered questions that have been building up in the show will eventually start to get answered.”
When the show began, Panjabi says, the part of Kalinda was deemed a minor role.
”The impression I got was her strength in getting people to talk was to do it by manipulating them sexually. She is a tough woman. Sort of an Eastern Erin Brockovich. But I was nervous because I didn’t want to be a woman who would always undo her button to get something because there would not be much of a life for that character.”
To defuse her own fears, Panjabi submitted a two-page backstory to the show’s writers on how she perceived the character and where she felt her story should go.
”I felt like they took it on board and started to write towards that,” she says. ”That really helped the development of the character.”
Kalinda swiftly became one of the show’s most intriguing elements. She had auditioned for the role while still based in London, having ”overnighted” the producers an audition tape recorded in her kitchen. The next day they called her and offered her the role.
”It all happened really quickly,” she says. ”Normally, you’d be flown to America and be subjected to a few auditions in front of the network and producers. None of that happened to me.”
They clearly made a shrewd choice; Panjabi won an Emmy following the show’s first season.
And there have been fewer more shocking – or satisfying – scenes on network television this decade than when Kalinda took to arch rival Blake’s car with a baseball bat.
”I often will read a script and say to myself, ‘That’s just ridiculous and it will not work,”’ she says. ”When I did that scene, I went completely into character and just trusted the director. Then it went viral online and everybody was talking about it. It just didn’t feel that intense at the time.”
So, back to her theory. How could Kalinda be the ”good wife”?
”After she married and was a wife, it definitely changed the way she is. Was she the good wife? She is the byproduct of living with someone like that for so many years. What has he done to her to make her like this? Or was she always like that? I’m hoping we can look at that relationship and try to understand.”
The Good Wife airs on Channel Ten on Wednesday nights.