Archie Panjabi on The Good Wife, diversity and kissing Gillian Anderson

"When I first started out, I was always cast as the Indian girl; I want to go beyond that"

Archie Panjabi isn’t sure about red carpets. It’s awards season in Hollywood, and Brits are up for almost everything. Panjabi remembers with a shudder her first nomination – an Emmy in 2010 for her sizzling performance as the bisexual investigator Kalinda in The Good Wife, which she went on to win.

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“Everybody’s dressed up, there’s all these cameras there – things that you dream of,” she explains. “It’s like Disneyland. You queue for the cameras, there was an actress in front of me, then I stepped forward… And nobody recognised me. They literally put their cameras down. I wanted that red carpet to swallow me up.”

That’s completely changed in the USA. Panjabi has taken what was originally quite a minor role and – through sheer hard work and a certain inexplicable fizz – made herself a star. The sixth season of The Good Wife will be her last; Fox have offered her a development deal to create, effectively, any show she wants around her. Not bad for a kid from north London.

“I’m not really sure how it happened,” she confesses. That Panjabi helped create the provocative role is all the more surprising given how utterly respectable she is, happily married to a man her parents approved of.

“I’m very different and it’s very strange, sometimes, watching her,” she laughs. “I don’t know where she comes from; I’ve been doing it for six years and I still can’t understand what happens.”

Panjabi with Gillian Anderson in The Fall

Indeed, part of the reason for her accepting the Fox development deal was the possibility that Kalinda might be taking over. In series two of BBC2’s The Fall, as pathologist Tanya Reed Smith, Panjabi had to kiss Gillian Anderson.

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“When I was kissing her, Allan Cubitt, the show’s creator and director, had to say, ‘Archie, can you hold back?’ because Gillian was supposed to take me by complete surprise,” she giggles. “I didn’t think that I was very forward in [the scene], but obviously after a while a character starts to affect you. I thought, ‘Okay, I think it’s time to go now.’”