Despite spending the past six years playing Kalinda Sharma on Emmy-award-winning The Good Wife, Archie Panjabi has learnt not to second-guess how people may recognise her.
“I assume it’s going to be for Kalinda but I never take it for granted,” she says.
“Yes, people still recognise me from Bend it Like Beckham or East is East so it’s often fun to try and guess where they will know me from, from their reaction.”
After working mostly in America since 2009, Panjabi is back this weekend for the British Academy Television Awards, where she will present a trophy and represent The Good Wife, which is nominated.
And, she confesses, to stock up on salad cream.
The Baftas will be a very different experience from when she first started getting invites to award ceremonies.
“I think the first time I went to the Emmys (in LA),” she recalls, “I was on the red carpet and I was nominated [for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series] and I was so thrilled and nobody recognised me.”
“All the photographers put their cameras down and that was probably one of the most daunting experiences I’ve had because I just wanted the red carpet to open up and swallow me!”
As fate would have it, everything worked out and on that night in 2010 when she won and “that’s when the photographers finally wanted to take a photo of me,” she laughs.
Panjabi won an Emmy for her role as Kalinda
Playing a pathologist alongside Gillian Anderson in BBC One’s The Fall has increased her profile further, but Panjabi has recently made a bold career move.
‘I just walked out’
The 42-year-old has walked away from the primetime US TV show, produced by Ridley Scott, that critics and audiences still love after six years.
“I decided two years ago,” she admits, “I felt it was the right time”.
While proclaiming her love for the character of fiercely loyal Kalinda, something had changed.
“I’ve been really lucky at being professionally very satisfied and happily employed,” Panjabi explains.
“But one of the things I love most is being able to develop that character and create something that is so different from me and I think, after six years, I feel if I continue playing her I wouldn’t have that equilibrium.”
Kalinda’s exit takes place on TV in America at the same time as Panjabi will be partying at the Baftas in the UK this Sunday evening.
Without giving away exactly what happens, she reveals her last day on set was spent in a bar.
“Everybody was a little sad,” she says, “we had tequilas and we all celebrated and then I got up on the bar in my boots and thanked everybody”.
“And then I just walked out.”
Josh Charles was killed off in 2014
How delightfully like Kalinda. Panjabi even swiped the character’s trademark boots and leather jacket.
Kalinda’s goodbye sounds slightly less traumatic than when Josh Charles (Will Gardner) was written out of the show in 2014, shot and killed in a tense courtroom scene.
Some of us may still be reeling from the shock of that incident playing out on the small screen, watching a beloved character snatched away too soon.
Panjabi says it was “heartbreaking” filming those scenes and remains proud of how the cast and crew kept it such a tight secret for so long.
“The only thing that snapped me out of being that upset,” she chuckles, “was when I saw Josh Charles lying down dead and then he was on his phone, texting in the middle of a hospital!”
But should fans read much into the fact that two main characters have left The Good Wife as many years. Are its days numbered?
“I don’t know,” shrugs Panjabi.
“Nobody ever knows what is going to happen. I always say the most predictable thing about The Good Wife is how unpredictable it can be”.
She will next be seen in action movie San Andreas which stars Dwayne Johnson and, while she’s in no rush to jump into another TV show, she has signed a contract enabling people to actively seek one out for her.
“I’m with Fox right now on a talent deal,” Panjabi says, “where they are trying to find me a project”.
“You need to find a show that you feel connected to and that you could be on for six years that you really passionately believe in and I think Kalinda is a hard act to follow”.