If you’re televisually predisposed to legal-drama addiction (I think it runs in my family), you may have heard of The Good Wife, which at first glance looks like a Law & Order-style star vehicle for Julianna Margulies, who recently won a Best Actress Golden Globe for her role on it. The series debuted last fall and SM blogged that Archie Panjabi would be on it. Her role is a supporting character, but I think Panjabi’s Kalinda Sharma, the tough, mysterious legal investigator, is a bit of a scene-stealer. Fans and critics can’t get enough of Kalinda.
“I’d also like to see Kalinda’s character developed a little bit more. Right now she just pops up a few times an episode, wearing kickass boots and generally being feisty. She drinks martinis, she flips the bird, she shows off her cleavage to get the job done. Archie Panjabi is a great actress (also, gorgeous) and I am glad she’s not an Asian stereotype — but I want to see more of her.” (LA Times)
Kalinda’s sexy trademark outfits with high-heeled boots and leather jackets definitely help her stand out. Most of the other cast members are conservatively suited up to blend in at a tony Chicago law firm. In a behind the scenes clip, the show’s costume designer mentions that everyone’s “mad” for Kalinda’s blogworthy boots.
p> There’s more to her character than how she looks, of course. Kalinda’s dialogue is full of snappy one-liners and zingers (see below for a few examples), delivered in an American accent by Panjabi, who was born in Middlesex, England, and seems to have a lot of experience with different accents. This can be a welcome contrast to the calm and measured tones of Alicia Florrick, the strong leading character portrayed by Margulies. As People puts it, Kalinda’s “sarcastic bite plays off Alicia’s prudent reserve.”
Alicia: The last time I was in Court it was 13 years ago.
Kalinda: Wow, I was twelve!
Cary: Reminds me of my old high school.
Kalinda: Reminds me of the schools I used to vandalize.
Diane: I… don’t know. Should I be looking for something else?
Kalinda: Well, that’s like asking the dentist whether you should brush.
Kalinda is also described as bisexual. Not on the show’s web site though, or on the show itself. As far as I can tell, one Rediff article referred to her as a “bisexual Indian investigator” and that coupled with viewer scrutiny of some scenes (Exhibit 1, Exhibit 2) sparked online discussion of the character’s bisexuality (AfterEllen, Velvetpark). Panjabi herself is careful not to reveal too much when asked about it: “I think the more time you spend with a person in life, the more you actually get to know about them.” (NY Mag). Maybe someone let something slip in that earlier Rediff piece that the show was hoping to reveal over the course of a few seasons. Now that it’s been renewed for another season, viewers may get more of that slow reveal, including Kalinda’s romantic life and personal history.
Panjabi was asked about the show not addressing her being desi. I think some of that is due to The Good Wife still being in its early stages (sorry, I couldn’t wait any longer to proclaim myself a fan!) or the mysterious side to her character. We know her character’s name is Kalinda Sharma. The rest is yet to come…or not. Here’s the actress’s response:
It’s also interesting that it’s never addressed that you’re Indian.
Yeah, I really like that they’ve accepted me as an investigative attorney who dresses the way she does, and there’s never any mention about my race. She’s accepted for her job, and it’s quite nice that they haven’t tackled that. You don’t even know where I’m from, which is also quite interesting. I’m sure in time you’ll see a few cracks in the characters, you get a window into each of their lives, but just enough to continue to guess.
I can only hope for a Kalinda spin-off series in the future! You can read the rest of NY Mag’s interview with Panjabi from last week and watch clips of her performance below.
More Good Wife: At the moment, the last two full episodes are online.