Emmy Watch: 'Good Wife' star Archie Panjabi talks Kalinda's sexual manipulation, 'Who shot JR?' moment

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Between now and June 28, the deadline for Emmy voters to return nomination ballots, EW.com is running a series called Emmy Watch, featuring highlight clips and interviews with actors, producers, and writers whom EW TV critic Ken Tucker has on his wish list for the nominations announcement on July 19.

The mystery surrounding The Good Wife‘s Kalinda Sharma, a role that has already earned Archie Panjabi two Emmy nominations (including one win), reached a fever pitch in April’s season 3 finale when Kalinda sat herself down in a chair facing the door to her apartment, loaded a gun, and awaited a knock that viewers assume was her estranged husband. “I had phone calls from around the world asking me, ‘WHO IS AT THE DOOR?!’ I said, ‘Pizza delivery,’” Panjabi says, laughing. “It was like a ‘Who shot JR?’ moment. I never anticipated the response to be that great, but obviously, I was really thrilled. People are really excited to see who it is and what he’s going to be like.”

When we chatted with Panjabi earlier this week, she said she still hadn’t heard if Good Wife creators Robert and Michelle King have cast the part, which they’ve said will require a strong, sexy, and intimidating presence. (Panjabi approves of our pick, Idris Elba, but worries the arc would be too long for his movie career, should he even be interested.) “People always say to me, ‘Why is she tough and strong?’ And I say, ‘People are normally like that because they’ve been dealt certain cards in life, and it’s a way of surviving,’” Panjabi says. “I think through her husband, we’ll really get to learn why Kalinda is the way she is: Why she’s so hard and so sexual, why she turned to Peter Florrick [Chris Noth] to get her name changed and escape her past, why she’s so distrustful of people. Something so dreadful must have happened if she wanted to leave the firm and just run. She made the decision to stay and knows that there’s a huge cost but is prepared to take it.” Watch a clip below. Panjabi takes us inside another season 3 scene that showed a new side to Kalinda.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: If you’re nominated again, which episode would you submit?
ARCHIE PANJABI: I’m still uncertain, but I’m thinking more about that episode “Penalty Box,” just because for three seasons we’ve seen this really strong, sexually manipulative character of Kalinda, and I think this episode is a real turning point because you start to see a few cracks. First in the scene with Lemond Bishop [Mike Colter], who tells Kalinda you need to stop Lana [the FBI agent Kalinda has flirted with for two years, played by Jill Flint] investigating me. Being the local meth dealer, that’s a very serious threat. You can really sense the fear in Kalinda’s eyes. How is she gonna get out of this one? Normally, there’s always some way out. But it almost feels like she’s in a maze right now, and everywhere she turns, things are caving in on her. And then she goes to visit Lana and use the one area she can always resort to — her sexual manipulation. But at one point, in the middle of the scene, she takes a deep breath and leans her head very tenderly on Lana’s face and then almost helplessly begs her to stop [investigating Bishop]. It’s something that you never really see Kalinda do.

When Kalinda tells Lana she’s going to get her killed.
Yes. And that wasn’t actually written in the script. Jill and I got to chat on the phone for hours [beforehand] and talk about our past. We wrote down how these two people met and what was going on between them so it wasn’t just going to be a scene about sex. [Laughs] It was going to have a few more layers. Sexually, we took it to a point, and then thought wouldn’t it be interesting if suddenly, so many things are going on in Kalinda’s life, that she can’t even follow through with her usual tactic of seducing somebody?

About that seduction… I talked to the Kings after the episode aired about how the show has mastered the steamy, just-below-frame shot.
[Laughs] What’s interesting about that scene is it was only meant to be a very tender kiss. But Jill and I just thought it would be really interesting to take it that one step further in the rehearsal period when we actually started filming, so there was a lot more electricity between these two. All the stuff below the frame was stuff that we just happened to come up with. [Laughs]

I love that you consider that ONE step further [Panjabi laughs], and that you had the confidence to go there.
Most actresses, sometimes you go, “Oh, I’m not doing that and I’m not doing that,” but there’s just something about this character, she is so incredibly sexual. I always try with her to do things that are not typical of her. And I think that was unexpected of her to do that in that scene. I also feel extremely comfortable with Jill. I think when [the Kings] saw it, they loved that scene, and I was surprised at the final cut how much they did show. I was really happy that they took it to that level, because I think everybody was expecting Kalinda to go all the way, and suddenly she just stops. Is it a new Kalinda, or is this the way Kalinda’s always been? The layers are being peeled off.

Read more:
Emmy Watch: ‘The Good Wife’ creators talk the drama (and fun) of ‘Blue Ribbon Panel’
‘The Good Wife’ season finale postmortem: Creators tease what’s next for Kalinda (with a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ reference)
EW.com’s 2012 Emmy Awards coverage

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