SPOILER ALERT! Don’t read this story unless you’ve seen Sunday’s episode of The Good Wife.
On Sunday’s episode of The Good Wife, Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) walked out of the lives of Alicia, Cary and Diane — possibly forever. Before her final episode, EW sat down for an exclusive interview with Panjabi to discuss why she decided to leave the CBS show after six seasons, and what made her character so irresistible to fans.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Kalinda didn’t die!
ARCHIE PANJABI: No, I think it’s safe to say that they definitely wanted to go a very different route with Kalinda’s departure compared to Will Gardner’s departure.
Is there an open door for you to return for the drama’s final episodes?
Kalinda believes it’s the right time to leave. She’s done all the things that she needs to do, so I believe it would be unlikely for her to come back, given the situation. But you never know with this one. She often surprises me, let alone the creators and the audience.
Why were you ready to move on?
Well, I call it Kalinda’s karma — or Archie’s karma! I really have had such an amazing time on the show. In terms of the character, I think Kalinda’s evolution over the series is kind of culminating to what I believe to be the perfect time for her exit. She was dissatisfied with the job, coupled with troubling issues she’s had with Lemond Bishop and the ever-present kind of friction she’s had with Alicia, kind of tied the bow on Kalinda’s arc. It was the right time. She wants to be accepted by everybody, but she doesn’t want to be swallowed whole by the politics of the law. For me personally, it’s such a wonderful character to play and I feel like striking that balance of being professionally satisfied and also kind of happily employed. I feel the show has definitely kept me at that equilibrium. Going off for a new role will maintain that equilibrium.
Would you like to star in your own show or would you be fine with another meaty supporting role like Kalinda?
I think it really all depends on the project. It’s very easy after you’ve played a supporting role that you want to go on to be a lead. [Panjabi signed a talent deal with 20th Century Fox TV.]
When you made the decision not to continue on the show, did you worry about how the fans would react?
Absolutely. This character has always belonged to the fans. It’s a character that kind of came out of nowhere. She was only expected to be a very small part in the pilot episode, but she did incredibly well at the pilot testing, and so they decided to write more for that character. And then people became obsessed. I feel like in season 1 and season 2, everything she said and did was analyzed by the fans and critics. And then obviously when they didn’t like her storyline with the husband, Nick, they were not afraid to express that disapproval.
What did you think of that husband?
The husband storyline didn’t go down particularly well. That was one opportunity where the audience wasn’t pleased, but we have to go through that to get them to like all the other wonderful things that he did do with that character.
Was Cary truly the one for her?
What’s so ironic about Kalinda is that she is pretty promiscuous, but also careful and selective who she sleeps with. But I think for her, she’s averse to relationships. She’s very loyal when it comes to friends. And I think, for her, Cary was always — or is, whatever tense you want to apply — somebody that she was very dedicated to as a friend. As a lover, I think Kalinda found it difficult to stay in any relationship.
Why haven’t Kalinda and Alicia been in many scenes together in the last couple of years?
I think that’s a question you need to ask the producers. What is great is that relationship between the two women is one of the best relationships on TV, in terms of it being the most honest. Hopefully, you may see something of that before I leave.
Did you ever get to the bottom of who Kalinda is?
I never quite got to the bottom of who she is, but it wasn’t something I struggled with. I feel like only Kalinda knows, and then all of us are still kind of trying to guess who she is and what she’s about.
Kalinda never had any problem kicking anyone’s ass.
Yeah, not at all. I think if I wasn’t as petite as I am, I don’t know how well I would have been accepted. Somebody once said this to me, and I can’t disagree with them, that people seem to connect with Kalinda because she’s not physically intimidating, but she’s mentally intimidating. Her physicality allows her to get away with a lot more things than maybe she wouldn’t have been able to if she was a lot bigger or a lot taller.
Was her style established pretty early on, with the boots and leather jackets?
I wanted her to be different from everybody else, like with the boots and the leather jackets. I wanted her hair to be off her face. I wanted her to have eyeliner because eyes are the most prominent feature.
Did you wear the boots in every episode?
I did. We did experiment occasionally with shoes. I think in one episode when I go to meet somebody, I wore shoes and it just did not feel right. I mean, the boots just helped me get into character. I had four or five pairs of them.
Whose idea was it for Kalinda to carry around the paper notebook?
I was initially given a black book and I wanted something of color. I just loved the idea that she’s got this orange notepad and then they wanted to change it over the years, maybe to to an iPad. I said, “Well, being an investigator, she knows how to hack into other people’s computers,” so she didn’t want to have something electronic that someone else could hack into.
Why did Kalinda drink milk?
When they asked me what I wanted to drink, I wanted to be different, so I said a glass of milk. And then the next thing, I have all the producers on the line asking me, in a very friendly conversation, “Why are you drinking milk?” And then I think there was, I can’t remember which magazine it was, but I think there was somebody saying that I’m drinking milk because I have a digestive problem.
Were you happy with the way you were written out?
Honestly speaking, I would’ve liked something that would have featured Kalinda a little more, but they have restrictions and I respect that. They did do a degree of justice to her in the last episode.
Did you get emotional on your last day?
I didn’t. I’ve known for about two seasons that I was going at the end of season 6. So the past two seasons have kind of been like the slow goodbye. There weren’t tears on the day. It was just a mixture of feeling sad to leave, but that every bone in my body was like this just right feels right. So I guess I felt very calm.
What did you do after your last scene?
I just wanted to say something very nice to the crew because I didn’t have the time to go and say goodbye to each one of them individually. The only way I could do this was to get up and give a speech. Part of me was thinking that Kalinda would do the same thing. She would just get up, make that speech, and then walk out the door. So I did.