Departure star Archie Panjabi on the show's plane crash mystery and one 'absolutely terrifying' scene
WARNING: This article spoilers about the Peacock series Departure.
A London-bound plane vanishes into thin air (or deep water?). One survivor is rescued. What does she remember? Is it terrorism? Pilot suicide? Who’s hiding what? Is this another Lost or Manifest? (The answer is no to the latter question.)
Enter Kendra Malley, played by The Good Wife and Blindspot’s Archie Panjabi. In Peacock's Departure, available now to stream in full, she plays a crash investigator who's on leave following a recent (and quite traumatic) loss in her own family. But her boss and mentor — played by Oscar winner Christopher Plummer — thinks she's the best person for the job.
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Check for the emergency exit nearest you as the Emmy winner welcomes you aboard the flight.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Those first like 10 minutes or so are just so intriguing because you're immediately pulled into this. Where is this going? Who are all these people? Who should I be suspicious of? Is that how it also read to you on the page? Was it a page-turner that you couldn't put down?
ARCHIE PANJABI: Absolutely! Luckily I was sent all the six episodes in one go, which is a real treat for me in this day and age where you have to make a decision based on that. So receiving all six was a treat. Like you, I couldn't put it down. I was really keen to know what caused the accident. So I read all six in one go.
As you were peeling away the layers of Kendra, what immediately stuck out to you about her that got you interested and curious to see what you could explore within this woman?
I loved the parallels between her being an air crash investigator and yet she had been through this huge traumatic event in her own life. And I loved the idea that this woman deals with her trauma through trying to resolve the trauma of all the other families, finding it cathartic, and trying to bring out closure for the victims’ families.
There's the added extra layer of her son and what he does and doesn't know about his father's death. Kendra is someone who, by nature of her job, is protective of the investigation and doesn’t want to talk to the press too early to avoid creating confusion, but then we kind of see that bleeding into her own life a little bit — there are certain things that she doesn’t want to talk about in order to protect people, but she knows they deserve to hear it. Tell me about exploring that dynamic and relationship.
It's a quality of that particular character that she's very good at bringing about closure and dealing with people, but often people who are like that — who find comfort in resolving other people's traumas — have difficulty dealing with their own lives or their own traumas. I think my relationship with AJ is quite rocky, initially, and I think she struggles with it a little bit but then, as she starts to bring about closure [with the airplane crash] families, she slowly finds a way of dealing with AJ as well and manages to eventually tell him the truth.
I’m wondering if there’s something to be said for the type of characters who you seem to be attracted to, be it doctors (I Know This Much Is True, Next of Kin) or investigators (The Good Wife), people in positions of authority — is there a through-line to the roles in general and how this one fits into the bigger picture of your résumé?
I think often you are seen for work that is similar to what you have done in the past, so there is that element to it, but I think [I am] a person who is drawn to characters that love to investigate and challenge the rules and go about in unconventional ways of trying to find the truth. I find those characters exciting as well.
And highly intelligent women, I might add.
Thank you! When you’re on TV, you can play somebody who you either would like to see yourself as being or something that you'd like to be. That's the great thing about being an actor — you can play characters in careers that you haven't done in your own life, that you didn't have the opportunity to go and explore.
There were a couple times that I like audibly gasped at things that were revealed. I think I actually said “Oh, s---! What?” At the root of it, of course, there's this mystery and trying to figure out how the crash happened, but there are so many other things going on.
Yeah, you're right so many things going on. When we were filming it, we were filming all six episodes in one go, which is a really big challenge because you have to know everything, you have to know all the twists and turns at every single stage on your first day of filming. So that was challenging, but what's exciting for the audience is, whether [the twists and turns get resolved or not], you become even more eager to find out what was the cause. That was kind of the general feedback I got from people I know who watched it — they didn't care whether they were able to resolve it… they were just so desperately keen to know what was the cause of it. It makes a good binge-watch.
I don’t want to give too much away, but there is a confrontation at the end, this “Aha, we got you” moment on the plane as it’s flying, it’s in the air, and the person has nowhere to go. It was such a fantastic, novel idea of putting it in flight for this conversation to take place. I’ll let you say what you can about it without spoiling anything.
There is a scene in the aircraft that was absolutely terrifying to film. Of course, it was in a studio but the jolts were pretty frightening as we were trying to replicate whatever happened on the plane, which is replicated in the scene. And it was terrifying being on that flight. I'm normally pretty good at flying, but I was terrified while doing it. I mean I'm glad I wasn't in the scene for the actual crash because people were saying it was very spooky watching that.
Sometimes scenes like that are primarily camera tricks, but the fuselage was actually moving?
Yeah. The director is a stuntman, so he was pretty good at trying to have as much real stuff as we could.
Which also makes sense, then, with the scenes of the car crash we see. I felt that when I was watching it.
Yeah! I had a great [stunt double]. She was amazing. She turned that car, she did all of that. I remember on the day she came in and we were like, are you okay? And she said, “Yeah, I wanted it to turn three times but it only did it twice. I’m not very happy about that.” [Laughs] But I was like, “But are you okay?” She was like, “No, because it should have been three, not two.”
So she was okay physically, but not mentally — it hurt that she didn't execute it as she wanted.
Yeah! The stuff they do is just incredible.
And I guess it’s icing on the cake that Christopher Plummer plays your boss?
Ohhh, it was an absolute [pleasure]. We were blessed with a great cast. It was fabulous working with him. I enjoyed every single moment I got to spend with him. I don’t know if you know but we’re doing another one now, season 2 — I’m probably not supposed to tell you that. [Laughs]