Archie Panjabi likes to keep us on the edge of our seats.
In Season 2 of Departure, currently streaming on Peacock, the Emmy-award-winner returns as Kendra Malley, this time to investigate a calamitous incident involving a high-tech train that crashes in Michigan. Suspects abound and as the suspense mounts Kendra and her team must solve the ever-confounding mystery and our sleuth and heroine also establishes a few new relationships along the way.
This season is more grounded in reality and Panjabi’s performance reflects that welcome change. Kendra is still the best at her job, but Panjabi shows us a woman who is multi-layered and complex. Not surprising from the thesp that spent six seasons captivating us as the enigmatic Kalinda Sharma on The Good Wife as well as delivering awesome turns in The Fall, Blindspot, Next of Kin and I Know This Much is True to name a few of her TV roles.
Last year, Awards Daily chatted with her while she was about to begin filming Season 2. This year, we had the pleasure of speaking with her about the six-episode series right after bingeing it.
Awards Daily: Archie, when last we spoke, we were in the midst of a pandemic and now so much has changed. Oh, wait a minute…
Archie Panjabi: I know…Wow. Yeah, times have changed.
AD: Yes and No, actually.
AP: Yes, I agree with you. There’s a famous saying, everything changes but nothing does.
AD: It’s so true. So, I was so excited to binge Departure with my husband. What I love so much about Season Two–and you know I loved Season One–but in Season Two, Kendra is so much more grounded. She’s still crackerjack-as-fuck at her job. But she’s establishing these real relationships with Lucas and Ellen. Was that part of the appeal for you to return?
AP: You know, I loved Season One. We learned so much from it, as you do. But one of the things that we felt was there were so many characters…I felt there was a slight lack of relationships that were developed over the series.
And the aim for Season Two was to find that perfect balance between the procedural drama and the character-driven drama. So, what they did for Season Two is there are fewer actors, but they carefully crafted these relationships with people that you’ve mentioned, Ellen Hunter, or Lucas or the runaway prisoner, and really develop them over the course of the six episodes. And I always feel that when you have that, combined with the procedural drama, you get a really good balance, making the show a lot more interesting, because the procedural stuff is great, but it’s really nice to have people invested in the people as well…It’s one of my favorite aspects of the second season, it is a lot more character driven.
AD: Could you take me through finding out about Season Two, getting the green light, reading the new scripts and then jumping into filming with the COVID protocols in place?
AP: I think, when we spoke, I was in quarantine for two weeks, which is not a bad thing, when you’re working on the script. I had the six scripts and I just spend 4-8 hours a day on them, going through them. What’s so great about this team of people, which is why I love this job so much, is that, like HBO and Netflix, they encourage you to put forward notes and thoughts and ideas. And they have these zoom calls and meetings and so forth. And in those two weeks, I did spend a lot of time talking to Christina, and TJ (producers) and talking about those relationships.
And then I remember reading the scripts, and I thought they were great…What was challenging about Season Two was that you would meet an actor–there were no read throughs and there were no welcome dinners for obvious reasons and there were very limited actors on set–what was challenging is meeting the other actors you’re playing with and having this big relationship that develops over the season, but meeting them with their mask on. And our director likes to film the rehearsal so the first time you’d see the actors’ faces would be on the first take. (laughs) So that was a little bit challenging. And then, ironically, it kind of broke the ice…we didn’t have time to talk about this relationship and I think creatively it created a really good energy. It helped create chemistry between the actors, which is what I think is apparent in Season 2.
AD: It’s interesting that Season Two reflects so many of the political realities in the States. It has some very keen things to say about xenophobia, American arrogance. It’s quite timely, especially after January 6th.
AP: Yes, I’m sure when they when they wrote it, they were keen to have a slice of real life with a political backdrop and so forth. But I think it’s handled in a very classy way…I love the way they’ve handled Kendra’s character. She’s referred to as foreigner, as a Brit, as an Indian woman from India–there’s so many different names that she’s called. And I feel that that really does reflect the true complexity and diversity…We’re all mixed up, and so forth. And people look at you in a different way. So yeah, I liked the way that they handled that –the first time her diversity is really talked about.
AD: Did you feel a relatability to that?
AP: Yeah, I think I think diversity and race and prejudice, and all these things are so much more complicated…For me, what’s interesting is the paranoia that one has, like, if somebody’s being prejudiced towards me, or am I imagining it? Am I seeing too much into it? And that’s why I like the way they handled it in Season Two. She was called all these different things but often she was called them because people were angry…It’s not a weakness, but it was just a label that they could attack her with…I think it reflects the complexity of prejudice and discrimination.
AD: Knowing what Kendra went through in Season One, one only need to read your face to see that pain. We don’t even need to know what the actual story is.
AP: Thank you. Yeah, it was tricky to know how much to carry the grief from Season One. We want her to evolve. And you do definitely see some of that with some of the things with Don’s character in the café. You see that there is some progress. But then, when you see her with Jason O’Mara’s character and he talks about how he lost his wife, you see her pain come flooding straight back. And I think that’s how complex grief is. At times, it feels like nothing’s happened. And then it just pats you on the shoulder and says, no, I’m very much here.
AD: We came so close to romance there in the Café. And I’m wondering, do you think in Departure Season Three, we might get one?
AP: [Laughs] Well, it’s interesting, because that scene in the café is one of my favorite scenes. That was a classic scene where it was just the two of them talking about work, and there was no undercurrent to it. And I had an idea the night before. I ran it by Chris. And Chris is a brilliant actor. We talked about how he could just give a little bit of umph to that scene. And he does this whole thing with a fork, which was all improvised. He stirs his coffee with a fork as opposed to a spoon, and he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it, or maybe he does. And it just created this interesting chemistry of what was going on inside their minds rather than it being spelled out. So, I do feel we created some chemistry in that, and I think if they went on to Season Three, it would be really interesting to see where they’re going to take that relationship next.
AD: After this season, they have to do another. Have you watched all six straight through?
AP: I had to because I was sent the link. I’m sent the link in ADR (Automated dialogue replacement). I really liked to go through it and see if I can improve anything myself in ADR, so I watch it for that reason, but I was under no pressure to watch all six in one go…I wanted to just watch three because I had lots to do, but I couldn’t stop. Even though I knew the end and I knew what was going to happen. I just couldn’t stop. I did all six in one go.
AD: That’s what we did! I want to ask about Christopher Plummer. This was one of the last projects, if not the last, before his death. I know that he filmed his scenes separate. Were you on the phone with him?
AP: No, we bonded in Season One. We exchanged emails about how much we would have loved to have done scenes together, but we couldn’t. And then I did the scenes first and then he did them. And I remember watching them and thinking I couldn’t for a minute believe that those two are not on the phone…I do feel like both of us connected in Season One. And we almost anticipated the way the other person was going to deliver those lines. I think that is testament to the bond that made us both Kendra and Howard and Archie and Christopher. Because when you watch it, it does feel that we’ve spoken about the season, and we didn’t. We talk about how much we wanted to work with each other.
And honestly, watching it now, it’s comforting and also very emotional.
AD: You are an Executive Producer on this. Did you have any story say? Did you want any story say?
AP: There’s no hierarchy which is why I just I love this job. You just feel like it’s a team and the Executive Producer credit, to me, it’s not vanity, because I take it seriously…This is a project that I care for very deeply. And I’m always told about everything that’s going on, so I love to put everything into it. And I think the title is nice to have, and it’s great but I think it’s just the culture of the show is just so open to ideas and suggestions. It’s a real team spirit…It’s a dream job.
AD: I have a Good Wife question. Did anyone ever approach you about doing a series about Kalinda?
AP: [Laughs] I don’t know. I probably have to ask my agent that. I know there was talk about it when I was on the show…That’s a good question, Frank. I should find out. I don’t know if I’m going to fit into those boots and jacket. [Laughs] That’s a bigger question isn’t it.
AD: Have you been asked to appear on The Good Fight?
AP: You know, again, I don’t know because I’ve been so busy. So, any queries that come in, if I’m tied up, even if there was an inquiry, my agent probably wouldn’t even forward it on to me. Since I’ve left, I’ve been thankfully—touchwood–working nonstop. It’s probably been about six years. It’s just really nice to play different roles in different countries, different people, different projects. I’m really, really enjoying that experience, which I’ve been doing for the past few years. And you never know when it’s going to stop. So, I’m just having a bit of fun right now.
AD: So, you have you have no interest in going back, basically.
AP: It’s not that I have no interest. It’s just that having done it for six years. I feel it was a great experience for me. But there is something more satisfying about playing different characters and experimenting.–I don’t know if I could, you know– people love her (Kalinda) so much. And I would hate to shatter that that dream in disappointment.
AD: Archie, where do you call home?
AP: [Laughs] Uhm…10 suitcases?
AD: Great answer! Wow. Okay. 10 suitcases.
AP: Five to 10, because sometimes I’m not allowed to take that many.
AD: So, there’s no actual place that you think of as home?
AP: I think for the last few years it’s been like that. And I wouldn’t want it any other way. I chose this job so that’s part of it. For now. But maybe when we speak for Season 10, it will be different.
Departure Season Two is currently streaming on Peacock.