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Posted by Marilia on March 24, 2018

Archie featured on Evening Standard’ March 22, 2018 issue,where she talks about her work as guest-editor for National Geographic’s next issue. Read the full interview below and check scans on our gallery.

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EVENING STANDARD – ARCHIE PANJABI: THE RACE ISSUE AND ME

I have stories to tell 

National Geographic’s forthcoming race issue is already generating global headlines. Guest editor Archie Panjabi tells Ellen E Jones how it opened her eyes to cultural gaps

THE actor Archie Panjabi has co-starred in big movies with Angelina Jolie, Russell Crowe and Keira Knightley. She’s experienced the special fame of playing everyone’s favourite character (ice-cold investigator Kalinda) on everyone’s favourite TV show (The Good Wife) and had her efforts recognised with an Emmy. Over many years of advocacy work she even played a small role in the eradication of polio in her parents’ homeland of India. Yet it was only this past winter while deeply involved in her latest challenge — guest-editing a special racethemed issue of National Geographic magazine — that Panjabi began to understand how it all fits together.

“One of the discussions we had at the table was about how the cultural gap with interracial marriages is so much smaller than, say, 20 or 30 years ago. I’ve just done a TV show that features interracial marriage [Panjabi starred in ITV’s Next of Kin in February, opposite Jack Davenport], and part of what this National Geographic issues lays out is that the increasing social acceptance of these marriages is due to media validation. That’s really nice to know, because that’s really the basis of the work that I do. I want to show difference but ultimately transcend it, so that at some point the audience no longer sees you as being Indian, or a woman or whatever; they simply connect to you on an emotional level.”

The issue in question hits the news stands on April 4 and has already generated global headlines thanks to an editorial in which editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg frankly confronts an “appalling” history of racist ideology in the esteemed magazine’s pre-Seventies coverage.

For Panjabi, though, the importance of responsible, non-stereotypical media representation has always been a guiding principle. “I started in this business because there weren’t that many stories of women who looked like me on TV and I just felt we had such interesting stories to tell. Even in the Nineties I would never play the good Indian girl who would sit at home and get married, you know?”

Most recently these stereotype challenging roles have included a run of fun stints in cult shows such as Sky Living’s Blindspot and Netflix animation Bojack Horseman. Yet today, as she sits dressed all in black in the lobby of the South Bank’s Mondrian hotel, her manner — discreet, with a hint of mischief — is most reminiscent of another character. Yep, that’s right: it’s three years since Panjabi left The Good Wife and somehow we still can’t help talking about Kalinda Sharma.

Panjabi shows willing to indulge die-hard fans, but it must get a little frustrating? “No, you know what? A lot of actors are like that but I really loved that character and leaving the role wasn’t an indication of my lack of love for her. If I’m only known for her for the rest of my life, I have no problem with that.”

So why did she leave? Many assumed it was the culmination of a long-rumoured, neverquite-confirmed feud between her and co-star Julianna Margulies, who played the titular “wife”, Alicia Florrick. Panjabi’s public comments on the matter have so far been limited to some cryptic subtweeting, but will she ever give her side? She chuckles and glances towards her publicist. “What was it that Obama said to Prince Harry? ‘We don’t answer those questions’.”

SO PANJABI shares Kalinda’s fondness for enigma, but “coming from a large, Indian family” she says she can also relate to her Next of Kin character, Dr Mona Harcourt. Both women’s lives are grounded by long-lasting marriages, though Panjabi says her husband, Rajesh, “hates me talking about him” in interviews. Still, he accompanied her to National Geographic’s gala dinner at the Natural History Museum in January and the couple will celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary later this year. Provided she can remember the date, that is. “I didn’t even think of that! Thank you for reminding me! Yeah, I don’t really count the years.”

Panjabi now has homes in both Los Angeles and New York but having grown up in Hendon, she still feels very much like a Londoner. “Hendon is just very diverse, so you’re exposed to a variety of cultures: a big Jewish community, big Indian community… Iremember being a pretty happy child there.” And what kind of teenager was she? “One who was obsessed with acting,” she replies quickly. “It is tricky when everybody else is going out partying and you’ve got a reading the next day, but I think from quite a young age I was very determined.”

That early dedication began paying off in 1999 when a 22-year-old Panjabi was cast in her breakthrough role as football-loving teen Meenah in the hit British comedy film East is East. There followed a memorable turn as fashion-obsessed Pinky in Bend It Like Beckham (2002), which starred Keira Knightley.

Since then she’s mostly alternated between Hollywood movies (A Mighty Heart, A Good Year) and British TV, including locking lips with Gillian Anderson in a now notorious scene from BBC Two’s The Fall. “I was thinking about this the other day, and one word to describe my roles is probably ‘ non-conformist’,” she says.

It’s a summary that seems to apply just as much to her general outlook on life. “Well, I think I’ve been forced to be [a non-conformist], because when I started out there were no Indian women on TV. So either I had to go to Bollywood to become an actress or I had to try my best to get work over here.”

Happily for us, she opted for the latter, although anyone who’s followed Panjabi’s career since the Brit-flick days will find it hard to believe that only recently, at the age of 45, was she given her first lead role in a UK TV series in Next of Kin.

“Without blowing my own trumpet, I think, yes, it does seem a bit overdue,” she says. “And I think it comes back to the diversity debatethat National Geographic is part of. It had been a long time since we’d seen a woman of colour lead her own show in Britian, but I think that’s slowly changing.”

What’s the next big project? Panjabi is still a while off writing her memoirs, but on this evidence we can expect the eventual book to be a globe-spanning thriller powered by a noble sense of purpose with one best-skipped chapter
on her dull teenage years spent learning lines.

Perhaps within its pages there will also, finally, be that tell-all exclusive on what really went down on the set of The Good Wife? Panjabi chuckles again: “What I will say is that there’s an intrigue and a mystery as to whatever happened and I think that’s more interesting than knowing any of the ins and outs… I mean, look at that smile you’ve got on your face while we’re talking about it!” She does have a point.

Posted by Marilia on January 30, 2018

Archie is a part of ‘Red UK’ February 2018 issue, she talks about her past projects, Next of Kin, possibly becoming a filmmaker and more. Our press article page was updated with the full article and our gallery was updated with the digital scans:

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