The Good Wife's Kalinda Sharma has been called a lot of things: resourceful investigator, protective friend, seductive temptress. One thing she's she never been called? The good wife. Until now.
"The question that came up in my mind quite a bit, and also in the creators' minds is: Was she the good wife?" Archie Panjabi tells TVGuide.com. "She was married for a certain number of years, which we'll learn as the episodes progress. But what name did she change? Was she what we perceive to be the good wife? What happened to her in life? Nothing will be spelled out, but you definitely will get a bigger insight into her and her past."
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After three seasons of keeping her past, and her personal life in general, under wraps, the introduction of Kalinda's estranged husband, Nick (Marc Warren), in the CBS drama's season premiere (Sunday at 9/8c) promises to blow the lid on just who she really is. Or at least crack that box open. "We've had so many questions asked about Kalinda: Why is she so mysterious? Why does she use sex to manipulate people? How come she's so good with weapons like the baseball bat or the sledgehammer or a gun?" Panjabi says. "You finally do get start to understand, through the relationship of her and her husband, why Kalinda is the way that she is."
The on-screen introduction of the fan favorite's other-half, Nick, has been highly anticipated ever since viewers first learned she had a husband back in Season 2. "The fear of doing television is that you become complacent about the character and, to me, as soon as you do that you've lost the magic," she says. "If I was just given the investigator's stuff this year and helping everyone else, I honestly would be a bit frustrated so I feel the timing is right."
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During the summer hiatus, fans threw around names like Idris Elba and Jeffrey Dean Morgan for the part until CBS announced in late July that Band of Brothers' Warren, a Brit, had won the coveted role. "I was asked for suggestions for the husband, but ultimately Robert King and Michelle King cast me, so I had faith in them and I didn't want the responsibility of choosing such a difficult role," Panjabi says. "I think they saw quite a number of high-profile people's show reels, but ... it's exciting that they went for somebody that not many people know, so there isn't a huge expectation."
Panjabi had never met Warren before, but says it was a perfect match right from the start. "Marc Warren and I clicked as people. It's kind of like the same chemistry I have with Matt Czuchry — Kalinda and Cary were never meant to [become close], but we just got on very well and then the Kings wrote towards that," Panjabi says. "[Marc and I] share the same sense of humor and are prepared to take risks and prepared to work off of each other. When you take risky choices, there are high chances you could fail or it might not work, and he's unafraid."
The Good Wife taps Marc Warren as Kalinda's husband
That close rapport came in handy for Warren's first episode, which features both an intense moment of intimacy and a big fight scene between the two (former?) lovebirds. "We ended up doing 90 percent of [the stunts] ourselves because we really got into it," she says. "I think I did hurt Marc quite a few times."
That combination of tender and tough moments will answer some burning questions, but may also incite new ones. "The audience will become like a fly on the wall in watching Kalinda out of the workplace and with somebody whom she's had a very intimate relationship with," Panjabi says. "They'll be left to judge."
The Good Wife's Archie Panjabi: Kalinda has had a tough year
In addition to peeling back the layers to Kalinda, Panjabi says Nick stir the pot for the entire show this season and likens him to Season 2 troublemaker Blake Calamar (Scott Porter). Look for Nick to cross paths with Cary, Eli, Will and Lana, among others. "Things are going to start falling to pieces. From what I've read so far, he's a force to be reckoned with," she says. "She's always helped her friends out so hopefully this year, they'll all be there for her when she needs it."
Kalinda in need of help? After three years of maintaining her character's tough exterior — minus a tearful elevator scene or two — Panjabi says Kalinda's newfound vulnerability has taken her out of her comfort zone. "I sometimes feel like I'm not playing Kalinda because of the effect the Nick character has on her," she says. "It's like exercising certain muscles in the makeup of that character that haven't been exercised before. You don't feel very confident with it, but in the heat of the moment you let yourself go and wait and see what comes up."
The real test, she says, will be what the viewers think of the new Kalinda, and the man who helped make her who she is today. "I am just as nervous as, if not more than, when I first got the role of Kalinda," she says. "I think it was necessary to take this next stage. But the reception is left in the hands of the audience now."
The Good Wife airs Sundays at 9/8c on CBS.