Archie Panjabi leads the cast of ‘Departure’

Mark Kennedy

NEW YORK (AP) — Though she’s making a name for herself, actor Archie Panjabi still gets a kick out of it when strangers ask for her and clearly don’t anticipate what they’re getting.

“They expect a blond Scottish boy with blue eyes to come out,” she said. “They’re always pleasantly amused when I tell them Archie is me.”

Panjabi is certainly helping her name recognition levels these days: The actor, who earned a supporting Emmy for her work on The Good Wife, is back on American screens this month, but this time as the star.

On Peacock’s six-part series Departure, Panjabi is the star opposite Christopher Plummer and Claire Forlani. She plays a brilliant aviation investigator and single mom who is called in to solve the strange disappearance of a jetliner en route to London.

Was it a hijacking? Pilot error? Could it be a government cover-up? The mystery deepens when a survivor is miraculously located in the middle of the ocean. Panjabi calls the series, which was inspired in part by missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, “highly bingeworthy”.

FROM LEFT: Christopher Plummer as Howard Lawson, Claire Forlani as Janet Freeh, Kris Holden-Ried as Dominic Hayes and Archie Panjabi as Kendra Malley in a scene from ‘Departure’. PHOTO: AP

“It’s everybody’s worst nightmare to have a member of family or somebody that you love on a flight and the flight goes missing,” she said. “And I think there is this universal kind of fear and fascination of flying.”

If anyone tuning in to the series is worried that her character won’t survive the mystery, relax – Panjabi is speaking from the Toronto-based set of season two of Departure. “That’s a bit of a giveaway. But I do,” she said, laughing.

The London-bred actor of Indian descent initially was sent all six scripts for season one and devoured them. In addition to the loss on the plane, her character is trying to process the death of her husband. “I remember reading it and I couldn’t put it down,” she said.

“You go on this journey where you’re just so unsure of what could be the cause. I thought, ‘Well, if I’m feeling like this and I read so many scripts in my line of work, I really feel this would be that kind of show that an audience would want to watch all in one go’.”

Executive Producer of Departure Christina Jennings calls Panjabi one of the smartest actors she’s ever worked with and considers Panjabi’s role as a woman stuck in a vice. “She’s in the vice of being a mother, her own grief, dealing with a son and this investigation all at the same time,” Jennings said. “She was the best woman for the job.”