“The Good Wife” came roaring back to life last night with a cracking seventh-season opener in which Julianna Margulies’ Alicia Florrick, ousted from her old law firm(s) and robbed of her rightful election to State’s Attorney, started from square one. Alas, real life is not so easily rebooted. At the New Yorker festival on Sunday, Margulies sought to put an end to rumors of a rift between her and Archie Panjabi, who despite being a series regular went years without filming so much as a single scene with the show’s star; their characters’ final reunion was accomplished only via green screen. ” I feel people just like to have gossip or make something into something that isn’t there,” she said. “There’s no animosity on my part. It’s a shame, because I wonder if it was two men, when one finds out that he fucked his best friend’s wife, if it would get that same attention, you know what I mean?”
That was enough for Vulture’s Devon Ivie to conclude “Case closed.” But Margulies’ comments, especially her explanation that Panjabi could not be on-set due to her commitments to the BBC drama “The Fall,” have had the effect of re-opening the case, not closing it. It strains credulity to claim that Panjabi’s role on a six-episode BBC series would prevent her being available for a single scene: “The Good Wife,” a network show to which Panjabi had been under contract since 2009, would have had first claim on her time. And consider the fact that “The Fall’s” actual star, Gillian Anderson, was simultaneously a regular on NBC’s “Crisis” and still managed to film scenes for “Hannibal” while she was in transit between the two shows. And then there’s this:
— Archie Panjabi (@PanjabiArchie) October 5, 2015
Neither Margulies nor “Good Wife” creators Michelle and Robert King are under any obligation to discuss goings-on behind the scenes. But to dismiss rumors of a rift between Margulies and Panjabi as “gossip” is absurd — and for Margulies to insinuate that they’re the product of sexism is worse. There’s a word for the way Margulies paints anyone who chooses to believe that the fact that she and Panjabi didn’t play a single scene in which they occupied the same physical space for more than two full seasons is some kind of unhinged conspiracy theorist: gaslighting — itself, ironically, a practice usually used by men to convince women that they are crazy when they are, in fact, correct.
At this point, it’s far more damaging for Margulies and the Kings to spin easily disproven untruths than it is to admit that they had two actors, one a producer and star, the other an Emmy-winning actress and the only person of color in the regular cast, who found it impossible to work with each other, and didn’t want to force Panjabi off the show. Of course, that would also require admitting that they spent two and a half years crippling the show to indulge what can only be characterized as utter unprofessionalism by either Margulies or Panjabi or both — you don’t like working together? try acting like you do — but that’s what the words “No comment” are for. (Maybe David Chase can start fielding questions about Kalicia, and Margulies can field queries about the ending of “The Sopranos.”)
Last night’s “Bond” introduced Cush Jumbo as Lucca Quinn, Alicia’s new co-worker/gal pal, and it was hard not to notice how she and Margulies ended up swapping drinks at a bar as Alicia and Kalinda did before the fall (or before “The Fall”) — and that, unlike Margulies’ awkwardly matched onscreen goodbye to Panjabi, she and Jumbo were quite clearly in each other’s physical presence. So long, Kalicia, hello Alucca?