Triumph for the British star who was told: Acting is beneath you

By Neil Sears
Last updated at 10:03 AM on 31st August 2010


Her parents' Hindu friends sneered at her dreams of acting, saying it was a 'low-class' profession.

But encouraged by her mother, Archana 'Archie' Panjabi refused to listen, taking part in independent film productions such as East Is East and Bend It Like Beckham.

Yesterday her triumph was complete when she won an Emmy, the top award for television performers in the U.S.

Arranged marriage: Archie Panjabi with husband Rajesh, a tailor

Arranged marriage: Archie Panjabi with husband Rajesh, a tailor

Miss Panjabi, 38, who like her parents went through an arranged marriage, declared the honour was 'just amazing' as she was named best supporting actress for her role in The Good Wife.

In the drama, in which the title character returns to work as a lawyer after her husband is disgraced and jailed, Miss Panjabi plays a cynical private investigator for the law firm. The hit American show has been aired in Britain on Channel 4.

 

At the family home in north-west London, her mother Padma said: 'I'm so very proud.

'She phoned me this morning to let me know she had won. I am so happy for her.

'When she was nominated she never really expected to win really. It was one of her dreams to win an Emmy and I am so proud that she has achieved this.'

Miss Panjabi's family originated in Pakistan, but being Hindus left for India after partition.

Award: Archie arrives at the ceremony in LA last night where she won an Emmy

Award: Archie arrives at the ceremony in LA last night where she won an Emmy

In the 1970s they moved to Britain and set up home in Hendon, northwest London - her father Govind opening a restaurant, her mother Padma becoming a teacher for children with special needs.

And the future award-winner, born in 1972, soon set her sights upon acting.

She has said: 'Since I was a baby my goal was to be on TV because film was just impossible - you never got any Asian women in Western cinema.

'I grew up wanting to be in East-Enders because film wasn't even a dream.

'The community were very much like, "How can you want to act? It's such a low-class profession."

'But my mother told me not to listen to anyone. She had been told that she wouldn't be able to teach and she did.'

Classic: Panjabi as Jesminder's big sister 'Pinky' Bharma in 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham

Classic: Panjabi as Jesminder's big sister 'Pinky' Bharma in 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham

British film star: Panjabi in East Is East with Chris Bisson (left) and Jimi Mistry

British film star: Panjabi in East Is East with Chris Bisson (left) and Jimi Mistry

Miss Panjabi, who still has a home in the capital, was perfectly happy to have an arranged marriage at the age of 26 to bespoke tailor Rajesh Nihalani.

She has said: 'There is a big misconception about arranged marriage.

'Yes, it can mean that you meet someone and then have to marry them, but this was my mother saying, "I'm going to introduce you to so-and-so - If you don't like them, fair enough."

'At the time it brought out my rebellious streak because I thought her taste in men was not going to be like mine.

'But at the end of the day, she knows me better than anybody.

'I did wonder, "Would an Indian man be fine about me doing this job?" - but Raj has always been very supportive.'

Miss Panjabi looked glamorous yesterday, but has also told how until recent years she struggled with her weight thanks to her love of fattening curries.

Best supporting actress: Archie with co-star Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife, the role for which she was awarded an Emmy

Best supporting actress: Archie with co-star Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife, the role for which she was awarded an Emmy

'When I was younger I was fat,' she said. 'I was never conscious of it and was content with who I was because I was so loved. My mother never told me to lose weight and my father doted on me, but my agent told me. I tried, but I loved Indian food too much.'

She was well into adulthood when she suddenly lost weight, out of shock when her brother Ashwin was left in a coma for three months following a road accident.

After school, where Miss Panjabi has said she was too much of a 'tough cookie' to suffer racism, she studied management at Brunel University before breaking into acting.

She was upset to be rejected for a part in her dream show, EastEnders - but shortly afterwards, despite her apprehension that film roles were out of reach for Asians, she was offered a part in East Is East.

With the Hollywood big guns: Acting alongside Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart in 2007

With the Hollywood big guns: Acting alongside Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart in 2007

That comic film about Asians' struggle to settle in Britain won international acclaim, and she went on to appear on the big screen in Bend It Like Beckham, alongside future superstar Keira Knightley.

More well regarded performances followed on British television, including an adaptation of the multicultural London novel White Teeth by Zadie Smith, and in the title role in Yasmin, a drama about how a British Muslim is affected by the September 11 attacks.

Hollywood then beckoned. Three years ago Miss Panjabi appeared alongside Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart, playing a journalist in the story of U.S. reporter Daniel Pearl's murder in Pakistan.

She became friendly with both Miss Jolie and her husband Brad Pitt.

Miss Panjabi has said she used to be 'embarrassed' about her mother's colourful saris, and the Hindu gods she displayed in their home, but has now changed her mind: 'I've changed - it's very trendy now to be an Indian.'

LIST OF WINNERS FOR

COMEDY

OUTSTANDING COMEDY
Modern Family

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Edie Falco (Nurse Jackie)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Eric Stonestreet (Modern Family)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Jane Lynch (Glee)

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY
Betty White (SNL)

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY
Neil Patrick Harris (Glee)

OUTSTANDING DIRECTION IN A COMEDY
Ryan Murphy (Glee)

OUTSTANDING WRITING FOR A COMEDY
Christopher Lloyd and Stephen Levitan (Modern Family)

DRAMA

OUTSTANDING DRAMA
Mad Men

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer)

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife)

OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA
Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad)

OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A DRAMA
Erin Levy and Matthew Weiner (Mad Men)

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA
John Lithgow (Dexter)

OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA
Ann Margaret (Law & Order: SVU)

OUTSTANDING DIRECTION IN A DRAMA
Steve Shill (Dexter)

62nd EMMY AWARDS

VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY

OUTSTANDING VARIETY, MUSIC, OR COMEDY SERIES
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

OUTSTANDING DIRECTION IN A VARIETY, MUSIC OR COMEDY SPECIAL
Bucky Gunts (The Winter Olympics)

OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A VARIETY SHOW
Dave Boone and Paul Greenberg (The 2010 Tony Awards)





TV MOVIE, MINI-SERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL


TV MOVIE
Temple Grandin (HBO)

MINI-SERIES
The Pacific (HBO)

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Al Pacino (You Don't Know Jack)

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Claire Danes (Temple Gradin)

OUTSTANDING DIRECTION IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Mick Jackson (Temple Grandin)

OUTSTANDING ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
David Strathairn (Temple Grandin)

OUTSTANDING ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Julia  Ormond (Temple Grandin)

OUTSTANDING WRITING IN A TV MOVIE, MINISERIES OR DRAMATIC SPECIAL
Adam Mazer (You Don't know Jack)

BOB HOPE HUMANITARIAN AWARD
George Clooney

OUTSTANDING REALITY SHOW COMPETITION
Top Chef


 

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

The comments below have been moderated in advance.

She's not as nice looking as Konnie Huq !

Click to rate     Rating   315

I like this lady and I like the Good Wife - but seriously - her American accent in it is absolutely horrible. Can't believe she won.

Click to rate     Rating   191

Joshua and Sooze, London

Could not agree more...I've been a huge fan of "The Good Wife" since day 1 - so happy for Archie, she more than deserves the Emmy. I love hearing her speak in her British accent...seeexyyy!!!!

Click to rate     Rating   117

"Her parents' Hindu friends sneered at her dreams of acting, saying it was a 'low-class' profession."

Hindu culture is most snobbish on the planet. Their caste system makes the British class system look like socialism.

Click to rate     Rating   49

That is PHENOMENAL! I was at Brunel with her, she gave my boyfriend who was friends with her a headshot photo of herself. I remember her as being a bubbly, energetic girl. She played Short Round in West Side Story in the first year. Well done love, am mega proud of you! That is so cool : )

Click to rate     Rating   129

wow congrats, I met her at work one day in Swindon (yeah I know what on earth was she doing here right...) but she was so down to earth, had a quick chat with her. Well done girl!

Click to rate     Rating   133

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