We talk to Archie Panjabi about the second season of Departure arriving in SA tonight

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A scene from the first episode of season 2 of Departure starring Archie Panjabi as Kendra Malley. (Photo: Supplied/Universal TV)
A scene from the first episode of season 2 of Departure starring Archie Panjabi as Kendra Malley. (Photo: Supplied/Universal TV)

The adrenaline pumping TV show Departure returns for a second season.

Starring Archie Panjabi as Kendra Malley the show is arriving on South African TV screens on Monday, 1 November on Universal TV (DStv 117) at 20:00

In the first season, the fictional Transport Safety and Investigations Bureau investigated the disappearance of a British passenger plane over the Atlantic Ocean and the reasons behind it.

In the latest season, Kendra is recruited to investigate the derailment of an experimental high-speed train in rural Michigan, but it won't be easy as she goes up against a disillusioned employee, an anti-technology politician, the tech mogul who developed the train's software, and a man with ties to a Mexican drug cartel.

As part of a virtual set visit during filming, Archie answered questions from a group of journalists from around the world about her character and the new season. 

What is the state of mind of your character in season two? 

In season one, we saw that Kendra was still profoundly affected by the loss of her partner in that tragic car accident. I think in season two, she's in a slightly better place because she's been recruited over to America and is now working with a new group of co-workers. I think it is refreshing for her, but, as you will see when you watch the series, she is still suffering from a degree of pain. But the new company and the co-workers gives her a fresh start.

What are Kendra's challenges in season two?

Travelling to a new country was the ideal way for her to help with the pain that she's going through. But one of the challenges she faces when she goes to Michigan is that she is an outsider, and she's leading this huge investigation with the entire world watching her. Initially, she feels like a complete outsider, she doesn't look or talk like most of the people from there, and she's the boss. So at the start, there are some challenges, but the beauty about the character of Kendra is the very nature of her job involves her having to establish rapport with people from all walks of life within a very short period. So whilst it is a challenge, it's also something that she does for a living – you know, being able to talk to people, and connect with people and gain a rapport – so she is able to do that pretty quickly. And once she establishes those relationships, inevitably, they will help to lead to the truth behind the crash.

Christopher Plummer was working from home due to Covid restrictions. How did you film Kendra's scenes with his character Howard? 

Well, the great thing about Christopher Plummer is he's such a joy to work with. And last season I got to spend so much time with him. He's a legend, but he's also such a wonderful actor to work with, and he has such a lovely, mischievous streak about him. And as you know, at the end of season one, he's done something quite unforgivable, so this season – conveniently – he has a lot of his scenes with Kendra on the phone, and those are scattered throughout all the episodes. They were incredibly easy to do because we had built up such a great relationship in season one. So when we were filming the phone calls, it felt like he was just next door. We didn't struggle with those, and those phone calls are some of my best and favourite scenes, and thus working on them, even though he wasn't on the other end of the phone with me, and I wasn't on the other side of the phone for him.

So you filmed the scenes listening to each other's recordings? 

Yes, but because we knew each other quite well from season one, that helped innately. We knew each other's energies and had spent so much time together that it felt effortless.

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Archie Panjabi as Kendra Malley in season two of Departure. (Photo: Supplied/Universal TV)


ALSO READ: Archie Panjabi's return to the small screen in the gripping new TV drama 'Departure' is a must-watch!


Do you feel that the coronavirus pandemic changed the way you are telling the story in season two?

I don't know if it changed the story, but we certainly felt the restrictions when we first started filming. For example, often when you make a show like this, you have read-throughs, or you have rehearsals, or you have welcome dinners which allow you to get to meet the actors that you are going to work with, which allows you to form a bond where you can share ideas and talk about ideas. And the difficulty on this show was that I would get to meet the actors on the day we were filming, just before we would film, and we would both be wearing a mask. And we have a director, who is wonderful, but he lost the film rehearsals. 

So I would be doing my first scene with one of the actors wearing a mask, and I had only seen their full face when we did the first shot, which I was a little bit unconformable with at first, but that is just one of the problems you have with Covid. So what we ended up doing was, all the actors made a big effort, while they were setting up the shot, to talk to the other actors, to share their ideas, to do the line-runs to try and discuss how their relationships evolve over the six episodes because we weren't filming this chronologically. 

I think, in effect, what this did was bring the actors closer because they were forced to bond in a very short amount of time, and I think you will find – I hope you will find – that a lot of the scenes that Kendra has with these characters, they're really interesting performances. Because whilst you can have a brilliant script, the way you read that script depends on chemistry, and you can only create that chemistry with a bond. So I like to think we managed to create some really interesting scenes with all those characters. I look at it as being something good that came out of Covid. We worked within the restrictions that we had. 

What have you learnt from your character Kendra?

I think one of the things I admire about Kendra – and I like to think it's the way my parents brought me up, but I certainly see it in Kendra – is this ability to fit in, to be able to connect with people from different backgrounds who may look and talk differently from her, or have a different culture, but just this ability to connect to people because ultimately, at the end of the day, we're all humans. And there is so much tension in the world that I think what she does stand for is somebody who just manages to understand everybody's perspective. She's very compassionate, and I think that's one of her greatest strengths and what makes her a good investigator. 

Because of Departure, would you say you are now more afraid or more nervous about taking a plane or a train? 

I like the answer Vincent Shiao gave one day when he was asked that question. He said, "I actually feel safer", and I think I probably feel the same because – particularly with planes – when you realise how rare something like that happens, and you understand the mechanics of a plane and how it functions – and it's the same with a train – it's very seldom that something goes wrong. And when something does go wrong, there is so much research, time and resources put into finding out what went wrong to ensure that it never happens again. So, I think Departure has made me feel a little bit safer than maybe I did before. 

Season two of Departure airs Monday nights at 20:00 on Universal TV (DStv 117).

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