Lost actor Naveen Andrews talks about being an Indian in Hollywood, working in Bollywood films, and more.
You were the first Indian-origin actor to feature in a mainstream show, Lost. Was it a struggle to land the role?
I’ve been really lucky and luck has nothing to do with being English or Indian or brown, white or blue. I don’t read too much into it, since I don’t find that useful. Usually, if you are of Indian ethnicity, you are typecast in certain roles like the cab driver or the geek.
How tough has it been to break out of that?
I’ve been offered a lot of such roles, but they were not acceptable to me. Things were hard enough and I didn’t want to make it worse by being stereotyped.
Do you still get approached for pointless roles added to in a movie or a show, for the sake of ‘diversity’?
If I’m offered anything, it has to be well-written. It can’t be a load of bollocks. In Lost, you were cast in the role of an Iraqi soldier at a time when relations between USA and Iraq were sour.
How’d you go about portraying your role at such a time?
The Bush administration was exercising its influence at the time and most networks had to comply. We were lucky in the first season to operate regardless of what was happening.
Will you ever do a Bollywood film?
I would never rule that out! I had a jolly good laugh doing Gurinder Chadha’s Bride and Prejudice. It wasn’t a Bollywood film per se, since there was no singing and dancing, but I did work with Aishwarya Rai.
There was a song in the film which you danced to. Looking forward to doing that again?
Oh yeah! Why not? You know, growing up in England, I was quite ignorant. I wasn’t aware of the power of Indian films. I got a small taste of what it’s like with Bride and Prejudice. Saroj Khan had to work hard to make me dance. I like the fact that there’s so much life force in Bollywood films. They have very little to do with intellect, but they are still rock ‘n’ roll.
Is there anyone you look up to in the Indian film industry?
I’m drawn to Satyajit Ray, but that’s completely different cinema, isn’t it? I like anything with Govinda in it. He’s a genius, I’m totally serious! When I first saw him, I was completely electrified. The only western performer who has that kind of energy is Iggy Pop.
Do you have a crush on any of the Indian actresses?
I wouldn’t say it was a crush, but I liked Aishwarya Rai. I’m more drawn to the ’60s beauties like Nargis. Indian actors are now trying to cross over to Hollywood.
Do you think it will work out?
Why not? People are culturally aware today... Till six months ago, I didn’t even know how to send an email, but now I do. If an idiot like me can cope with change, I’m sure things are headed to a time when people can work across boundaries.