Exclusive Interview With Canadian Actress Agam Darshi.
Born in Birmingham, UK and raised all over Canada: Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary and finally settled in Vancouver, is an Actress, screenwriter, graphic designer and producer. Truly a Jill of all trades!
Agam thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to do the interview with us, much appreciated, so lets get straight down to business..
On CTV’s Cop Drama “Played”:
The show has been titled “Played,” How do you feel the title fits into the
storyline of the show? Do you think the title is appropriately named for a cop
It is definitely. The show is about ‘undercover cops’ who go on assignments or ‘plays’, in order to infiltrate criminal organizations. What’s exciting is the the ‘plays’ are everything and anything from playing a prostitute to a drug deal to a trophy wife. Whatever it takes to get information and ultimate get the ‘bad’ guys.
Actors are receiving scripts for movies and shows all the time, What about
“Played” attracted you to the script/show?
‘Played’ is really well written. And that’s always the bait right there.. Also the characters where well flushed out and I hadn’t seen a lot of undercover cop shows before. I loved the idea of being able to play more than one character throughout a season.
You play the role of “Officer Khali Bhatt” the “Truth Teller,” Why is your
character known as “The Truth Teller?”
Khali is known as the ‘truth teller’ partly because she’s the one who does the reserch and collects and shares the information with the rest of team. She digs for the truth. But she is also one of the youngest members of the team, and says exactly what she thinks. She’s an act first, think later kind of girl, and that’s part of her appeal.
What more can you tell us about your character? Does your character have
a love interest? What characteristics do you have in common with “Khali
Yes she does…Khali and her coworker Jesse have instant chemistry but aren’t allowed to date since they both work in the same unit. However as the season progresses Kali and Jesse test the waters with each other…
Khali is from a more conservative family but by nature she’s not conservative at all. She wears crazy outfits and loves to party and have fun. But she’s also really smart, computer savvy. She started working with her boss Rebecca before they teamed up with the rest of the group. So in many ways she trusts Rebecca more than anyone, and vice versa.
I think my biggest commonality with Khali is that we’re both by nature rebellious. We don’t love rules and or super conservative settings. So we find ways to create a world for ourselves where we don’t have to be pinned down.
Did past roles from previous shows or movies help tap into this character? Or
is “Khali Bhatt” a complete new adventure for you?
I’ve played a few characters that have elements that are similar to Khali. I think Kate Freelander in Sanctuary was a huge source of inspiration. I played her for 3 years while on that show. Kate is a this tough, rebellious, sarcastic, bad ass. I don’t think Khali is quite as extreme but there are definitely similarities.
How much work does it take to get into your character? Are there things you
do to help you get into character? Such as: A song, thought, smell, quote
At the beginning of any project I do a ton of work to get into character. I write a character biography, I do research about my character’s job, and what’s important to her. I break down the script to really understand what my she wants and why. Eventually it becomes easier to tap into the character. It’s like a switch. Wardrobe/hair/makeup has a lot to do with it. It’s like putting on her skin, and throughout the day, that’s who you are. Depending on how challenging or emotionally raw the scene is, I will use music or memory substitution to help me connect to it.
Did you and the cast of “Played” have to undergo any extra prep, special
training or workshops for the show?
Yes, we worked with undercover cops, who we got to interview. There was some gun and fight training as well.
What are your thoughts and viewpoints on undercover cops who do this for a
They are fearless! Serious heroes… To go undercover for days, weeks and sometimes months into a criminal organization, and put your life on the line – takes a special kind of person. They don’t go undercover with their weapons so they really depend on the their team to step up and protect them if things go badly. It’s definitely high stress.
Do you feel CTV’s cop drama “Played” gives a good glimpse and
understanding of the danger, difficulties, and hard work undercover cops go
through on a day to day basis?
I think so. The writers did a great job at being as realistic as they could. But it’s also a sexy entertaining series, so story lines are fast and perhaps sexier than they are in real life!
We’re seeing a lot more “Brown” / South Asian faces on TV now, do you think
it’s a case of finally South Asian’s being recognized as talent or more a
“Flavour of the month” type of thing?
Things are definitely shifting in the right direction. And I’m hopeful that the direction is here to stay. That being said I don’t think it’s a perfect upward climb. I think the changes we see in mainstream media today is 2 steps forward, 1 step back. But every time a movie like Slumdog Millionaire gets made, or someone like Mindy Kaling creates her own show, the world stops and says ‘Aha!’. It makes a difference. We just need more ‘colour’ behind the camera if we want to see the change in front of the camera.
Personally speaking as a TV fan, we have seen a lot of changes from the
days of a Asian face speaking with a accent to roles like yours of a Cop who
is a I.T Wiz(Nerd), to the like of Archie Punjabi in “The Good Wife” (a Bi
Sexual Private Investigator) Mindy Kaling in “The Mindy Project” (A MD who is
looking for Mr Right, & is not afraid to experiment) to Navi Rawat who plays a
math genius in “Numbers” & a cold blooded assassin in “Burn Notice”
We’re personally glad to see Asian’s getting more & more out there into
different roles. Anyway enough of us babbling on, back to you
You’re a Brummie (Birmingham, UK) girl. Do you think you could see
yourself in the same line of work if you were still in the UK?
I have no idea. I know that there is a wonderful industry in England, and let’s be honest England has some of the most talented actors ever created! But it’s hard to say where I would have ended up. I never planned on doing this for a living, it just kind of happened to me, and now here I am!
Do you ever visit the UK anymore, or is it a case of it’s in the past & you’ve
I still have family there, and I have visited the UK a number of times. I’d love to film there, actually. England is definitely still a part of my history. And my parents lived there for 20 years before we moved to Canada, so there’s still a little British flavor that we’re holding on to…
You co-founded “Vancouver’s International South Asian Film Festival” (VISAFF) ,
what inspired you to do this?
There wasn’t a South Asian Film Festival in Vancouver at the time. And yet Vancouver has one of the biggest South Asian populations in North America. But I didn’t want to create a typical festival. I wanted to create a festival that celebrated South Asians are breaking stereotypes and moving past Bollywood. So I approached a fellow actor Patricia Isaac, and we launch the festival to great support.
How hard is it for South Asians to break into a career of acting and getting into
Hollywood or the film industry here in North America?
I think Hollywood can be a challenging regardless of who you are. It’s a big industry with amazing talent. So regardless of if you’re brown, white or blue you need to up your game and be the best you can be.
Do you feel that now is a great time for not only South Asians, but also anyone
from any other ethnicity to enter the industry?
How has your experience been being a South Asian actress? Has a lot
changed from when you first started acting 10 years ago?
A lot has changed. I think South Asians are getting juicier roles on TV and in film. But I’m also meeting way more South Asian actors and actresses. It’s fantastic that parents are now realizing that being a doctor, lawyer or engineer is not the only career choice out there. The arts are getting way more respect than ever before, and parents are really supporting their kids in their pursuits to go into that direction.
Not that it hasn’t , but do you feel Hollywood has become more accepting to
different cultures, traditions, and talent rising from other parts of the world?
Yes I think so. There’s still work to be done, but the change is happening.
On Bollywood / Hollywood:
So being of an Asian background, do you watch any Indian/Punjabi films at all?
Has Bollywood inspired you and if so, how?
My mom would watch Bollywood films when I was little. I grew up with a love for Raj Kapoor. There really has never been anyone like him in Bollywood since. He was a master filmmaker. He was also ahead of his time and created films with messages that were sometimes really controversial for their day. I’m also a huge Aamir Kahn fan, and think he’s a fantastic actor.
How has Hollywood inspired you if all?
Hollywood defintely has inspired me. I grew up watching Hollywood films and tv shows. It really affected me as a child, to never see anyone who looked like me, and I think that is a big driving force for why I do what I do today. I want to help change the face of Hollywood. I got a fan letter once from a little girl who thanked me for being on TV because I look like her! It was so wonderful to read that and feel like I’m making a small difference in how people see themselves. Being represented in stories is a human need. We want to see our stories told, and we want to be seen in the stories. For so many years, Hollywood has been a very Caucasian world. It still is, but it’s definitely changing. And those changes are being felt by a generation of young people who are as American or Canadian or British as anyone else on the street, even though their skin is a different colour. They’re finally being seen.
Agam Darshi demo 2012. from agam darshi on Vimeo.
Any desire to one day be in a Bollywood/Punjabiwood/Tollywood?
Never say never. I would love to work with Aamir Kahn or Deepa Mehta (although I don’t consider her Bollywood). But my sensibility lies more with western films and stories. And I think that the ‘fight’ to make room in Hollywood for actors like myself holds my attention much more.
Are there any movies/characters/actors that have inspired you as an actress?
So many… My first memory of a movie I loved was ‘Never Ending Story’. I saw it at the drive-in when I little and loved it! I mean, there was a flying dog!! But as for actresses, I love Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchard, Salma Hayek, Helena Bonham Carter, Sandra Oh…the list goes on and on…
Who would you like to work with that you admire and look up to?
Woody Allen. Sophia Coppola. Deepa Mehta. Meera Nair…the list goes on and on…
Being a vegetarian and traveller; what is your one favourite vegetarian dish, and
one most favourite place to travel to and recommend our readers to visit?
Oh my goodness… I love Indian food.
My mom’s stuffed pindi’s are sooo good. So is her daal and chaawal (she makes it with peas and corn). I love chaat and dosas… I love all of it!!
Best place to travel: Oh geez I’ve been to a lot of great places. Paris is one of my favourites. It’s like walking around inside a jewelry box. I really love Europe and want to live there when I’m 60. Until then, I’m just killing time. : )
But here is my top 5:
2) Peruvian Amazon (near Iquitos)
3) Australian Outback
4) Yellowknife Canada (I saw the Northern lights there this past Christmas when it was -50! Spectacular)
5) Joshua Tree National park (it’s like walking on the moon. The landscape is incredible)
… This list changes daily, but today that’s how I feel.
Lastly, your favourite quote/saying that helps keep you motivated?
Today it’s this one:
And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. – Anais Nin.
Thank you so much Agam for taking out the time interviewing with me and
Photographer: Franco Valerio
Stylist: Claudia DaPonte
Makeup/Hair: Natacha Trottier