Hannah Simone, whom we know so well as Cecelia in the TV show New Girl, talks with Almas Meherally about Miss India America, one of the films headlining VISAFF this year.
Q: How did Miss India America happen?
A: It came from at least two different ways. I had been a judge at the L.A. film festival for their short stories and got to watch Ravi Kapoor’s film… So he was on my radar, someone I wanted to work with. And on New Girl, Meera played a character in one episode so I met her there for the first time… She brought me the script and told me about the project and I read it and I fell in love with it and I’m a huge fan of Meera’s and Ravi’s, so it was an obvious choice to be involved as much as possible.
Q: What drew you into the film?
A: It’s based on a lot of real experiences Meera had so there is an incredible honesty to it. And I think the film was wonderful because it just told the story of an American girl who happened to be South Asian. And I feel like that those are the stories that we need to start supporting more and more.
Q: Did you feel a connection to the film being partly Indian yourself?
A: Sure, I’m a south Asian Canadian girl, so I was happy to see that it (the story) wasn’t just told in the cloak of Indian culture… it was refreshing.
Q: Tell us a little about your character in Miss India America.
A: I am the perceived rival to Lily Prasad’s character. It was fun the way they wrote the character…, the bit that I got to do in the film, because there is a talent competition, so I had to learn the actual talent because my character has to be good at it, which means I had to be good at it. That was fun, that was very different from what I get to do in New Girl; I really enjoyed it.
Q: What kind of special skills did you learn for the film?
A: My talent (I won’t reveal what it is) but it catches all the other contestants off guard. So I didn’t have to learn to dance or do any traditional Indian talent in a pageant like that so it was kinda cool and I got to do something different.
Q: So you want to keep what you did for the talent round in the film a secret?
A: I mean that’s the really cool thing about the film. It is not a very predictable kind of script, there are twists and turns that i think challenge what people think will be the cultural stereotype in the film. Come and discover it for yourself.
Q: Was any part of the film really challenging for you?
A: No actually… It was a great experience. I could make something up (laughs) but that wouldn’t be honest.
Q: Have you thought about acting in Bollywood?
A: Well I have a job here. It would be a little tricky to uproot my life and move to India.So fat the Hollywood industry has been pretty good to me so I’ll stick it here.
Q: Tell us a little about your life in Vancouver.
A: I’ve lived in Vancouver for about five years. I went to UBC… that’s where I got my degree in International Relations and Political Science. I have a deep affection for Vancouver. I still have family in B.C. and I’m constantly up there… I’m really proud that the film is showing in Vancouver. I consider myself from Vancouver… and it’s a really cool feeling that it’s playing in my Canadian hometown.