Ever since Tiya Sircar’s role in this summer’s The Internship as Neha Patel, we’ve been keeping a close eye on this burgeoning young talent. We soon found out her interests go far beyond acting. Follow her Tweets long enough and you’ll see Tiya’s fearless commentary on topics ranging from marriage equality to the recent abortion debate in her home state of Texas. We asked the actress to tell us more about her views on social media, her first internship and what working with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson really taught her.
In an interview with E.T., you mentioned that you’re ‘not Indian enough’ to get Indian girl roles. What did you mean by “not Indian enough” and what type of Indian girl roles were you thinking of?
I was referring to filmmakers/producers/decision makers who may feel I’m “too Americanized” to play characters who are from India or to fit their idea of what a second-generation Indian American is. In fairness, it’s true — I’m from the United States, not India. But after all, it’s acting! I think as long as you can pull it off believably, you should be able to play all kinds of roles.
Your thoughts on The Mindy Project and Mindy Kaling?
I want to see more funny women on TV and in film and I also want to see more South Asian actors in the mainstream media. Mindy is smart, funny and seems to dance to the beat of her own drum which I love!
When you were growing up, was there an actor or actress that you especially admired? Who do you admire now?
I grew up watching a lot of classic movies so I love “Old Hollywood” stars like Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck. I think I saw Roman Holiday as a child and thought Audrey Hepburn had the most incredible job in the world! Nowadays, I really love Johnny Depp, Sam Rockwell, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton and Kristen Wiig. I could go on and on!
You’ve mentioned that you often play “ethnically ambiguous roles.” Are there any advantages to playing an “ethnically ambiguous” character? Disadvantages?
Well, I think I get to work more often than if I were relegated to playing only South Asian characters. Even though our presence in TV and film is increasing, Hollywood still has a long way to go!
On Twitter, you’re not afraid to show your passion about current events. How have fans responded to your speaking up on important political issues?
Growing up, my family constantly engaged (and still does) in healthy debate over all kinds of sociopolitical issues. So discussing current events and sharing my views, which definitely do get political from time to time, is quite natural for me. What good is a public forum if all you use it to do is post “selfies”?
You recently starred in The Internship. What was your first internship or first job?
I interned for my first talent agent when I was in college. I assisted her in submitting talent for projects and running her office. It gave me a better understanding of how the business works from an agent’s perspective.
What tips would you give someone starting their first internship?
Be prepared to work hard, be open to suggestion and constructive criticism and DON’T BE LATE!
What was the best part about working with actors like Aasif Mandvi, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson? The scariest?
The best part of working with those guys, who I consider to be absolute masters of comedy, was getting to learn the art of improvisational comedy from some of the very best! That also happened to be the scariest part. I didn’t have a lot of improv experience before The Internship so it was definitely a huge learning experience for me. Luckily, those guys were amazing teachers!
Your favorite comfort foods?
I love sushi, a LOT. I could eat it every day. But I don’t know if that really counts as “comfort” food. I’m from Texas so I love BBQ & anything covered in cheese and/or ranch dressing! As far as Indian food goes, I’m Bengali and absolutely love Bengali cuisine (goat meat curry, shrimp or fish curry, all kinds of vegetable dishes, etc.) but I also love a good masala dosa.
Salwar or sari?
I love both! But I think there’s something especially feminine and elegant about a beautifully draped sari.
In your purse right now?
Currently I’m obsessed with _________.
Truffle oil, The Newsroom on HBO, uni sushi (I used to have an aversion to it but now I can’t get enough of the stuff!), the Yelp! iPhone App — I use it on almost a daily basis to find great restaurants and shops in LA and also whenever I travel.
Song on repeat right now?
The new Empire of the Sun album, Cedric Gervais’ remix of Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” and Capital Cities’ “Safe & Sound.”
Television show you always DVR?
Jeopardy! It’s an obsession.