- Actor Freida Pinto opened up to NextShark about navigating Hollywood as a South Asian actor and how Hollywood was not “brave” enough to offer the roles it does now.
- Pinto first rose to prominence after starring as Latika in the wildly popular 2008 Academy Award-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire.”
- Her new period drama, “Mr. Malcolm’s List,” tells the story of Mr. Malcolm, a mysterious and wealthy bachelor living in 19th-century London who procures a list of qualities his future wife must have.
- Pinto plays Selina Dalton, the film’s female lead who is recruited by childhood friend Julia Thistlewait to trick Mr. Malcolm into falling in love with her after a humiliating incident.
- “A film like ‘Mr. Malcolm’s List’ would’ve never been offered to me in 2008 when I’d just come on the scene with ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’” Pinto shares. “I don’t think there were people brave enough to take the risk at that point in time, or even thinking of taking this risk at that point in time.”
Actor Freida Pinto opened up to NextShark about navigating Hollywood as a South Asian actor and how Hollywood was not “brave” enough to offer the roles it does now.
Pinto first rose to prominence after starring as Latika in the wildly popular 2008 Academy Award-winning film “Slumdog Millionaire.” She went on to star in several other blockbusters, including “Rise of the Planet Apes” opposite actor James Franco as well as fantasy action film “Immortals” alongside Henry Cavill and Luke Evans.
Pinto’s new period drama, “Mr. Malcolm’s List,” tells the story of wealthy bachelor Mr. Malcolm, played by Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, who is pessimistic about finding his love match. He procures a list of qualities his future wife must have and humiliates Julia Thistlewait, played by Zawe Ashton, after he ends their courtship. Upon learning about the mysterious man’s stringent list, Julia recruits her childhood friend Selina Dalton, played by Pinto, to lure him by checking every item off his list. The two friends aim to embarrass Mr. Malcolm to give him a taste of his own medicine.
To those critical of the way that race is overlooked in the film, director Emma Holly Jones says that anyone looking for historical accuracy should watch a documentary instead as her film is meant to be an “artistic interpretation of worlds.”
This is a sentiment echoed by Pinto, who shares that Jones was inspired after watching the Broadway hit “Hamilton” to show a 19th-century London representative of the city “as it looks today.” Pinto also says that people of color did not “only come into existence” in England today and claims that most regency pieces of the past depict a “whitewashed” London.
For the 37-year-old actor, having a diverse cast not only gives the film a “fresher take,” but also “opens” up the period and “makes us see it in a light that is relatable to all of us” rather than catering “to one ethnicity or one color of the skin.”
Directors, however, were not always given the opportunity to cast roles in this way, and Pinto struggled with navigating Hollywood early on in her career as a South Asian actor.
“A film like ‘Mr. Malcolm’s List’ would’ve never been offered to me in 2008 when I’d just come on the scene with ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’” she shares. “I don’t think there were people brave enough to take the risk at that point in time, or even thinking of taking this risk at that point in time.”
She adds, “I’ve had to navigate the industry at the start of my career very differently, where I had to almost take these so-called color, or ethnicity-ambiguous roles, where I could be anybody.”
This included taking on the roles of Arab women in films such as “Black Gold” (2011) and “Desert Dancer” (2014).
“I started my career at a time in the industry where people [did not have] any idea how to place a South Asian actress in film and television, and there ended up being roles that were one-dimensional, cardboard cutout, or if there was real meat to the bone, it was in these indie movies that would do the film festival circuit but probably not get a big, theatrical release,” she says. “But now I feel that times are changing. I feel that our world has shrunk.”
The star adds that taking on racially ambiguous roles is something she would not be willing to do today – nor something that should be done.
“Our eyes and our world are so much more open than ever before,” she says. “And with so much talent that comes from every part of the world that is there for us to choose from. And I feel that the South Asian community is coming together like never before. There’s strength in numbers and we are getting stronger. And we want our stories to be told.”
When asked if she could share any love advice in light of her newest film, Pinto laughs and responds, “Oh god, no. I’m no love guru.”
“Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t,” she adds. “Only thing I’ll say is, you have to be yourself. If you pretend to be someone else to impress someone or pretend to be someone else to fill that void of insecurity that you might have, it always shatters in the end. The true colors always come out. The true person always does, peaking out. Be yourself and if you can’t be loved then too bad, move on to the next person.”
“Or don’t!” she concludes, laughing. “I’m not giving love advice.”
“Mr. Malcolm’s List” is now available to stream on all major platforms, including Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and Vudu.
Featured Image via Rotten Tomatoes Trailers