How did you get involved with The Namesake?
I was actually getting ready to do another movie in Montreal called The Last Kiss, when my agent said that Mira [Nair] was going to direct The Namesake. I loved the book, so I was so excited to hear about it.
As someone who moved away from your home at a young age, did you feel a connection to the film?
Absolutely. A lot of people ask me if I connect to my scenes, but I feel that I connect more to the main character Gogol (Kal Penn), who is part of two stimulating and different cultures. I’ve spent all of my adult life in a different country, so I can also relate to Ashima’s experience of feeling uncomfortable and out of synch because I remember feeling that way when I moved to Germany when I was just 18.
What did you do to prepare for your role?
I obviously reread the book again. I did rehearsals with Mira a lot and even flew to New York earlier to get comfortable with her.
While we’re talking about Mira Nair, tell us what it was like working with her.
It was fantastic. She has this incredible creative energy and a warm encompassing spirit. She brings everyone on set close and makes them feel that their creative input is valid. She also has an incredible eye; the way she sees the world is so beautifully, vibrantly lush.
And what was it like working with Kal Penn?
We had a lot of fun. He worked really hard and was very dedicated to the part. It was a really challenging role for him. We would joke around and tease each other when we weren’t filming, but when we had to work, he was really committed.
Did you pick up any Hindi while working on the film?
No! I wish! I didn’t, but it was really great for me to be around and listen to different people speaking Bengali on the set.
What’s next for you?
I don’t know yet. I did four movies back to back, and I’m literally exhausted because they were all shot in different parts of the States and Canada.
PLUS: see our movie review of The Namesake