Actor Poorna Jagannathan confirms signing a crime drama series with James Gandolfini as she talks about being Tamil, being called a ‘beauty’ and her upcoming film with Ranbir Kapoor.
Everyone’s been talking about HBO’s Criminal Justice — how did it all happen?
I’m on top of the world. I really am — I haven’t stopped smiling since I got the news. But I get on a plane this weekend and I’ve gotten a little scared. There’s going to be a lot of talent in the room (most of them are Oscar winners) and I hope I can measure up. I auditioned for this show about a year and a half ago.
Although the character is very different from who I am, there was something about the writing that made her very relatable and easy to play. The project got shelved and then it resurfaced last month. I was in Paris shooting and I taped my audition there and sent it off! I heard back within a week.
You’ll be sharing screen space with James Gandolfini — what does a project like this mean to you?
Who isn’t a fan? He’s a magnetic actor. This project means the world to me — I’ll be acting with the best in class, and to be directed by Steven Zaillian… professionally, it doesn’t get better than this.
Post Delhi Belly, we haven’t seen a lot of you in Indian films, is there something that Indian fans can look forward to soon?
I just shot for Ayan Mukerji’s Yeh Jawani Hain Deewani. You’ll catch me and Ranbir Kapoor having a blast in Paris.
You’ve had prior experience with shows like Law & Order and Numb3rs — will that make this an easier experience?
I’m really praying it does.
Your name intrigues many people in South India, though none of us know what the South Indian connection is — care to spill the beans?
Such a South Indian connection! Both my parents are from Chennai and we spent our summers there growing up. My Tamil is pretty horrible but I can get by.
You’ve been called one of India’s most beautiful women — do you like such a tag?
That was a colossal surprise. I’m the most unlikely candidate — I have the craziest of hair and very untraditional looks. But it’s wonderful to see that a shift is happening where brown skin is being acknowledged as beautiful. Long overdue. I find people who retain their individuality very beautiful.
If offered a Tamil film, would you consider doing one?
Like I said, my Tamil is pretty bad, but of course I’d be open to South Indian films.
You’re now part of a long list of Indian actors making it huge on American television, what do you think is propagating this trend in the USA?
I hate to say it, but I think Slumdog... catapulted us into the mainstream.
If you were given the choice of acting with any Indian actor — who would you choose?
Aamir Khan for sure and then Kalki Koechlin and Shabana Azmi.