Tuesday 24 April 2018

Archie Panjabi: I was told Indian women could not make it in Hollywood

The actress said only a tiny percentage of leading roles in Hollywood films were for women of colour.

Archie Panjabi said there were still too few leading lady roles for women of colour on the big screen (Ian West/PA)
Archie Panjabi said there were still too few leading lady roles for women of colour on the big screen (Ian West/PA)

By Julia Hunt, Press Association Entertainment Correspondent

Archie Panjabi has said she was once warned that “it was impossible for Indian women to make it in Hollywood”.

The British-born Asian actress, 45, said early in her career an agent told her she would struggle to get her big break in Tinseltown.

She said there were still too few leading lady roles for women of colour on the big screen.

Panjabi said in National Geographic magazine: “When I started out it was challenging because there were very few roles for women who looked like me.

“I was even told by an agent that it was impossible for Indian women to make it in Hollywood.”

The actress got her first big film break in 1999 in East Is East, which explored the lives of a Pakistani immigrant family in the UK.

'I believe that great drama can shine a light on the intricacies of race and prejudice and enable us to gain a better understanding' - Archie Panjabi

“It was an exciting time as more characters that truly reflected the (British) population soon arrived on screen,” said Panjabi in April’s special race issue of the magazine.

“I believe that great drama can shine a light on the intricacies of race and prejudice and enable us to gain a better understanding.”

But she added: “I think it’s safe to say that there is still only a tiny percentage of leading roles in Hollywood films for women of colour, let alone for women of Indian origin!

“I definitely have to fight against that.”

She went on: “Diversity isn’t just about race. It isn’t about being black or white.

“The society in which we live should be reflected accurately on screen in terms of age, gender, socioeconomic background, race, sexual orientation, disability, and physical attributes.”

The actress guest edited National Geographic as part of the magazine’s 130th birthday celebrations this year.

Panjabi’s full interview will be in April’s issue of National Geographic, out on April 4.

Press Association

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