When the holiday season hits we tend to think about the umpteen events we are invited to and of course, closing out the year which means something a little different depending on what you do! We caught up with Parveen Kaur as she is in the midst of tapings for her hit show, Manifest which debuted this fall and will be back from its midseason break on Jan 7th! We have been fans of a number of her shows including Saving Hope, FX’s The Strain and Freeform's Beyond. We sat down with her to find out about what it’s like during Pilot Season, playing Saanvi on NBC’s hit show, what’s coming up for the remainder of the season and how she takes time for herself in the midst of such a crazy schedule!
ATHLEISURE MAG: What was the moment when you realized that you wanted to be an actor?
PARVEEN KAUR: Oh oh that’s a really good question! I don’t know if there was ever a particular moment, but I had always known that ever since I was really young that I was going to be in show business and I kind of went all over the place I remember at one point I was like, I am going to be a WWE wrestler and then I thought I wanted to be a stunt driver. Then I was like, I want to be a singer but it all kind of fell under this umbrella of wanting to be able to perform.
When I moved to Toronto when I was 18, I just had a friend that encouraged me to take some classes and it was something that felt natural and I had a lot of fun doing it. I think that was around the time when I felt like, yeah let’s do it – I was working at the mall and I wanted to figure out what I actually wanted to do with my life. The stars just kind of aligned in that way and then I was able to get an agent pretty quickly and then I just kind of kept at it. I mean I just really loved it and I still really just love it!
AM: That is a great story. What is Pilot Season and what is its duration as we always hear people refer to it, but it seems like there is so much that takes place within this.
PK: Yeah – so Pilot Season is typically from January to March. It’s a couple of months where studios are just trying to throw their scripts at the wall and seeing what sticks, making new projects and seeing what will be the next big thing in a condensed period of four months. All the studios are putting out their scripts and seeing what can be made and what will hopefully be their next big hit. Now Pilot Season isn’t just about being between January and March – I think that timeline has grown a little bit, but that is definitely the most. You’re going on like 4-5 auditions a day, you’re getting the script the night before and then you’re auditioning the next morning and it’s very fast.
If you are lucky to be booked for something, the Pilot gets made and then you also keep hoping that it gets turned into a series – because there are no guarantees that this will happen. Pilot Season is VERY stressful.
AM: That’s intense! So if you’re getting all of these scripts with different characters/personalities and going to the auditions, how do you prepare for all of them with so little time? What is the preparation for Pilot Season versus when you are working on a show like Manifest that you know has already been greenlit?
PK: Well you don’t prepare for it in Pilot Season. It’s like a marathon and your stamina has to be there, you go in and you just hope that whatever little time that you do get that people will see you potential! You’re right that it’s such a short period of time and you’re hoping that you go into the room and that the casting director is mindful of the fact that there is such little time and that they are looking strictly for whether I could be this person and not so much that this person is the one. It’s just not a lot of time to prepare. Now when I am on Manifest, or when you are on a show, it’s such a luxury!
AM: Knowing this, looking at you being on Manifest, how did you prepare for this role, what was the process like to be on this show and what was the audition like?
PK: So ok, I have the quintessential sad actor story for how I got into Manifest. So I was in Pilot Season and I was really close to getting on another show as I had not read the one for Manifest yet. This script fell into my lap and I fell in love with it and it doesn’t happen so often – like in every Pilot Season you may get 2 or 3 that you really love or connect with. It’s just that it’s such a high volume season that you’re reading so many of them – it may be only 1 that you really love. When I found out that I didn’t get the other project, I was really devastated and that one hit me really hard! It was my third year doing pilot season and it is really draining and you start thinking, “Oh my God it’s never going to happen.”
I was in this rut for a couple of days and then Manifest fell into my lap and then I read for Saanvi. I just took all that tension and weight that I was carrying from that rejection and I put it into my audition. It couldn’t have been more – I mean it’s that cliché of sometimes things are meant to be and happen in a certain way. Things were supposed to happen that way and I took that energy and put it into my Manifest audition and then the next day they were like, we’re going to have to fly you to NY to audition for David Frankel and I was still in kind of a funk because the same thing had happened to me for other shows. I’m based in Toronto, so you get that call and you’re being flown to LA or to NYC – where you are one step closer but it doesn’t turn into anything. So, I was still in that mind frame and when I went in to audition for David Frankel, I took the pressure off of myself and it ended up being the best audition that I have ever had in my life and it has forever changed the way that I now audition which is great!
AM: How do you describe Saanvi and what do you see as similarities or differences between you and her?
PK: Well Saanvi is a lot smarter than I am ha ha! When I had spoken to Jeff Rake showrunner and the creator of our show, he really described her to me as someone that is tough as nails, a fighter and someone that is really resilient. To me, that was very exciting to play someone like that. I feel that that part of her description is a common characteristic of her and I. Like, I have had an interesting upbringing and I have gone through a few things that made me resilient and maybe I have put up some walls and Saanvi has definitely done that as well – we haven’t seen her have any kind of breakdown like some of the other characters have had on the show. They are really struggling and Saanvi is really just pushing forward and just putting her head down and really just focusing on the work and looking at what happened. She just has this wall up and is guarded as well and I can understand that side of it. That will change as you will see when we get back to air as she has a huge turning point and I think fans will be excited to see this!
AM: We were wondering if there would be more about her backstory – does she have a love life? Her head down approach has been great, but it felt like there should be more about her and we know that you can’t give it away!
PK: No spoilers! I think that since the rest of the cast is so traumatized, not to say that she is not, but I think that she is a good balance and counterpart to the Stone family. I mean, they are really struggling as they have so much going on in their personal lives and she has been a good balance for them and the show. She is being shown as someone who has yet to absorb what has happened and she will! I’m so glad that the writers have waited to show this and I think that when people see what she is about to go through, I think that that will be really rewarding for the fans, everyone that watches and even for me as an actor. I have been patiently waiting for something to happen so when it does, I am really grateful.
AM: What’s great about the show is that you have two major pillars, obviously what has happened in terms of what took place on that flight and then it’s the Stone family. But the way that the other characters are integrated, you don’t feel that they are side people – they are just as important as the family. It’s like looking at a diamond with a number of facets and I think that’s what draws people in. You end up finishing the episode and talking with others about it and going online to read theories and it makes it a fun show to watch and to talk about.
PK: Do you have any theories?
AM: The show is maddening, in a good way as you guys are dropping these pieces where you see a connection and then something else happens and you realize that we’re still not figuring out what happened. Obviously the government is involved, but who and is there a secret arm and even the government agencies aren’t working together and are definitely not on the same page.
PK: Well, wait until Season 2 (knock on wood) because Jeff just came in to talk to me the other day and gave me kind of a vague idea of where the show would go as well as Saanvi’s character and it gave me goosebumps! It’s going to be really great and I am really excited. I think our show is still a baby too! In Season 1, we are figuring out our footing, what we are, who we are and that's really common. I mean the people that love this show will be rewarded and pleasantly surprised as they stick around for the back half of this season and as we continue into the next. We just started to get closer and closer and closer. We know the characters and we’re attached to them so we can really start finding out what’s happening. I’m excited for us to come back in the New Year.
AM: In addition to what we like about you as a person is the importance of representation for women as well as being a woman of color. How do you bring this into your roles and making sure that you’re amplifying this as much as possible in a situation where representation is still an issue?
PK: That’s definitely a complicated topic and issue because it doesn’t start with me – it starts in the writer’s room and it’s their responsibility to have representation in their room so that when they are writing the nuances of people from different walks of life, that those nuances are truthful and accurate. Also, as an actor, I can try to pick projects that reflect me as an actor as well as my community in an accurate way, but truth be told – it’s not like I get those opportunities all of the time to begin with. I’m still playing in the medical field which is very complicated and as grateful as I am to be working and on such a big show, I am still a South Asian woman playing a doctor. I would like to move away from that, but the difference with Manifest is that they have written her in a way that as we get to know her, she will be humanized and she’s not just an Indian doctor, she is someone with purpose and who you will get to know in a personal way. I think that that is why I was happy to be on the show and play someone in the medical field again. And I said that after this show I wouldn’t do it again and I hope that this show will lead to opportunities to play different characters. I think that that would be a blessing and all that I can do is to bring as much humanity to Saanvi as I can and as much nuance as I can and hope that people love her and appreciate her. There are a lot of people that watch and there are young people that are looking at who we are, who watch and are inspired by Saanvi, as well as my journey as an actor.
It’s a complicated question as far as how I deal with it and I think it really boils down to the writer’s room and asking them! I always find it to be counterproductive when people ask people of color what they think about diversity as I’m like, “you don’t have to ask me – I already know it.” I can talk about it for days – I understand it. It’s the people in power – those who are making the decisions they are the ones that need to be asked about diversity as they are the ones that need to start answering that question for themselves.
AM: You recently were in a film, are there additional areas in TV/Film that you would like to tackle – perhaps directing or producing?
PK: I would like to try to break into fashion!
PK: Yeah, it’s my first love. I would like to start breaking into that world in some way. I’m not sure into what capacity I could, but that is my heart. I like fashion, styling, creative directing. It gives me a lot of joy. I have been sewing since I was a kid and I was one of the people that would lock myself in my room coming home after school and by high school I was making the clothes that I made – it was therapeutic. It was a great expression for me and it took a lot of my frustrations and feelings that I felt as a child and it was put into clothing. So that’s a big passion of mine that I hope that I get the opportunity to work in, even if it’s just wearing the clothing.
I don’t know if I can get away with just making something at this point, but I am so inspired by fashion and the work that we do. Our costumes and wardrobing are a big part of our characters and it’s no small feat for our costuming departments to come up with something beautiful and accurate and that is a creativity that I know is acknowledged, but we can always do more! When we watch characters, what they are wearing is very important and I am one of those actors that you will find me in the Costume Department all of the time – just hanging out!
AM: How do you take time for yourself in the midst of your busy schedule – do you meditate or take inspiration walks?
PK: That’s a great question! I decompress in the shower and I need a hot shower before work and after work – that’s how I decompress. I like to just hang out with my dog. My mom gave me her Curry Chicken recipe for my 30th birthday and I am not a cooker and I don’t cook! She gave it to me and all of a sudden, I am enjoying cooking and trying to understand it. I like working with my hands as I find it very therapeutic and I’m sewing which is really nice so that’s how I wind down. I love spending time with my family and that’s great for me. I’m a pretty chill person. I love going to the movies – I go a couple of times a week. If there were enough movies, I’d go even more. I love escapism and the whole thing of going to the theater, grabbing snacks, the lights come down and I can escape and go somewhere new – it’s one of my favorite things to do! It’s so funny because I live in this particular area in Brooklyn where there are three different movie theaters and it’s really awesome!
AM: In Brooklyn, where can we find you grabbing a meal, drinks and working out?
PK: One of my favorite restaurants is Lucali's in Brooklyn - it has the best pizza in the world. People need to make their way there! I am a coffee snob and whenever I move to a new city, I need to find my coffee. If I don’t have my coffee place, I end up feeling very lost and don’t enjoy my time there. It’s such a big part of my routine because I get up and go get my coffee. So there are a few shops that I like to go and work from. In terms of working out, I love to do yoga and actually I haven’t been that good at doing it because my schedule has been so hectic! I do work with a personal trainer when I am in Toronto and I love doing hot yoga! I’m small and I like to stay toned. Being small and tiny, I want to have curves and there is this myth that if you workout, you will lose weight which I don’t want to do because if I lost weight, I’d look sick! Yoga and hot yoga was the perfect balance for me to practice mindfulness, working my body and exercising – that’s a good one for me as well.
PHOTOS COURTESY | NBC Manifest + Parveen Kaur