13Jun 18

DNA – The Circle

‘Big Little Lies kept me up at night’: Poorna Jagannathan

Although Poorna Jagannathan has starred in only two Bollywood movies — Delhi Belly and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani — the American actress and producer has been quite active on international shores. With a couple of movies, including Mile 22 and Share lined up, she is also in news for joining the cast of the award-winning TV series Big Little Lies, for the second season. Here, Poorna tells us more about choosing projects that have a resonance with the audience and why she thinks theatre is a powerful tool for change

You had the opportunity of starring in The Circle and worked with actors like Emma Watson and Tom Hanks. How was the experience? The Circle is based on a novel by Dave Eggers and I’m a huge fan of his and his dystopian view of the future. The future he writes about feels like it’s going to unfold tomorrow vs at some distant point in the future. So, I was really excited to be a small part of this ambitious project. Especially now at a time when privacy issues are what’s on everyone’s mind. The Circle is a great reminder of the perils of over-sharing and lack of privacy. The director, James Ponsoldt, is a great talent. He directed a lot of episodes of Masters Of None and I recently worked with him again on a new series for Facebook. You will soon be joining the cast of Big Little Lies. How did you bag the role and how excited are you about it, considering the first season was such a big success? It’s one of the best things to be part of Season 2 of Big Little Lies. Season 1 kept me up at night for a long time, I was haunted by the darkness and elegance of how it all came together. I can’t say anything about Season 2, except that I play a new character called Katie Richmond. And I haven’t stopped smiling. You have been a part of some really interesting shows such as The Night Of. How has life changed post this show? What kind of content excites you? The Night Of certainly was a game changer for me and I’m so deeply grateful. I got to be part of a story that made a dent and added a meaningful dimension to the conversation on Islamophobia and the criminal justice system, not to mention, diversity in Hollywood. It absolutely changed my career trajectory. I’ve been working consistently and on projects that have such great resonance. There’s a lot of content out there that inspires me — I recently got hooked onto The Handmaid’s Tale and I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m drawn to content that has the ability to shift perception — even if it’s comedic (I still think The Office is one of the most genius things made for TV). As an actor, I can only hope to be of service to that shift of mindset in whatever small way I can. You are part of international digital content but would you be willing to be a part of an Indian web series? I do think that web content in India will open up lots of space for diverse actors. I can certainly see myself doing something in the digital space in India in the future. Nirbhaya was a powerful play that received critical acclaim. Do you see theatre as a powerful tool for changing mindsets? My own biggest moments of epiphany have been through theatre. So yes, I see it as one of the most intimate and powerful tool to change mindsets. I remember seeing Our Town by Thornton Wilder and the poetry of the last act made me believe in something divine. I also remember seeing Amajuba by Yael Farber (who wrote and directed Nirbhaya) and for the first time, truly understanding the devastation of Apartheid on lives. I also think you can create something beautiful and powerful with a shoestring budget and a lot of heart, so it’s a tool for anyone with something to express. We have not seen you on the Indian screen post Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Is there anything on that front? I simply haven’t been offered anything in Bollywood since I left India three years ago. It wasn’t for me; I wasn’t for them — end of story I think. I speak to Akshat Verma a lot though —he is the writer of Delhi Belly and who, I think is one of India’s most underrated screen writing talents. We’re plotting away and hopefully, something will come of it one of these days.