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Sandy Sidhu: Blazing a trail for aspiring South Asian actresses

Sandy-0513-8She’s bold.
She’s enterprising.
She’s versatile.
She’s tenacious.

Sandy Sidhu is indeed a perfect role model for South Asian females who want to pursue an acting career in North America.
Her advice to aspiring actresses: “Tell yourself that you can do it. Work hard. Listen to the whispers of your heart and have faith. Somehow your heart already knows what to do before you do, and faith is what you need to keep going. And above all else, be you.”

DESI TODAY spoke to Sandy about her amazing career.

How did you get involved in acting?
It started in high school when my friend told me about these auditions for an after-school musical theatre program. I was very shy at the time but I thought it was a good opportunity to step out of my shell. My first audition was for West Side Story and I distinctly remember the first moment I stepped on stage as a Puerto Rican Girl. I’ll never forget it. I was instantly hooked.

What was your parents’ role in encouraging you to pursue acting?
Well, I look back and I realize how lucky I was. I definitely come from a household where my parents allow me to just be me. They always supported my curiosity in every facet of life, whether it was science, or the arts. Whatever my drive was, they supported the direction that I chose. But I think my parents must have always known I was drawn to the arts. I’ve been drawing since I was three and then eventually moved into theatre in high school. So I’ve always been very creative – they never told me it was a waste of time.

Were they upset that you decided to drop out of UBC after earning a degree in cell biology and genetics?
I finished my degree. I never dropped out. Midway through my degree, I knew that I was going to finish it but I also knew that I was never going use it again and would pursue acting. So when it came time to announce it to my parents, yeah, I was petrified. But their response was incredible. It was ‘go for it’ and they supported me 100%. I had always been so creative so it didn’t shock them like I thought it would. And I honestly don’t think I would’ve been able to pursue this path without their support. I’m lucky. Especially in our culture where a career in the arts is less acceptable than other jobs that offer structure and guaranteed security.

What all training have you received in your field?
I’ve trained for many years in Vancouver and also studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute in Los Angeles. It’s crucial to train.

Can you tell us about your role in the science fiction series “Stargate Universe” and the Canadian series “Arctic Air”?
An actor never forgets their first role. And my first was Stargate Universe. It was a great opportunity because I got to work with Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba). He was the first person I had ever worked with, which was pretty amazing. Arctic Air was my most recent guest starring role where I played a character named Rachel, a lost ice climber who had to be rescued off a mountain before she froze to death. Rachel never hid how she felt. She was very candid and raw with her emotions, which was liberating for me as an actor. One of my favourite parts was working with Gary Harvey who was an incredible director and one of the kindest people in show biz.

Sandy-0513-5What challenges have you faced as a South Asian in the industry and how have you overcome them?
I try not to think about what the barriers are because I tackle things as if there are none. But realistically, we aren’t seeing South Asians having equal opportunity for leading roles in Hollywood yet. People like Mindy Kaling and Aziz Ansari have become mainstream which is fantastic. We definitely have room for continued growth and opportunities. I think the way you overcome those boundaries is to continue to have South Asians in mainstream films and see that those films do well at the box office. Look at Slumdog Millionaire and Life of Pi as an example. It’s happening. We just have to continue to push.

You have started to produce your own films now as well. Tell us about that.
I got into producing because it was an arena for me and I didn’t know if I was capable of doing it. But I was up for the challenge. And through the process of producing my first short, I realized I also loved it and I wanted to continue doing it. I have now produced two shorts within a year. My first short was called Fade Out, which was awarded a bravoFACT grant. My second short is called ‘Becoming Sophie’ and it’s currently in post production. I am now continuing to develop a slate of other feature films and TV shows with my producing partner, Crystal Lowe.

What are you working on at the moment?
I can be seen in a Canadian feature called Preggoland, where I play a character called Linda. And I just finished working on a role in an Ellen Page feature.

What are your future ambitions?
My passion for film and TV hasn’t waned since the first day I started. If anything, it grows stronger every day. I want be a part of the change for South Asians and break into leading roles in Hollywood films.

What is your advice to South Asian females who want to pursue an acting career in North America?
Tell yourself that you can do it. Work hard. Listen to the whispers of your heart and have faith. Somehow your heart already knows what to do before you do, and faith is what you need to keep going. And above all else, be you.

– By Desi Today Bureau

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