Exclusive Interview with Manifest’s Parveen Kaur

Manifest premiered on NBC as one of the highest rated new shows of the season with over 15 million viewers in the Live+3 day ratings. Canadian actress Parveen Kaur gives life to Saanvi Bahl, a graduate student and medical researcher who is working hard to put together the puzzle pieces of Flight 828 from her lab. With the help of the Stone family, she quickly uncovers secrets that could lead to answers for the planeload of passengers who lost five years of their lives. Read on to find out how Parveen landed this sweet role on fall’s hottest show and what she thinks about #Benvi!

Let’s just get to it. Tell me about how you landed the role of Saanvi on Manifest.

Basically, my audition for Manifest came during pilot season. It was just nonstop auditioning. You are usually getting three or four auditions a day. It’s pretty stressful, but I was auditioning out of Toronto where I was getting auditions from LA or New York and then putting them on tape and then sending them over. 

That’s what I had done for Manifest. I actually have a funny story. I don’t know, not a funny story, but I have a cool story. So I had auditioned for a show, I won’t say what show, but it was really unique in the sense that, for a young South Asian woman, a script like this did not come along very often. Immediately, I was so stoked. I was so excited to audition and I auditioned for the main character and they didn’t think I was right for the part. Then I auditioned for another part in the show and I didn’t even care at that point, I just was like, “This project is so special and it doesn’t come around so often for people like myself.” So even if I just get to be part of it, it doesn’t have to be the main character, I don’t care; I wanted to audition. It was one of those special pieces and scripts that you get every now and then that you just get really attached to really quickly. So I auditioned for a different part and then I found out I didn’t get that part and I was just so devastated. I remember I just didn’t want to get out of bed for a day, or like two days. I just felt really hurt and upset and I was like, “I don’t know if I want to act anymore.” I was like, “I’m done, it’s getting too hard.” I felt like anytime something comes my way that I actually want, I never get it.

So I was wallowing in my sorrows and then I got the script for Manifest. I put it on tape [and] I didn’t think anything of it because I was still feeling negative about the previous audition. I was like, “It’s not going to happen. It doesn’t matter.” I kid you not, the next day, maybe two days, they were like, “They want to fly you up to New York.” And I was like, “Okay, fine. I’ll go out to New York.” I was just in this weird state of being, upset and frustrated about not getting the previous audition. But then, this one now is in my face so I have to just deal with this right now and how to move past my mental stuff that I was going through.

So I get to New York, I audition. I end up having the best audition I’ve ever had in my entire career. I was just so calm, so relaxed; the room was just so warm. The casting director, Julie Schubert, was the best ally to have in the room and she just made me so comfortable. Then there’s David Frankel, who directed The Devil Wears Prada. I quote that movie every day, so I was really nervous, obviously, to go in. I was like, “This man directed Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway. He’s not going to care what I have to do or what I have to say, he’s not going to care.” Then I go in and it ends up being the best audition and they’re so warm and David was like, “I could watch you do the scene over and over,” and I peed my pants. I didn’t even know how to respond to that. Right? How do you even respond to feedback in that way? Then I come back to Toronto and I was feeling pretty confident at that point. I was like, “Okay, I think I’ll probably get it. I hope I get it.” You just never know. You can have all the confidence in the world and it doesn’t pan out your way.

Then I get the job and it was insane. We got to come back to New York and shoot the pilot and the other series that I had really wanted shot their pilot as well. Fast forward to a couple months later and the other pilot didn’t go and Manifest got picked up. So, yeah, it would have been so remarkable for me to be part of that show, whether it went to a full series or not. But if I had gotten that, I wouldn’t be on the number one show in the country on Monday nights. 

It’s just a weird thing that the world does to you. I feel like it doesn’t happen all the time and I know there’s probably a lot of people that don’t believe in flukes and that’s fine, but this was one of those undeniable moments, right? Where you’re just like, “Oh, okay. It turned out the way that it was supposed to turn out and it actually ended up being better.”  

Are you watching Manifest as it airs or do you even watch yourself on television? I know some actors just can’t do that.

This is my thing: I’ve watched up until now and I’m going to watch episode four because it’s a big episode, but I think I’m going to have to maybe step away after that because it’s so weird. I have such a hard time watching myself, but I also don’t know where this story is going. I genuinely have no idea where Manifest is going. I know nothing, which I kind of like because I’m just discovering as we go along, which is great as an actor; sometimes you don’t want to know all the information. 

We just kind of take it day by day, script by script. But I said after episode four, I’m going to just focus on shooting it, and of course, I’ll be on Twitter and stuff. But yeah, it’s really difficult watching myself. Then, when we found out that our first episode had like however many people watching, I was like, “I can’t. My brain can’t even comprehend that.” 

Does that make you more nervous knowing that 10 million people watched the premiere? 

Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? I was like, “Oh, that scene that I did, I wish I could re-shoot that.” [laughs] It’s crazy. I went to a football game here in New York, and I’ve never been to a football game before, and I think there was like 50,000 to 80,000 people. I was like, “Whoa, this is the most people I’ve ever seen in my life.” I can’t even imagine what 10 million people even look like. Monday night, premiere night, we had 10 million and then for the next week, we had 18(mil). Isn’t that insane? I’m just like, “What life is this that I’m living that I have 18 million anything watching anything that I shoot?” It’s crazy, very crazy. 

Here’s a question from a Twitter fan: Do you think the mystery of the plane is going to be science-based or faith-based? 

That’s a great question. I think Saanvi thinks it’s going to be science-based. Parveen is very open to either or. I’m kind of split down the middle, which is not a good answer for that question. Yes, I think it’s science-based for sure, at the moment. I don’t know if that’s gonna change anytime soon for her. 

Well, honestly, we never really got an answer for Lost. Maybe we’re never going to get the answer for Manifest. What do you think? 

No, they have an answer for this, for sure. Yeah, Jeff (Rake) has spoken that he has the whole thing mapped out because the networks at this point will not want a show to go if they don’t have the full answer.

We’ve got another question from Twitter. “Love you as Saanvi! Go medical fields! Can you tease about what kind of journey Saanvi will go through throughout the series?” 

Yeah. I don’t know if I can tease or not. I try to find out as I get the scripts, but so far she’s getting closer and closer, from what I’m reading, to the core of what’s going on and she’s starting to become really invested in her relationships with Michaela and Ben and in the Stone family. We start to see them kind of intertwine and start working together and then also building relationships with one another because we’ve all gone through this shared trauma and it only makes sense that you would all stick together. You’re going to see her work ethic as far as figuring out the mystery. She’s gonna start to kind of get obsessed and then you’re going to start to see her personal relationships with some of the other passengers flourish as well as they all try to navigate this unfathomable circumstance.

That brings us nicely to our next Twitter question. Any chance for romance between Saanvi and Ben? 

I know! I keep seeing #Benvi on Twitter and I just… I love it. Anytime someone or multiple people go through a shared trauma it only makes sense for them to latch onto one another and support one another and help one another. Whether it’s going to be a relationship or not, I don’t know. But again, I do believe that these people… whether it’s Ben and Saanvi or Michaela and Saanvi or Cal and Saanvi, we are going to fall in love with one another just in the sense of, “Okay, we went through this thing together and there’s no one else that understands what we’ve been through but, you know, you guys.” So who knows. I don’t know. That’s a good question. I genuinely don’t know. I think it’s great that we just kind of have to go through it, you know? But yeah, I definitely wouldn’t shut the door on that. Definitely not because it does feel like whether it’s a romantic relationship or a platonic relationship there they are gonna start to get very, very close, that’s for sure. 

Ok, we’ll add a disclosure that you aren’t giving spoilers, these are just your thoughts on the subject and now move along so we don’t get in trouble. [laughs] Last question, our website is called Talk Nerdy with Us. Tell me what you nerd out about. Maybe more specifically: favorite movies, Netflix binges, hobbies or what you do to kill time on set.

Well, I just did a whole binge last night, watching Heath Ledger play The Joker in Dark Knight. That’s one of my favorite movies of all time, so I geek out over his performance as The Joker. I’m obsessed with Guillermo del Toro. He cast me in The Strain, which was my first big, big job. His mind is just fantastic. Even walking onto his set as an actor you don’t need to do much because it’s all there for you. You can walk into a room that he has created and you’re there in that world that he’s created. He is phenomenal. So I geek out over him. 

What do I like to do on set? I don’t know. I like to eat, man! I’m at crafty [craft services] all day! Do you know when you eat too many different types of foods, like back to back to back to back, and then you have this like weird film in your mouth where you have to brush your teeth? That’s me every day on set. I’ll start off with candy in the morning and then I’ll move to chips and then I’ll move to spicy things and by the end of the day, my tongue actually hurts from just eating all day. I’m not even lying.

I’m thankful somebody is putting in the work to explain at least one TV airplane mystery and that we have confirmation that there is an actual plan for this show (I’m looking at you Lost). I’m also really glad we, as viewers, got to keep her for Manifest. Our gain for sure! Women and science rock! What’s your feeling on the mystery – science-based, faith-based, or other? Shoot us your thoughts in the comments below. 

Just this week Manifest was officially picked up for a full season so be sure to watch Parveen on NBC Monday nights at 10/9 C after The Voice… just don’t look too closely at her teeth. 

And be sure to follow Parveen on Twitter and Instagram

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