Anjali Bhimani has done it all, from TV and film to Broadway and gaming. Most recently, she had a recurring role on AppleTV’s Little Voice and she has a movie Evil Eye coming out with Amazon and Blumhouse. I got the chance to talk with her about how she got into acting, her character Reema on Little Voice, whether or not there’s a medium she prefers working in and so much more. Keep reading to see what she had to say!
Tell me a little bit about how you got into acting originally.
I’ve loved performing since I was a kid – doing school plays or even just little skits and stuff with my friends around the house – but it wasn’t until high school that I realized it was something I could do as a career. So I went to Northwestern to get my degree in theatre, and began working in Chicago theatre soon after graduation, working with the Goodman Theatre, the Lookingglass, and more, and moved to New York with a play called Metamorphoses that went to Broadway. After that I began working in TV – The Sopranos and Law and Order:SVU and some others – as well as continuing to work onstage, and started going back and forth between New York and Los Angeles to do both, and then stayed predominantly in Los Angeles where I began working in voiceover and the gaming industry as well. Now I pretty much live in both cities…and wherever else the work takes me.
Was there a specific person or experience that you would credit with helping you decide that acting is what you wanted to do for a living?
There were so many people along the way who encouraged me, so I can’t pick one in particular – my brother was probably the first person to tell me to do my own thing and follow my heart when I was young, and my parents were always incredibly supportive of my passion for performing. Then of course there were incredible teachers along the way – even my Calculus teacher in high school was encouraging of my career in the arts! It’s almost easier to name the people who were discouraging because I can count them on one hand…I’m very lucky that I was surrounded by support as soon as I set my mind to doing it.
I do think the first time I saw a live musical was probably the first inkling I got that I could do this for a living, though…it was a production of Kismet in Fullerton, CA – combined with watching the movie of West Side Story. The latter was so extraordinary – and so incredibly moving – I knew I wanted to be a part of that world. And then my first community theatre show was, indeed, West Side Story.
Do you have a personal acting “bucket list” of things you still want to accomplish in your career? If so, what are some of the things on it?
Oh there are SO MANY! I really want to do a project that allows me to be a sort of comic action hero. I love action heroes in general, but there’s something wonderful and disarming about a hero who doesn’t quite know how badass they are, or who is unwittingly thrown into a situation where they have to step up. I also love fantasy fiction and science fiction, so I lean heavily into wanting to do something in that world. The Star Trek Universe is absolutely one I’ve been wanting to be a part of since I was a child, so that would be a big dream come true. And I want so badly to do something with Sir Patrick Stewart, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Helen Mirren, and/or Gary Oldman. I think I would die of happiness if I got to work with any one of them.
Let’s talk about Little Voice. What was your audition process like?
The initial audition was a self-tape, like so many auditions these days, and then my callback was actually via Skype since I was working out of town at the time in Austin, TX. Jessie and Sara were both on the line, which was such a joy because Sara is truly one of my great inspirations in the world; in fact it was all I could do to hold back from telling her how she had changed my life with a beautiful note she wrote me after a previous audition I had done for her for Waitress on Broadway. Thankfully, I got the chance to tell her on set when we were shooting. It was really a beautiful full circle moment. I love how the universe conspires to bring amazing moments to us if we just keep putting ourselves and our dreams out there.
On the show, you play Reema. What is she like and how does she fit in the story?
Reema is the mother of a young man that one of the leads of the show, played by Shalini Bhatia, is set up with through her parents, so we see her for the first time when the two families are sharing a meal and getting to know each other. I love her part in this because she explains some of the mindset around arranged marriage that I think makes sense in the modern world, whereas I think people have a common misconception that it is backward or wrong. Reema genuinely cares about the well-being of her son, and isn’t forceful about it…you can tell she just wants to help him find happiness, and I love how lighthearted this scene is.
Little Voice is all about finding your authentic voice in your early 20s. What’s something you wish you knew in your 20s?
That it’s so much more important to celebrate the things that you are, and to cultivate your own unique strengths and individuality than to try to be the things you aren’t. I spent a lot of time and energy trying to be what I thought the world wanted me to be – whether personally or professionally – and not realizing that the very things that made me uniquely myself were the things that would eventually bring me more happiness than anything I was trying to be.
You also have a movie Evil Eye coming out with Amazon and Blumhouse. What’s the movie about and how does your character fit into the story?
The movie is a psychological thriller written by my friend, Madhuri Shekar. She is an incredible playwright and we met years ago workshopping her play, Queen, and I just love love love her work. I don’t want to give too much away about the plot because it is so suspenseful, but I will say that my character is happily some comic relief amidst the tension. I play the lead’s (Sarita Chodhury) best friend and we have some very fun moments between us, and also with Bernard White, another wonderful actor I adore.
You’ve done Broadway, TV, film and gaming. Is there a medium you prefer working in more?
Honestly, I just love working! I’ve never been able to pick a favorite, which is why I don’t focus on any one thing. I love live performance for the immediacy and the connection with the audience that you can’t get from recorded performances, I love television and film because of the intimacy AND grandeur you can accomplish thanks to the wonders of cinematography, I love voice acting because you can play pretty much anything without the limitations of your own appearance, and I love being a part of the gaming world because I love that as a gamer, you are part of the story, you aren’t just watching it. For me, acting is acting…these are all just branches of the tree. And I love love love this tree.
I know that a lot of things have come to a halt because of the pandemic, but what other projects are you working on?
I wish I could talk about more of them, but NDAs are keeping me from sharing! But at the moment in addition to Evil Eye coming out in October, I have a new character named Rampart that just came out in a game called Apex Legends. I love her so much – she has no filter and just lives life fully and rambunctiously, and it’s a joy to get to voice someone like that. I also have a part in the upcoming movie All My Life for Universal Pictures, so keep an eye out for that…it has such a wonderful cast and the story is so special.
Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?
What am I NOT nerding out about? I suppose I should just say books in general – I’ve been reading 4 or 5 at a time depending on my mood for most of this last few months. Right now I’m working my way through Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers for my sci-fi fix, two books by Cal Newport about doing deeper, more meaningful work, and my friend Brian Foster’s Blackened White, a series of poetic essays. And then I’m also nerding out about home improvement – especially my little garden! It gives me such joy to watch nature doing her thing, no matter what is going on in the world, she just keeps making things grow. It’s a good lesson for life – no matter what is going on in the world, just keep tending to you garden and it will grow.
Make sure you follow Anjali on Instagram.