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Issue 43 / Hannah Simone Calls The Shots On Her New Film Miss India America

Hannah Simone Calls The Shots On Her New Film Miss India America

Mar 24, 2016


New Girl’s Hannah Simone isn’t as new to the silver screen as many might think. She talks to ANOKHI about her latest film, Miss India America.

 
British-born, Canadian television host and actor Hannah Simone, best known for playing Zooey Deschanel’s best friend, Cece Parekh, on the Fox hit series New Girl, couldn’t have better contrived the circumstances surrounding how she came upon taking centre stage in Ravi Kapoor’s upcoming comedy, Miss India America, had she sought out the role herself.
 
“I actually saw a screening of Ravi’s short film The 5 as I was promoting a short film of my own at the time,” she recalls. “It was so funny and so powerful and was directed by Ravi Kapoor. He was on my radar — just as someone I wanted to work with because he did such a good job with that movie.” About a year later Simone was shooting an episode of New Girl called "Table 34" where Cece goes to an Indian dating convention and a woman named Meera Simhan was hired as a guest star to play the role of Anu. “Later on, Meera approached me and said, ’Look, I wrote this movie called Miss India America; I would love for you to take a look at the role of Sonia. The film is being directed by my husband, Ravi Kapoor.'” Simone’s jaw just dropped. “It was an amazing coincidence — first of all because of Ravi — and then Meera being his wife. She was such a talented comedic actor on our show, so I knew she was really talented.”

Hannah Simone
Photo Credit: www.angelamarklew.com

Simone read the script, a subtle satire on tradition and modernity, and fell in love with the idea that this was a story about an American girl from Orange County who loses her boyfriend and has to reevaluate her identity and what she wants out of life. And she just happens to be South Asian. “I feel that these are the stories that are slowly being told more and more,” she says. “And honestly we need more of them. Aziz Ansari is doing it with Master of None and Mindy Kaling is doing it with her show, The Mindy Project. I think it’s really exciting. I think the more people start to tell stories of Americans who happen to be South Asian and aren’t defined by that — they’re American — the better. I think that’s what starts to change the conversation. So I’m excited to be part of this change in perception more because being South Asian is part of who I am, but it doesn’t define me wholly.”

Hannah Simone as Sonia Nielson in Miss India America.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of MIss India America Pictures

 

Simone plays Sonia Nielson, the frontrunner in the pageant who has real competition. While the beauty pageant world wasn’t something she had specific experience with, as a former fashion model, and also as an actor “I am part of an industry where women are competing for jobs, so I definitely understood from that point of view. Meera is such a talented writer that as you get to know Sonia, you see that she is battling her own issues and pressures who also tries to be true to herself. It’s great because it’s not like she’s this one-dimensional character — she has real struggles so she was really fun to play.”

Not only is she taking a turn in front of the cinema, Simone is also taking on the role (for the first time) as en executive producer of the film. "I told Meera and Ravi that I was all on board with this and that whatever they needed from me, I was happy to give. And then it naturally happened that I became executive producer for the film."
 
That’s what Simone loves about playing Cece Parekh in the long-running, Golden Globe-nominated television series, New Girl: just how far her character has come in five seasons. “I think Cece has evolved a lot. The great thing about TV is that you get to build and grow a character. You get to see a character go through things like a parent not approving of the things they do and having to grow and get past that, for example, or to see them fall in love and be disappointed and hurt and then learn to forgive and heal. A film has to accomplish all that in just 90 minutes and in TV we have over 100 episodes — it’s like it’s this ongoing movie where you really truly get to grow along with the character, and you get to genuinely see where the character is five years later. It’s just so amazing to see that, especially now as we’re currently gearing up for the finale.”

          

Hannah Simone in New Girl 
Photo Credit: Fox 

Hannah Simone
Photo Credit: www.angelamarklew.com

 
Between her film and television career, finding balance amidst an intensely hectic shooting schedule has never been an issue for Simone. I’m really lucky that what I do isn’t really a job,” she laughs. “For me, it’s my art. Some people like to paint, some people like to play the piano. I love acting and I get to do that all day and then I go home and put a movie on and cook. I just like to work on things that really make me happy and so when you do that there is no real sense of balance. You’re just always in a place where you’re honest with yourself and just doing what you love.”

Hannah Simone with Tiya Sircar in MIss India America.
Photo Credit: Miss India America Pictures 

Yet despite having just completed her sixth film, Folk Hero & Funny Guy, (set to be released later this year) ”it never gets easier,” she says. And she’s not necessarily looking for a film career. “I’m just happy to be part of a story that I’m excited to tell and so that really is about the role itself — whether it’s television or film. I think that’s what was so exciting to me about Miss India America — there are some really incredible roles now for people who happen to be South Asian. As an actor looking for work I want the same thing — stories that aren’t defined by one or two obvious things but are fully developed with interesting characters.”  Simone believes that life has been unfolding in a pretty kind way to her. “I just want to see what other doors open up and what’s more in store.”
 

Main Image Photo Credit: Miss India America Pictures 

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur

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    Wendy Kaur is a fashion, beauty and lifestyle writer and journalist who specializes on covering luxury brands, notable names in historical and high jewellery, and profiles on acclaimed personalities.  Her portfolio includes the Robb Report, FASHION, NUVO, Flaunt,<...

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