When Freida Pinto rocketed to worldwide fame in 2008, many of us found we had to manage our envy. Danny Boyle’s Oscar-feted Slumdog Millionaire had turned the mildly-successful Mumbai model into a Hollywood sensation seemingly overnight. Suddenly, she was rubbing shoulders with movie legends, jet-setting across the globe to star in the front rows of legacy fashion houses, launching eyeliner, developing a disarming British accent, and in what seemed like the happiest ending, romancing
on-screen love Dev Patel off-screen. Then, everyone sort of moved on. The decade that followed, Pinto says, was fraught with uncertainty. When you start at the very top, where do you go from there?
But Showtime-Sky Atlantic’s Guerrilla, a six-part miniseries, which premiered in the US in April, changed all of that. Based on the British Black Panther movement in ’70s England, and directed by Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley (12 Years A Slave), the show saw Pinto in an explosive, career-redefining performance as the radicalised, gun-toting, feminist lead Jas Mitra. The reviews have been glowing and the 32-year-old actor says the offers have been coming thick and fast since, with the added feature of gravitas this time around.
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ELLE: Let’s talk about Guerrilla. The reviews are gushing about your performance. When you took it up, did you have any inkling that the show would be game-changing for your career?
Freida Pinto: Last year, when my agents told me that John Ridley was working on a project about the black power movement in England, I didn’t know if the show was fact or fiction, because whenever you talk about black power, you automatically think of the American Civil Rights struggle. But through my research, I learnt that the British Black Panther uprising in the ’70s was about Commonwealth immigrants who were fighting to be seen as British citizens; they were referring to political blackness rather than skin colour. And I realised that we could touch upon the lack of representation of all coloured people. It’s so relevant in 2017. Besides, John, Idris [Elba, co-star and the show’s executive producer], the crew and Sky Atlantic—they were the dream team. It was a no-brainer that I had to be part of this monumental project.
ELLE: You’ve said that you shared your character’s struggle to be taken seriously beyond her beauty and gender. Could you elaborate?
FP: Jas has a lot of internal conflict, yet she has such a strong sense of what her fight is about and what her voice is about. It just felt like an extension of me—minus the violence, of course. When I got into the industry, I was very clear that if I didn’t establish myself as a serious actor, I’d always just be the token pretty girl. But it was a really frustrating process. I’d keep hearing that from my agents and reps, “they [the studios] said you’re too pretty for the role.” I hated that label, I certainly don’t view myself as just a pretty face.
Excerpted from the September issue of Elle India. Subscribe here.