"Whad'ya do? Mug K-Fed?"-Samantha to Mike O'Donnell in 17 Again
Heartthrob Zac Efron is not the only one who is feeling the magic of being 17 Again. So is actress Tiya Sircar. She stars alongside Efron, Michelle Trachtenberg and Matthew Perry in the teen comedy that was number one at the box office this past weekend. You may also recognize the University of Texas grad from her appearances in the hit television shows Greek and Hannah Montana just to name a few. Tiya took a break from the excitement of her film's premiere to chat with Pink Rickshaw about 17 Again, her upcoming projects and being a South Asian actress in Hollywood.
PR: What was your experience like working on 17 Again? Tell us about your role.
TS: I had an absolutely fantastic time working on 17 Again. Being in the presence of such talented comedic actors (hello, Matthew Perry, Tom Lennon, Leslie Mann and Melora Hardin!) was an incredible learning experience for me. Plus the fact that all of us "kids" in the movie-- Zac, Sterling, Hunter, Melissa, Katerina, etc.-- got along wonderfully and ended up becoming great friends was just icing on the cake.
As far as my character goes, I play "Samantha", the head of our high school clique which we refer to as "The Wonderbras". I guess you could say we're similar to "The Plastics" from Mean Girls but maybe just a little less mean and a little more, well, boy-crazy. I play Maggie's (Trachtenberg) best friend who has a crush on the new kid in school (Efron). But since the "new kid" is actually Maggie's dad (Perry), hijinks ensue. I'm trying my hardest to get him to be interested in me while he's desperately trying to keep me at bay!
PR: Zac Efron, Michelle Trachtenberg, Matthew Perry..those are some huge names. What was it like working with such well-known actors? Did it ever feel surreal?
TS: It did feel surreal at first. I'm a HUGE fan of Friends so when we had our initial table read, I could hardly believe that I was sitting mere feet from Chandler Bing. I thought I was going to have a heart attack! Luckily, they were all so nice and down-to-earth that my nervousness didn't last long.
PR: Unfortunately, it is still rare to see actresses of South Asian descent in big Hollywood projects. It seems like you’re one of the handful leading the way. Are you finding it easier to get roles in mainstream films/television?
TS: That's an interesting question. I have had a rather unique path thus far in that I have very rarely played a character who is specifically of South Asian descent. Most of the roles I play are ethnically ambiguous. Do I find it easier to get roles now? Not necessarily. I keep hearing about this Slumdog Millionaire bump so we'll see if that actually makes a difference in how many roles are written with South Asians in mind. Fingers crossed!
PR: What are some of the challenges or benefits of your background?
TS: Challenges present themselves when a character in a film or tv show has a family that also has to be cast. Meaning, casting me in a role is one thing. But things become much trickier when my character has a mom, a dad, a brother and a grandfather. I think studios are more reluctant to go with an "ethnic" actor when there are family members involved. I think they feel that it changes the tone of the story whereas one singular ethnic talent may just add a little flavor to the mix.
PR: Do you find that there are more roles for your male counterparts?
TS: I'm not sure about that one. I'd like to think things are pretty balanced but we'll see what happens as hopefully more South Asian characters crop up in mainstream media.
TS: I've never been to Cannes before so this will be a whole new experience for me-- I can't wait! Also, I just got done filming a movie called The Lost Medallion in Thailand which will probably be out next year. It's an action/adventure movie, similar to a young Indiana Jones. I'm definitely looking forward to that one being released in theaters soon.
PR: You have had a steady stream of work since going to LA. What advice do you have for other young people who are interested in pursuing an acting career?
TS: Giving advice is tricky since everyone has a different path once they get here. I would definitely say to be prepared before moving to LA. And that preparation includes the following: take acting classes and participate in as much theater (and television and film, if possible) as you can to learn the craft and hone your skills. Secondly, be realistic about your goals. There are some people who give themselves a time limit for how long they'll allow themselves to "make it big". But to me, they're assigning an arbitrary time limit to success. If acting professionally is really something you want to do, stick to it. It's the only way you'll get to where you want to be. Lastly, be absolutely sure this is what you want to do in life. The life of an actor in Hollywood is a difficult one. Knowing with full confidence that this is what you are meant to do makes that path more bearable. I know that no other profession on earth would be as fulfilling to me as acting so I feel very lucky that my path has brought me to where I am now.
17 Again is currently playing in theaters nationwide.