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Interview | Director James Ponsoldt Talks About Summering, the Horrors of Middle School and More

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Thus far in my career, it’s rare that I have interviewed the same person twice. It’s happened a handful of times with a composer here and there, but I was fortunate enough to speak with James Ponsoldt twice in as many days. My friend happened to ask me to guest co-host this past weekend when James was his guest, and we spoke about The Spectacular Now (one of my favorite high school dramas). Now, I got to speak with him one-on-one over Zoom about his new middle school film, Summering. He was such a pleasant guy and it was amazing to speak with this brilliant mind once again. This interview closes out our week of Summering but read on if you want to read Ponsoldt discuss the steps he and co-writer Ben Percy — whom I also interviewed for this film — took to make sure this was an authentic representation of 11-year-old girls, the horrors of middle school, casting the adult actors, and so much more.

A screenshot from my interview with James.

Coastal House Media: Hi again, James, it’s great to see you. How’s everything going? Heat 2 just came out today, did you get a copy?

James Ponsoldt: Man, no, I haven’t yet. I need to — that’s a good point. I’m thinking about the bookstore that I’ll swing by and grab it at.

CHM: It’s great to talk to you again, congratulations again on Summering! I didn’t get to say this on Sunday, but I wanted to thank you for your work. After we spoke on Sunday, I was talking about your films and I realized how much The Spectacular Now and Summering meant to me; they’re such personal films. The former really hit me at the right age and I saw it for the first time a few years back while I was transitioning from the colleges I was transferring between. So thank you and I really appreciate your work.

Ponsoldt: Oh, thank you very much.

CHM: So I know you’ve talked about this ad nauseam, but I have to ask you for the sake of this being for a different audience: What made you want to write and direct Summering?

Ponsoldt: Yeah, it started for me [with] being a parent of three kids; finding myself in conversation with my kids about both the films that they were watching and sort of how they were being represented and [that] made me think deeply about stories that are rooted in a child’s perspective and how that’s fundamentally different than my perspective as an adult. Also, as we were kind of trying to navigate, traumas, as a family, both small and large scale the way every family does [and] things that were affecting my kids: The death of a cat, the death of a grandparent, COVID, all of those things, I was trying to support my kids and be honest with them and listen to them while recognizing that they have a different way of interpreting the world and perceiving it, creating language and meaning in it, and different tools that maybe I don’t have access to their imaginations. I think all kids have wonderful imaginations and that distance, that gap between parent and child and the way that we process and make meaning out of change about loss, about trauma, all those things, was something that I really wanted to explore; that conversation between parent and child.

A still from Summering courtesy of Bleecker Street.

CHM: And you co-wrote the script with Ben Percy, who I spoke to the other day and he really spoke so highly of you. I know you guys are good friends and I want to spread the love back to him a little bit. I asked him what about you as a director made him trust you to take this material that you guys wrote together and then go and direct it. So for you, what was it about Ben that made you trust him to write a feature-length film with you?

Ponsoldt: A long time ago, we were roommates at a writer’s conference and he’s a remarkable writer. When I first met him, he was writing mostly short stories and then novels, and now comic books and podcasts and all kinds of things; he’s a force of nature. But he had written a short story called Refresh, Refresh that I really loved that was about young men and violence, toxic masculinity, young men in the Pacific Northwest whose dads are Marine reservists that are activated and deployed and about these sort of primitive violence rituals; these kids creating fight clubs and videotaping them and sending videos to their dads in green zones, Iraq and Afghanistan, to let them know that everything’s just fine. I really connected to the story [and] I adapted it to a screenplay and went to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab with it and that script was ultimately adapted by an amazing graphic novelist named Danica Novgorodoff.

At the time I thought I would make a movie and then her graphic novel would come out; I’ve never made the movie, but she made a remarkable graphic novel about young men in violence and that was selected for Best American Comics by Alison Bechdel and that whole process of an adaptation of an adaptation of an adaptation began a long conversation that Ben and I have been having about family dynamics and gender politics and structural violence and stories containing multiple subjectivities and why we need stories that have multiple subjectivities.

We need women trying to interpret men and men trying to interpret women if we’re going to understand our culture, the culture that we’ve created for better or worse — oftentimes worse. Part of it also involves acknowledging our blind spots. We all have blind spots as viewers [and] creators of stories, and it’s worth trying to examine and lift up and expose sunlight on these things. Ben is someone that I’ve collaborated with on quite a few things over the years, and he’s just a remarkably thoughtful, sensitive person and he brings that in his own life with his own children, with his own daughter — who is like the age of the characters in this film — and in his art [and] writing.

A still from Summering courtesy of Bleecker Street.

CHM: And this is just a coincidence I spotted with Summering and The Spectacular Now, but both of their settings are suburban neighborhoods. I remember you saying that you based The Spectacular Now around your hometown in Georgia last time we spoke, but was that the case with Summering?

Ponsoldt: The Spectacular Now was [set] in the exact place I grew up. It was in Athens, Georgia in the exact houses and streets where I grew up [and] the memories were like one-to-one. It was like, “Oh, that’s where I would drive”, “That’s where we would buy beer”, and “That’s where we would party.”

Summering was initially written in the area near where I live now in California. [It’s] an area that sort of has an “every town” quality and where there are tracks of land, like dry river beds and things where young kids could go and make-believe and where their older teenage siblings could go to smoke pot and get in trouble or whatever they want to do [smiles]. In some cases, that can be like five minutes from their house. [It’s] not in downtown LA, it’s not in downtown New York, nor is it in the utter middle of nowhere. We ultimately filmed Summering in the suburbs around Salt Lake City, which had very similar qualities that I had experienced spending time in Utah and that I’d seen in other films like the film Brigsby Bear that my producing partner, Jennifer Dana, produced.

CHM: And you guys wrote some horror elements in the film, I noticed an homage to Psycho — which Ben confirmed — and he also mentioned Halloween as a reference point and I’m just curious why you guys infused that into a coming-of-age movie?

Ponsoldt: I mean, coming of age can feel like a horror film, you know [laughs]? I mean it is. We think of the sun-kissed stuff of childhood innocence, all of those clichés that we have. I don’t think anyone romanticizes middle school. These are characters that are going into middle school, no one romanticizes middle school — it becomes Welcome to the Doll House [and] it can become a horror film. And I think this is a film about real specific kids who are growing up in a culture where they’ve been inundated with images of violence, chiefly towards women whether it’s in horror films like Psycho or Halloween, or just in film noir, or in cop shows [like] Law & Order.

A still from Summering courtesy of Bleecker Street.

This is a film that yeah, the opening frames of the film are reference to Psycho, and then turns it on its head because it’s about a female friendship and a female experience and not about violence being inflicted on one of these four girls. But they [also] live in a world where there are cop shows playing in the background that are chiefly about male subjectivity that perhaps treats the dead female body as a prop or object and aren’t really interested in exploring that subjectivity whether or not these kids are conscious of it, whether or not they’ve seen Psycho or Halloween yet. Both of which are amazing movies [and are] the shoulders on which much of modern horror is built but there are a lot of things that I think are worth unpacking and looking at in those stories (and all stories). I think we all benefit from stories that have multiple subjectivities, especially if we’re going to look at the way structural violence sort of passes on from generation to generation.

CHM: And you do have four lovely young actors at the forefront of the film. I found that each character had bits about them that I could recognize in my own family and people I know, but they’re all so distinctly different. Did you write these based on anybody you know or bits of people that you knew or is it just as it came about?

Ponsoldt: Yeah, everyone in it’s based on people we know [laughs]. They’re all bits and pieces of our own kids, our wives, our friends, their kids, whatever. As I might have mentioned, my wife works in a middle school-high school. I’ve been there from the very beginning of that, so every year starting next week, there’ll be a whole new group of 11 and 12 year old’s coming in and their parents coming in excited, hopeful, and a little anxious. There are so many people that both offered their feedback and healthy criticism on how it [the script] reflected their own experiences and what it was like for them then as children and what it’s like for them as parents.

CHM: Last time we spoke, we talked a little bit about the casting process for the kids, but what about for the moms? Did that take place before that or after it was after you had cast the kids?

Ponsoldt: We knew it would be hard to find four young actors that we thought were amazing, inspiring and captured our imagination and that just seemed like they will grow up to be really interesting adults and that could serve the characters and just play and make-believe. Then it was kind of step-by-step [process] and it was finding them, creating a friend group and [then] trying to cast actors that believably would be their mothers. And because those actors are older, there are more reference points to go with.

If someone’s an actor who’s in their 30s or 40s, you’ve probably seen some things they’ve been in as opposed to an 11-year-old. In the case of Megan Mullally, I was lucky enough to have worked with her on Smashed with her husband, Nick Offerman. She’s amazing and one of the funniest people on earth. I’ve always been a huge fan of Lake Bell’s both as an actor and as a filmmaker; she’s just a real collaborator and a deep thinker and had so many thoughts in her own life [about] this relationship between this mother and daughter as a mother [herself].

A still from Summering courtesy of Bleecker Street.

My wife and I got through the first year of COVID through the videos Sarah Cooper was making that were everywhere online. They just made us laugh when everything else in the world was not making us want to laugh. Ashley Madekwe is so remarkable and Avy Kaufman, my great casting director, really was just a [fan] of hers [Madekwe] and introduced us and I was blown away by her as an actor.

OTN: Last time we spoke, you also spoke about how you put the four kids on Zoom together and they just clicked instantly. Were you at all concerned that once you got on set that it may disappear?

Ponsoldt: I wasn’t as concerned with the adult actors because I think one of the things that becomes interesting [is] that before I had kids, it’s just one of the things that wouldn’t have occurred to me, but it does now, which is my kids’ best friends — the kids that they think are going to be their best friends for their whole lives — are a product of geographic proximity. They’ve been zoned into the same school and they wound up in each other’s classes and they may have only known each other for a few years, but that’s a huge part of their lives.

And because they’re friends, I’m acquaintances — or friends, in some cases — with their friends’ parents. They might not have been the friends that I would’ve chosen, or they might not have chosen me, but we happen to know each other. So in some ways, there’s very little commonality other than our young children [between us and] our friends, and that’s a specific dynamic that’s fascinating.

As adults, we bring the awareness that our kids think they’re going to be friends forever. Some of them might be, some of them might not be talking in a year [laughs] —  that just might be the case, and [then] will we [the parents] still be friends? Do we have anything in common? Maybe we don’t have anything in common except for our kids, but it’s nice to make a new friend, and that sort of interplay between generations is something that I find fascinating and lovely, and that I wanted the film [Summering] to contain.

A still from Summering courtesy of Bleecker Street.

OTN: I’m running out of time with you, but I have to ask because I love your work: Do you have anything coming up that I can look forward to?

Ponsoldt: I’ll be on set tomorrow and Thursday. I’m finishing a new Apple TV+ series called Shrinking from the Ted Lasso folks [and] with Jason Segel, Jessica Williams, Harrison Ford, and Michael Urie, and a lot of really amazing people. It sort of has that Ted Lasso “laughter in tears”-vibe to it but [is] about psychiatrists in Pasadena. That will probably come out sometime early next year.

I also worked on a show before that, that I also produced and directed a lot of called Daisy Jones & The Six, based on the Taylor Jenkins Reid novel which is about the biggest male-female band of the late 1970s and how/why they broke up. [They’re] a fictional band, they look a lot like Fleetwood Mac at their core. [It stars] Riley Keough and Sam Claflin, but the whole cast is amazing. It’s rock-and-roll in the 1970s, so if you like things like Almost Famous, I think you might like it. It was amazing to make — it has really amazing music and real scope — and it was amazing to recreate the 1970s in the Sunset Strip and actually film in the places like the Whisky a Go Go and the Troubadour and Sunset Sound and all these amazing places where a lot of that music in the late 1970s was actually created.


Summering is in theaters now.

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Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Charlie Michael Baker: Journey of Autism, Social Media and Working with Kylie Jenner (EXCLUSIVE)

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Charlie Michael Baker and Kylie Jenner

At just 17, Charlie Michael Baker is giving his all to change the world. Baker is a renowned author, entrepreneur, actor, and journalist and he is on a mission to help millions of people suffering from autism. Charlie Michael Baker previously told Costal House Media he raised over £400,000 to help people with autism. He faced many challenges since childhood but his determination and perseverance were the key to his success.

Baker is a Social Media sensation with over 1.2M followers on Instagram. Charlie Michael Baker is one of the many influencers being bullied on social media every day. He receives 300-500 rape and death threats daily!

Charlie Michael Baker

Charlie Michael Baker

We had the honor to connect with Charlie Michael Baker. You can read our conversation below.

Nikita Pahwa: Congratulations on launching your new book! What can you tell us about it?

Charlie Michael Baker: So my new book is about social media, specifically, the dangers of social media. All young kids now want to grow up and be ‘famous’ but don’t know the bad side of it all. I was one of those kids, I’d always wanted to be famous, it’s something I’d always dreamed of!

NP: How do you deal with death and rape threats?

CMB: The short answer is, I don’t, really. I stopped reading my DMs a few months back because of it all. I don’t deal with negativity and there’s too many trolls to block each and every one, so they all just get ignored.

Charlie Michael Baker Social Media and I

Charlie Michael Baker Social Media and I (Photo: @kaybeephotography2 on Instagram)

NP: What advice would you give to people in similar situations?

CMB: I’d say don’t listen to them, do what I do and just don’t read them. It’s better that way. What you don’t see can’t hurt you!

NP: If you could say one thing to people sending you threats, what would it be?

CMB: Without ruining my career *lol* I’d say just to be a bit kinder. If there’s something going on in your life that you’re not very happy with, ask someone for help. Speak to someone you trust rather than swaying to a life of being a keyboard warrior. It’s not nice!

NP: Is your new book related to Charlie Baker: Autism and Me?

CMB: It is! It will be written in the same – ish way BUT Charlie Michael Baker Social Media And I will be exclusively E – book sold on my website charliembaker.net.

NP: Are you currently working on a new venture with Kylie Jenner?

CMB: I am! We’re working with the same brand – glow beverages. We’re working alongside an NBA star too whose name I cannot remember for the life of me – oops lol.

Kylie Jenner and Charlie Michael Baker

Kylie Jenner and Charlie Michael Baker

NP: Are you planning to collaborate with more celebrities in the future?

CMB: I love working with celebrities. Mostly just to see what they’re like to be honest. Kylie is so nice though honestly I keep messaging her life updates!

NP: Last question, is it true that you’re working on the Charlie Baker: Autism and Me movie? Are we going to see it on the big screen?

CMB: Yes, it is! I’m filming something very very special this year with Creation Media 22 which should appear on Netflix and Prime Video which is so exciting! It will be my first time in front of an actual TV camera so it’s a bit different to daily vlogs!

You can get your Charlie Michael Baker Social Media And I E-copy on March, 1 for £0.01 (yes, a penny!). Get your Charlie Baker: Autism and Me copy on Amazon.

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INTERVIEW | ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ Stars Brandon Soo Hoo and Leah Lewis Discuss Representation, Positivity, and the Power of Belief

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Tiger's Apprentice
Tiger's Apprentice (Paramount+)

Paramount’s latest animated flick ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ has finally been released and garnered positive response from everywhere. Adapted from Laurence Yep’s beloved children’s book series, ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ brings to life the thrilling journey of Chinese American teen Tom Lee (portrayed by Brandon Soo Hoo). He is suddenly thrust into a realm he once believed existed only in bedtime tales. After a tragedy strikes his family, the young man discovers his identity as a Guardian. Subsequently, he is mentored by the mystical Tiger Hu (played by Henry Golding) to confront the evil Loo (portrayed by Michelle Yeoh). In between all this chaos, he develops a special friendship with a girl named Rav (played by Leah Lewis) who helps him in defeating the villain and saving the world.

It is one of those films that you can enjoy with your family. It is tender, beautifully crafted, and encourages you to think about how traditions play a crucial role in everyone’s lives. In this exclusive interview, Brandon Soo Hoo and Leah Lewis share their perspectives on the film’s themes, the significance of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) representation in media, and the impact of portraying multi-dimensional characters. The actors delve into the importance of maintaining positivity in the face of adversity, believing in oneself, and breaking stereotypes in the entertainment industry. From challenging outdated narratives to normalizing cultural heritage, Brandon and Leah express their excitement for viewers to experience the film’s adventurous and tender journey of self-discovery.

Tiger's Apprentice

A still from ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ (Paramount+)

Aayush Sharma: ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ is a mixture of so many great things love, care, culture, and family. But for you guys, what was the one thing that made you relate to this story and made you proud? And why do you think that particular thing is so important for people to see?

Brandon Soo Hoo: One of the favorite things that I related with my character was Tom has uncanny ability to maintain a positive outlook when things get really tough. And so, you know, he’ll drop in a humorous little quip here and there in the face of adversity. I think that’s such a powerful way to confront anything challenging because life isn’t that serious. And, if you really lean into the negative, and if you really lean into the dark side, I feel like it can really corrupt and taint you. I believe maintaining that light and positivity around you is like the ultimate protection that you have, from the dark stuff when life kind of gets you down. Because if you let life get too dark, then you won’t let enough of your inner light kind of radiate outwards and do what it needs to do. So, you know, hold on to your light, hold on to the positivity. I feel like it’s contagious. It’s very, very healing.

Leah Lewis: I think, for me, one of my favorite things about this film that I would take away, is really learning how to believe in yourself. And I know that’s such a simple statement, but it’s a big loaded one for me. I really feel like when it comes down, to believing in yourself, it’s the things that you care about, the people you care about, where you came from, where you’re going. You see this character, Tom, struggle with believing in himself in any aspect. I think that’s really important too. And I think, when you can believe in yourself too and present yourself, honestly, and vulnerably, that’s also when you find other people who are right for you in your life. You see Tom eventually learns how to be himself, and because of it, he fits into this Zodiac and kind of ends up finding a community that he never would have expected. So, I think that aspect is important for me.

AS: So, you know, besides showing so many great things, this is also an Asian story. The characters, the cast, the makers, and most of the people involved in this project, have an Asian background. But you know when we see the entertainment industry, we still see a lot of talented Asian actors stuck in a kind of stereotype. And they are cast in one kind of role. For you guys, how does Asian representation in movies intersect with a broader discussion about diversity and inclusion in the entertainment industry?

BS: I mean, it’s 2024, we’re past the era of having Asian people playing just submissive roles or playing like the tech support. I think that right now is like a renaissance for Asian entertainers and Asian artists to showcase that we are multi-dimensional people, that we can be the hero, we can be the cool guy. It’s all that stuff is like, we’re really seeing Asians being at the forefront of stories like that. And it’s so important because growing up, if you don’t see all of those things represented in media, it’s kind of hard to feel like, you can see that in yourself. So, it’s almost like this conditioning that we received from a really young age. So right now, we’re trying to reverse engineer all of that by showing you can be the hero of your own story, you know, you can save the day. And you could be more than just like whatever aesthetic or face that people want to put on you. You can kind of step out of those boundaries and as a human being, you can do whatever the heck you want. So, I think that it’s so important for us to be able to share with you all.

Brandon Soo Hoo (@brandonsoohoo/Instagram)

LL: I agree, I think, we’re living in a day and age where we’re moving towards a place where representation isn’t such a flashy, flashy thing. It’s a necessary and needed thing that should already be kind of embedded into our society. So, it’s a huge win for the AAPI community any time there’s an API lead or like, especially something like this film where it’s completely eccentric. But I also think the more and more we start to see those projects, like, it’s important to be able to normalize the difference in all these characters. You know, when I also look at, the list of like, Caucasian actors, I can think of an actor for every kind of character. I’m like, oh, yeah, I know, this actor played that, and this and that. But you know, for Asian, that’s been a long time coming, where it’s like, oh, it’s only Michelle Yeoh, who plays that or like, you know, we have the designated person who plays the geek or the kind of hero or like the dark character. And what’s so cool about this film, too, is like, Tom is just, he’s a cool, regular guy who hails from Chinese American culture. This film shows heritage and culture in a way where it’s so normalized, and just so kind of nuanced. I feel like that sense of representation is so cool for the people at home who are like, hey, casually, I like this guy, or I know those kinds of traditions, and I love the way he builds in this theme because I feel that way. I don’t know, I just, I also wish I had something like this growing up too. But like, now is the best time to see people that look like you, speak like you, or act like you on screen. It really recovers that belief in yourself that things are possible for you. Like we all watch TV. We all care about these characters to feel seen and feel like you know, you have a voice out there somewhere. There’s nothing better than that feeling. So, I hope that this film does that for a lot of people to me.

AS: You guys are working with such huge stars. Michelle Yeoh, Lucy Liu, Henry Golding, and more. What was your reaction when you heard these guys will be in the movie?

BS: Man, I mean, the reaction was and still is just like, almost like a surreal disbelief. I was like, these are people that I watched growing up when I was little, I was like, dang, these are some huge Asian names. They are the biggest names in our community. So yeah, I told my parents immediately about, like, who’s going to be in the project, and we all just like giggled about it together. So, I think just immense pride. It’s such a celebration, and it’s such a win, not just for me and my career, but it’s such a celebration for the Asian community. It’s like, man, look at all of us, like, together just being badass Zodiac warriors.

LL: I felt the same way. I mean, honestly, I tend to do this thing to where if someone tells me like this person is who you’re working with. I’m just like, wait, what? And I’m still like that, you know, like when we were able to even see Sandra Oh, at the premiere of like, let’s go, oh, my God, like, that’s really freakin’ cool. It’s also just like, I think it’s a really proud moment to finally see all different generations of AAPI actors coming together on one screen and to be able to see that there is space for more than just one or two. This whole cast is like a chock filled with it. And everyone is so talented, it’s been an honor. I’m really proud to be a part of it.

Leah Lewis and Sandra Oh

Leah Lewis and Sandra Oh (@leahmlewis/Instagram)

AS: The film has finally been released and it has opened to great reviews. If anyone hasn’t seen the movie, what’s your advice to them? And why should they watch ‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’?

BS: What do you what are you waiting for? Get in there. Watch this movie. It’s special, it’s beautiful. There’s something in there for everybody. And yeah, I think you’re really missing out on something that’s, that’s really beautiful and important. So go check it out. I hope they get to watch it with your family because there are a lot of beautiful lessons in there to share. So, go go check it out. You have to.

LL: It’s like, it’s a cool, like, genuinely cool. It has Steelo to it. Adventurous, tender film about finding yourself and I know we all want to do that. So, you should totally watch it and I hope you find a bit of yourself in this cool tender film.

‘The Tiger’s Apprentice’ is currently streaming on Paramount+.

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INTERVIEW | Sarayu Blue Dives Deep into ‘EXPATS’ Journey with Cultural Authenticity and Emotional Depth

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Sarayu Blue stars as Hilary Starr in Lulu Wang's 'EXPATS' (@sarayublue/Instagram)

After taking the world by storm with ‘The Farewell,’ director Lulu Wang is back and this time, she has taken her storytelling prowess to the small screen. Her series, ‘EXPATS,’ is a story mainly about three women trying to overcome guilt and grief in the most authentic way possible. The very first frame of the series encourages viewers to take a remarkable journey into the lives of characters that are connected in one way or the other. Nicole Kidman portrays Margaret in the series while Ji-young Yoo plays Mercy. Both stars have given spectacular performances in the six-part series, but one actor who has managed to nab all the attention is none other than Sarayu Blue, who plays the role of Hilary.

At first, Hilary seems to be a no-nonsense woman who has moved to Hong Kong to make strides in her professional life. She does brilliantly professionally, but her personal life is in a bit of turmoil. Her marriage is not going well, her best friend seems to have lost almost everything, and she is overburdened with the pressure of becoming a mother. Wang knows how to extract a powerful performance from an actor and Sarayu is no different. Sarayu’s portrayal of the character is truly magnificent, capturing Hilary’s frustration and compassion with authenticity on screen. I sat down (virtually) with Sarayu Blue and discussed several aspects of her character in the Prime Video series. The actress opened up about how she learned Punjabi to make her character more authentic and also, how South Asian parents show love most uniquely.

Sarayu Blue in a still from ‘EXPATS’ (Prime Video)

Aayush Sharma: Congratulations on the series. It’s getting such beautiful reactions. Your character is written so beautifully, but Lulu Wang made some alterations to your character’s journey in the series, particularly regarding her approach to motherhood. So, how, as an actor, approached the shift in your character’s arc? And what kind of discussions have you had with Wong regarding these changes?

Sarayu Blue: Actually, the changes had already happened before I came. Because in the book, Hillary is not written South Asian. And so that was one of the changes. And so, when I auditioned, it was already South Asian, of course. I think when I got on board, I was able to read all the scripts, and I just devoured them. I mean, in one sitting, it was like, you know, I couldn’t get enough. It was such an exciting experience to see this South Asian woman who’s so human, she’s so layered and complicated, and messy, and real, and beautiful, and funny and vulnerable, and raw and hurting. And so, then it just became the biggest gift I could ever imagine.

AS: One of the best things about your character was her backstory, and showing the kind of Sikh family she was born into. But what was that one thing that you wanted viewers to see in your character to understand why Hillary sees the world in the way she does? Also, how challenging was it for you to learn the Punjabi language to make your character sound more authentic?

SB: I’m so thankful to our team and our wonderful consultant, Inder, who was like the most patient and kind human. I kept reciting it repeatedly, because somebody who speaks Telugu, and I’ve tried to teach people Telugu, pronunciation is everything. It’s everything, along with the accent, and every emphasis that matters so much. So, I was so thankful for that support. Also, Sudha (Brinder) speaks Punjabi, so I had Masters constantly working with me, and I was so thankful. Meanwhile, I think as far as the view that Hillary has, or what was important to me, it was important to see the hurt for both Brinder and Hilary. You know, what I love about the dynamic you see in Episode Four is you really see that they’re both hurting, and there’s aggression because that’s how we speak to each other. (laughs) I mean, that part is so universal, because my mother and I have a very contentious love. But, you know, that hurt underneath, and the vulnerability underneath is why it feels so real. And that representation of that specific dynamic was very important to me.

AS: Yeah, I mean, I can understand as an Indian, I know the kind of relationship that we share with our parents. I mean, they would just bash us, and then say that’s how we show our love for you. That’s, that’s our love. (laughs)

SB: I said to my dad, my dad was calling. I was FaceTiming with him, and he said, ‘So what are you doing? Are you doing anything interesting?’ I said, ‘I’m just doing a lot of press for this show. Remember that show? I did EXPATS? And he said, ‘I remember that.’ He added, ‘So nothing. You’re not doing anything.’ (laughs) But I get it.

Sarayu Blue with Sudha Bhuchar and Jennifer Beveridge (@sarayublue/Instagram)

AS: Your Punjabi was so amazing in that scene because I’m a Punjabi and when I was hearing that conversation, I had to pause the episode and go to the internet to see if you had any Punjabi roots because your accent was so authentic.

SB: Let me tell you how much that means to me because it’s the most important thing for me. Because Telugu is not easy to speak. It’s not, and I was raised by a Telugu professor and a Telugu short story writer. Also, I’ve tried to teach Telugu to somebody, and if it doesn’t sound right, it won’t feel good. That’s why it’s all I wanted to show. You must speak the language with the right pronunciation. That’s very important.

AS: Now that EXPATS has premiered three episodes on Prime Video and receiving so much love. But for those who haven’t started the series, what would like to tell them and why they should be watching this show?

SB: I am so honored to be in this show. I really am. I get goosebumps even talking to you right now, seeing you smile, and having this conversation. I want people to watch the show for everyone. There’s so much good talent in this show. You know, Sudha who plays Brinder is extraordinary. Kavi Raz, who plays my dad in Episode Six, is brilliant. You know, all these actors, Ruby Ruiz, Ji-young Yoo, Brian Tee, there’s so much brilliance that I hope people just watch and realize how many actors of color are getting to do amazing work. It feels like a dream. But, of course, there’s so much to see in this show, you know.

Cast of ‘Expats’ with director Lulu Wang at the premiere. (Getty Images)

The first three episode of ‘EXPATS’ are currently streaming exclusively on Prime Video.

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