Up and Coming Actors: Swarnima Singh

Who’s an actor to watch out for?

Who’s on the rise?

Who’s the next big thing?

Well check out Swarnima Singh!

Tell us about yourself! What’s your name and pronouns? Where were you born/ where did you grow up? 

My name is Swarnima Singh, and my pronouns are She/Her. I am an actor & singer, originally from India. Although I grew up sort of all over the country because of the nature of my father’s work in the Indian Army, I was born in a very small town called Bhiwani, where my mother is from.

How does your cultural heritage play a role in your understanding of self? How does your identity/ cultural heritage influence your art? 

I think more than ever I find my attachments rooted in my birthplace, I see it reflected in my values and what I hold as my priorities in terms of my work ethic and the way I live my life. My family was and still is very tight-knit, I like to build relationships by way of work to have a lasting foundation in the same way. I am also very close with my friends, especially in New York my friends are essentially my family, so I think this comes from how I was raised. 

Tell us about your artistry, how did you come to your craft? What drives your inspiration?

Creative expression has been vital to my existence for as long as I can remember, it started a young age really. I would say I thrived throughout my school years because there was no restriction on how far I could explore my artistic interests, in fact it was encouraged. I always loved to sing, act and dance. I didn’t consider pursuing it professionally until much later though, it took me going to university and realising I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t at least try to go after my dreams. 

What was your first experience with Theater/TV/Film? When was the first time you acted and what was the production?

My first experience acting was in middle school when I played Calpurnia in my school’s production of Julius Caesar. I still remember that I was disappointed I didn’t get cast as Julius Caesar, but nonetheless I succumbed to Calpurnia with appreciation to have been cast at all. I still remember both my own and Julius’s monologue from the scene where she is compelling him not to leave. My first time acting professionally in New York was in a web-series called Barely Functional with Monte Bell, it was an official selection at the 2019 Hip-Hop Festival. The show was a sketch comedy series, and it was cool to star in something as my first role here and have it be well received. 

The last time you acted?

The last project I was a part of was a music video for the artist Davie, it’s for his new EP and the song is called Sunshine and Rain. I was one half of a young teen couple having their first kiss in the music video, directed by Adam Chitayat who has worked on videos for Vampire Weekend & Steve Lacy, DRAMA, Sofi Tukker to name a few. It was a fun shoot and I really liked the song, so I am excited to see it when it comes out in the upcoming months!

How has COVID affected your plans/life as an actor?

Covid has been really hard and I can’t mince my words when I tell you that it upended all my plans – as it did for everyone, I’m sure. Especially being an immigrant in the country it put me in a very tough spot being far-off from my family. At first, I couldn’t go back just because there were no flights and then it may seem strange to complain about having had more or less consistent work through the pandemic (I realise my position and I am very grateful), my family urged me to focus on that. I had more opportunities to continue work here with remote productions, but naturally it’s been difficult to have my mind or my heart in two places. I’d also like to take this opportunity to bring notice to the dire state of my country, India, struggling with the surge of covid-19 right now and ask anyone who is able to spread word or donate to the efforts of those that are on the frontline there, pooling together resources to help the people at the grassroots level since there is very limited aid from this government. I am happy to provide links to verified mutual aid organisations for anyone who is interested in helping out! I am hoping 2021 will bring much needed respite for everyone, my thoughts & prayers are with all those who have incurred a loss, human or otherwise to covid-19. 

Your favorite production that you have been in?

It’s hard to say what my favourite production that I’ve been in is. I have enjoyed nearly each experience for the learning it’s offered me in its own unique way, but I suppose I’d like to mention a TV show that I produced as well as starred in called Cherry Bomb. It is in the post-production stage as we speak and is expected to release in the fall of 2021. I really enjoyed learning about the production side of things by way of having had this opportunity and the best part was honestly working with the team of extremely talented and supportive actors, writers, creators whom I had the pleasure of sharing time with during my stint at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. It’s ironic that we didn’t really cross paths when we were there despite it having overlapped, but the feeling of community that came was strong, nonetheless. 

When was the first time you felt seen or represented in the industry?

I thought about this so hard, but I honestly couldn’t tell you when the first time I felt seen by the industry was, it would have to be recent or something that was so insignificant at the time that it escaped my mind entirely. I realise that things are changing, there is certainly more representation now, and of course my personal experience is also very unique considering I am not first generation American – by my definition meaning I wasn’t born to immigrant parents in the U.S. so I can’t say that the stories being told have made me feel particularly as such, but it is a process I suppose and hopefully it is a continuing change. Perhaps it is also on me to give voice to stories like mine, I might delve into that and explore writing my own material in the future. 

Who are some of your influences?

I love Mira Nair, she is an Indian-American filmmaker also based in New York. Her films permeate life, or at least life as I know it. I would love to work with her someday, I’ve thought about sliding into her dm’s so many times to just confess my wish to one day have the fortune of being directed by her. I also really enjoy watching Kalki Koechlin’s work who is an Indian actress of French origins as well as Konkona Sen Sharma an Indian actress & director. They are both brilliant. The stories being told by Mira Nair & Konkona Sharma are ground-breaking in the Indian context, and as an actress I would love to be part of the same. At the same time, I also really enjoy comedy, I do well with comedic sequences and when things have a comedic edge even in a dramatic story I resonate with that. For example, shows like I May Destroy You or Ramy, they’re some of recent favourites. In terms of plays, cliche as it may be – A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams and I know this is a short story originally but Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway are my absolute dearest.  My hope is that people relate to my own work, have an understanding and maybe a laugh, a cry, a smile. I love to learn from the characters I play, I find myself in them and I also draw parallels that are teaching moments for me. 

What stories do you think we need to be seeing more of? What stories do you want to be a part of as an actor?

I am looking forward to 2021 to see a few of my projects come to light! There are a few releases including the aforementioned TV show Cherry Bomb, the music video for Davie, as well as a South-Indian feature film I had the lead role in & completed in the fall of 2020. The film is called Umbra and is one I am anxious to see because it was the first time I acted in a film in a language that I do not speak. The film is in Telugu, a language from the Southern State, Andhra Pradesh. I spent 2 weeks of intense lessons to perfect my pronunciation, memorise the lines and also have a deep understanding of the meaning so I could accurately convey the tone. To be honest, sometimes when I look back, I still cannot fathom how I did that, it was a real challenge so I’m just glad I work well under pressure. Initially, they also had my character drive in the film, I do not drive, so luckily, they didn’t expect me to imbibe that skill haha. 

What do you hope the audience/reader/viewer takes away from your work? 

I have always been very ambitious, I used to have elaborate plans of where I saw myself and where I wanted to be in the future. While I still have the drive to have certain achievements in life, my perspective has certainly shifted. I no longer weigh my future plans in terms of monetary goals and if 2020 has taught me anything it is the reiteration of change being the only constant, so my new goals are to create work that I am proud of, make my family proud, and above all else be happy – whatever that means and entails, it is transitory! I want to strive for greatness still, but greatness to me now means different things. It means getting to star in films and productions that challenge me and engage me as an actor, it means getting to live new experiences, to help others, to practice kindness, to never stop learning and growing as a person. That is what I hope to see myself doing in 5,6,7,10 years from now! 

Swarnima Singh is an actor, singer & creator living in NYC. Originally from India, a proud alumna of the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute as well as HB Studio New York. After completing her education from the University of Delhi in Business & Psychology, she went on to train the prestigious BJAS Delhi and transitioned into pursuing a career in the arts full time.

Swarnima has always been creatively inclined. Having trained in singing & art forms like American tribal belly dance, she has performed live at music festivals like The Ziro Festival of Music (India) and several prestigious venues across India that include the likes of NCUI Auditorium & Nehru Park, Delhi.  Her time working in New York has included performances in several distinguished projects that range from Music Videos, Films, TV Shows, Commercials and Live productions alongside award-winning artists and highly sought after creators. 

Latterly, Swarnima has ventured into production alongside acting, her first project as a co-producer called Cherry Bomb – a TV show about life in New York is set to come out in the fall of 2021! She looks forward to taking on new adventures in the future to learn from. 

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