Meet Kausar Mohammed Award-Winning Actress And So much More
Meet Kausar Mohammed Award-Winning Actress And So much More
Kausar Mohammed is a Bengali/Pakistani-American actress born in San Jose, California with a young start in theatre and comedy. Kausar plays the series lead in Paul Feig’s dramedy, East of La Brea, a show about two Muslim-American twenty-somethings navigating their changing LA landscape. She has also has worked alongside Taraji P. Henson on the highly anticipated film What Men Want (Paramount), Issa Rae on Little (Universal), and has additional credits on shows such as Silicon Valley (HBO), Black Lightning (CW), and Nobodies (TV Land). She has been a part of various award-winning digital projects, such as “Smyle” and “Namaste” featured on Huffington Post, NBC, and Al-Jazeera. She trains and performs improv/sketch at UCB/Groundlings and is on an all-South-Asian sketch comedy team, The Get Brown, that performs regularly at UCB theatre.
How did your journey as an actress start?
It all started when I was young because I just loved being goofy! Or making silly videos with my friends whenever I could. There were even moments of just going to public spaces – I don’t know – grocery stores, and singing as loud as I could outside the store just to have an audience! And then that grew into theatre and TV hosting when I was younger, and then led to where I am today!
In the middle of it all, of course, I thought I could break away and take a more traditional route, so in college, I certainly tried to study something else. I ended up double majoring in communications and international development and minoring in theatre, but then I found out about my college’s sketch comedy team – and I was suckered back into the acting and comedy world!
Yes, your profile is beautiful and it is quite versatile. You are an actress, writer, comedian, and activist! That’s a lot of things!
Ah yes, and I love all of them! And I truly believe they all go together – the activism and the art. All the work I do, it comes through a lens of wanting to normalize our narratives on screen. Our narratives as South Asians, as well as uplifting the narratives of other marginalized groups in TV/film. There’s this quote I love that Issa Rae mentions in her autobiography (by the author Junot Diaz), where he notes how “there’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror.” She talks about how that relates to how when we don’t see ourselves in the mirror of TV/film, we are not only erased but seen as monsters. Like, “is something wrong with us?” So that’s the mission – to see more of us… our nuanced, complex, flawed, human stories. And I believe so much of that change – that humanization – begins when we are properly represented on screen.
I also co-founded a racial and gender equity consulting group, SHIFT, where we do training and consult for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and sexual harassment prevention. My work with SHIFT dually motivates my work in film/TV. With the two hand-in-hand I’m continuously deepening my urgency and understanding of the need to create a more equitable entertainment industry.
On Jurassic World: Camp Cretecaous, you voice the character Yaz. How has it been working on the project?
I absolutely LOVE IT! I never realized how much freedom and fun voice acting was until I got into it a couple years ago. And the entire creative team and cast is truly just fabulous and so GOOD at what they do. I truly feel like a small part of this giant puzzle of amazing people making this out-of-this-world show. Also the character Yaz is so special to me! Her parents are immigrants too and I relate to her need to outperform or prove herself. Being second-gen, and in my experience as South Asian or Asian-American, there is that standard of exceeding expectations because of what your parents gave up to come to this country.
Also on a completely different note – I’ve always loved dinosaurs growing up, so much! When I was a kid, I wanted to be an archeologist. I mean pterodactyls? In my animated shows? Yes, please!
You also have an all-South-Asian sketch team, The Get Brown. What has it been like working with them?
The Get Brown team is so special to me, they’re kind of … family?! Whether we like it or not, while we were performing onstage pre-COVID, we saw each other more than we would see our own families haha. While at Upright Citizen’s Brigade theatre, we were all used to separately being the only South Asians in the room, so we, in a sense, banded together! And when that happened, we realized there was something so special about the comedy we were creating together. While the theatre was open (pre-COVID) we would perform a monthly sketch show that would almost always be sold out. And in working together, there was such a sense of freedom because we all spoke the same language (not literally- but figuratively). I didn’t have to explain to someone a joke about – I don’t know – who Shah Rukh Khan was – or the lengths Desi’s parents will go to find good mangos in the states. And because of that, we ended up making some really FUNNY content – sketches to videos – because we were able to get so specific. And of course, there’s that common lesson of writing, where the more specific something is written, the more universal and relatable it gets for an audience. Like, this parody of the Indian Matchmaking TV show was one of my favorite pieces we created together!
There are several independent film producers in North America of Indian descent. Even though filmmakers struggle for funding, but do you think there will be an American version of Bollywood in the next decade?
I just want to see our people create! And I am loving the films that are being created out of our diaspora. I would hope for the worlds to blend and influence each other more and for South Asian-Americans to create whatever fusion of whatever the heck they want, and I hope that they DO get it funded. We just need more of our stories and more bold people to create them. And what’s awesome is the increasing number of South Asian organizations who are creating platforms for us and are bringing us together – like the Indian Film Festival, to the South Asian Film Festival of America, to community groups like Product of Culture.
What would you do if you were not an actress?
Oooh, a teacher, a librarian, a bus driver, a book shop owner and… an archeologist.
What is your dream role?
I want to be a villain in a fantasy film or series! Something like Bellatrix in Harry Potter.
What is daily life look like during COVID-19? How are you coping with it?
COVID has given me an opportunity to read, work on my work/life balance, write more, and oh – record from my closet. A large part of Jurassic World recording was done from home because I turned my closet into a voice-over booth! So that was a fun experience. But of course, I realize I am operating from a place of privilege in that I was able to stay at home safely, so I have a lot of gratitude for our folks who are on the front lines!
What are you working on right now?
Along with recording for Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, I’m also working on some of my own personal projects. I’m currently in post-production for my first self-written short film called RULES OF THE GAME! It’s about a South Asian queer woman introducing her partner to her sisters for the first time. I was also so grateful to receive a grant from the Islamic Scholarship Foundation for a horror project I’m working on developing called PARALLELS. I love horror films and I’ve been using some of the downtimes in the past quarantine year to really explore the genre more. My goal is to create more scary movies that actually SCARE ME! I feel like all the American scary movies I’ve seen recently, all have the same narratives … versus the superstition and stories my grandma told me growing up will never stop scaring me! Like, I will never go under a tree while my hair is wet at night thanks to my Grandma. In addition to that, I’m continuing to develop a sketch comedy show with The Get Brown, which we’re excited to share more about soon!
Do you have any words for any new artist entering the industry?
Find what makes you happy and hold on to it. Find what makes you happy within the craft so that you can always remember to honor it, even amongst the wildness of the biz. Find what makes you happy outside the craft, so that you don’t rely on booking your next job to be happy. Ultimately it’s the joy of it all that keeps us within it, so keep your eye on that. The joy is what begets work!
Where can people catch more of your work?
You can check out Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous Season 3 coming out on May 21st. I was also in a thriller/horror movie called LUCKY that was just released on SHUDDER! And you stay in touch on my insta @kausartheperson to hear about my own personal projects (like @rulesofthegamexo</strong>). Along with @thegetbrown on IG to hear about what we’re up to!