Anjali Bhimani has made waves in the gaming world, Broadway, and on TV as a versatile actress. We spoke to her about her journey to becoming an actress, as well how she’s been killing time during the pandemic. Read on to learn all about Anjali!
1. When did you realize that acting was the path you wanted to choose, and what shaped that decision?
I don’t know that there was any one moment, not one that I remember, so much as little moments along the way that guided me more and more down this path. I knew from a young age – like probably 6 or 7 – that I loved performing. But not just say, in the school puppet show. Even my oral book reports in elementary school felt like performances to me; for example, I do remember a pretty epic book report I did on the Autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, as Mahatma Gandhi, spectacles, bald cap, dhoti, and all. But I think it was probably watching West Side Story and a live performance of Kismet that were my first indications that there was a place for someone like me in the theatre.
I loved musicals, I loved the grandeur of them. And I loved the beauty of being so driven by some great feeling that you simply had to burst into song or dance.
After that, it just seemed like every chance I had to do a show – while being incredibly supported emotionally and creatively by my parents – was another step toward doing it for a living. I think the final realization came when I saw evidence, whether in magazines or the newspaper or just going to see professional theatre, that it was something people could do for a living. Once I knew that was possible, it made sense to go to college, get a degree in it, and work as an actress.
In a way, I think I was a little naive; I thought it was just like any other profession; you study, you work hard, you get good grades, you get a degree, and then you do the job. Needless to say I’ve learned since that that it’s not quite that way in the arts. But that naivete combined with a pretty traditional work ethic seemed to serve me well.
2. What’s been your most memorable performance on Broadway to date?
The shows I did on Broadway were so vastly different it’s impossible to compare the two. Performing in Metamorphoses was life changing in so many ways. It was a play that I had been in with dear friends for years before we moved to Broadway. So every night of that show felt less like work and more like playtime. It’s a role and cast and creator (Mary Zimmerman, who I adore, respect, and have worked with now on something like 18 productions) that are all so dear to my heart, it feels like part of me.
Every single night of performing that show – not just on Broadway, but before and in the remount after with the Lookingglass – was an incredibly satisfying journey. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t pretty miraculous to play Rani in Bombay Dreams, and to have my first entrance be coming down from the rafters on a giant moon. The nights that I had family in the house were so special, but the performance where my nephew, who was seeing a Broadway show for the first time – was in the house was pretty unforgettable. Probably even more special for me than in was for him.
3. Tell us all about I am Fun Size. What prompted you to start your channel?
Ah, this is a story I love. I had been wanting to do some kind of blog or vlog for some time, but nothing felt particularly right. I kept holding back because I wanted whatever I did to be “perfect”, whatever that means. In 2016, the video game Overwatch was released, and having played one of the characters in it (Symmetra, an Indian architect who creates and battles using “hard light technology” in the game) I had also been embraced along with the rest of the cast by a wonderful and generous community of gamers and artists.
There was a day in 2017 when I requested to see their original art on Twitter (we call it Fan Art Friday). I was so overwhelmed by their response that I just thought I HAD to step up and give back to this community, no matter if I thought it was in the perfect way or not, because they were being so generous with me. The best way I could think of doing that was to share my life experiences with them, but not my experiences just as an actress – I wanted to help as many people as possible face whatever challenges they were facing in their own lives and journeys, and so, that night, I Am Fun Size was born.
Since then, I’ve been so touched by the number of people who’ve told me that a particular episode or quote that they heard from the series changed their lives. It’s made it clear to me that it isn’t our place to judge the gifts we have to offer; it’s our job to give them freely to those who might need them, and leave judgment out of it.
Check out Anjali’s YouTube channel below!
Snippets from Anjali’s YouTube Channel, I Am Fun Size
4. How did you first get involved with voice acting in the gaming world? Do you have any exciting projects coming up in this field?
Voice acting came to me as another branch of the acting tree when my agents began getting me auditions for the roles. One of my earliest auditions was the audition for Symmetra in Overwatch, so I was incredibly fortunate in that. But I’ve loved games since I was a child – tabletop and video games, both. So being a part of that world now is very rewarding.
5. Talk to us about any challenges you’ve faced as a South-Asian American actress. Do you think American media is becoming more inclusive?
I definitely think there has been a great shift toward inclusivity. It’s been very heartening to watch it happen over the years. Early on for me, there were probably only one or two auditions a month. Now there are one or two a week, if not more, that aren’t dependent on the character being specifically from India so much as it being open to the character being from that background, and that only being one part of what makes them unique.
The more complex the characters are becoming – with our ethnicity being only one part of what makes us us, or them them – the more heartened I am about the future.
6. We heard Priyanka Chopra’s producing a movie, and that you’re a part of it! What can you tell us about this project?
It’s a fantastic thriller called Evil Eye, based on an audio drama that was written by Madhuri Shekar. I had done a few readings and workshops of her wonderful play, Queen. When I heard this piece was being made into a movie, I knew I had to audition for the team. I don’t want to give away too much, as so much of the story is suspense. I will say it starts off as a seemingly typical story and then takes a very unexpected turn. It will be coming out in October so you’ll have to watch to find out more…I’m not spoiling anything!
7. What’s your personal favorite role of yours?
That’s like picking your favorite child, I can’t do it! Seriously, my heart hurts when people ask me to choose…I love so many of the roles I’ve played so much. And there is still a big place open in my heart for the ones to come.
8. How have you been spending your time during the pandemic?
At first it was a combination of trying to do as much charity work as I could while also staying home and taking care of my family and dear ones. I did several charity streams and did one where I wrote songs for everyone who donated to the cause. On the home front, I was doing a lot of cooking and spending time in the garden. I’ve been reading a lot and writing a lot. Since voice-over work has still been plentiful, I’ve also been recording a lot in our home studio.
Trying to balance not being able to work in the way I’m used to and adjusting to that challenge while still maintaining the equanimity needed to keep growing and moving forward with my work, my relationships, and life in general. And I’ve been working out a lot. I’ve been doing my best to make up for not running around all day every day, whether around L.A. or airports or on set. Now that life is more condensed, I have to be more aware of making myself spend physical energy or I can get stuck behind a computer all day and not remember where the day went.
9. Do you prefer acting on Broadway or TV? How do the experiences differ?
I just prefer acting, wherever I can, however I can – singing, dancing, acting, stage, screen, voice-over, improv…. I love live theatre for the immediacy, the urgency, the connection with the people in the audience onstage. And I love screen acting for the amount of nuance and intimacy that you can convey; the ability to think something and know that somehow it will read in your eyes on camera and tell the story wholly with just a glance. It’s all part of the beautiful act of storytelling, and I just love doing that in every way I can.
10. What’s your advice to aspiring actors trying to bag roles on film and TV?
Honestly I don’t think there are any rules that apply across the board other than be on time, be prepared, and don’t be a jerk. Everything else is your own personal work ethic and uniqueness. I do think that anyone who wants to be an actor should engage in life in every way they can. There isn’t a single bit of study or knowledge that isn’t useful to being an actor. Acting is about bringing life experience and the fullness of your emotional palette to the table to tell stories and bring people to life.
Some of the best acting I feel I’ve done hasn’t been about following some prescribed set of rules; it’s been about being able to tap into the “what if” that all of us have in our imaginations. The more you experience, the more you have to bring and to share, and ultimately, to create with. And again, leave your judgement at the door. Critique and assessment are useful, but judgment gets in the way of being present enough to do the job. Trust that you are enough, and tell the story.
And don’t let anyone tell you that paying your bills in a way that isn’t specifically acting means you aren’t committed to your craft. Handle your life so that you are FREE to create. No one does their best work when they’re afraid of keeping the lights on. Or at least I know I don’t.