A: Leigh is a police officer who is responsible for security in a gated community and she has a lot to hide. She moved there partly for her own security, but the audience doesn’t know a lot about her yet. But they will soon.
Q: What’s the best part about playing a cop? Have you played one before?
A: I’ve played a space trooper, which is kind of security work. [Laughs. ] The best thing about playing a cop is having to do the brain work to figure out how you would keep a place secure and putting somebody else before yourself. It’s a lesson in selflessness.
Q: Which of your characters do you identify more with, the prim search assistant, Ms. Dewey or Papi, the Latina lesbian player on The L Word?
I have played a great variety of people — from pregnant meth addicts to space troopers to Latin Lotharios. I’m really lucky because people hire me to play a variety of characters. I loved Dewey — she was maybe my favorite gig to play. She’s got this weird international accent, she has a manservant and she’s smarter than everybody – she’s very interesting. I’m not as cool as Papi. [Laughs.] I guess Leigh is the most like me because when I booked this role, I was going through much of the same stuff that she did. (Which the audience, doesn’t know about yet.) But, I like to think I’m not as interesting as any of my characters.
Q: What was the hardest part of playing the sensual, confident Papi in the L Word?
It actually wasn’t that hard. I feel like it’s easier to play someone who’s 100 times different from you than someone who’s close to you. You get to clean the slate, so to speak. I got to start completely from scratch with Papi.
Q: What’s the scariest thing you ever had to do for a role?
I played this meth addict on The Cleaner, the Benjamin Bratt show – that experience was exhilarating and harrowing at the same time. I spent two works trying to understand the brain of an addict and having to understand that – it was intense. Incidentally, it was also one of the first Indian characters I played on television. It was scary to have to learn how to smoke fake meth. I’d never even inhaled a cigarette before — I had virgin lungs. But I had to learn how to strike up a crack pipe and look like I’d been smoking meth for a year.
Q: Is there a role you wouldn’t play?
A: I wouldn’t play something close to what I’ve played before. I’m not interested in repeating myself. Diverse roles excite me.
Q: if you had to choose — music vs. acting — what would it be?
A: I think it’s clear that I’ve chosen acting. I just recently stepped back into music. I have a grand piano in my loft in L.A. and an 8-foot marimba. I really walked away from the music industry because one, I was burned out and two, I really wanted to focus on acting and do it right. It’s nerve-wracking to come back and show the world my music because they don’t know me as a musician.
Q: Did you say you own an 8-foot marimba?
A: [Laughs.] I’m a classically trained music nerd.
Q: What are some of your upcoming projects – both in music and in television and film?
A: I am working on some secret music stuff, including work on a side project with a few producers, one of which is this amazing dub producer named Downlink. And there are some projects — some independent films — in the works.
Q: So any truth to the news that you maybe be doing a guest appearance on Grey’s Anatomy?
A: No, that is totally a rumor. I’m not doing that. Unless everybody suddenly writes to Grey’s Antomy and requests that I be on that show. Because that does work…
Q: Are you a Bollywood fan?
A: I’m not an avid Bollywood watcher, but my family has quite a few connections to Bollywood. It’s funny because growing up I had no idea that my family was involved with Bollywood — just not in front of the camera. My great-uncle was actually the sound engineer for Sholay. Also, my father’s best friend growing up was R. D. Burman – who was just Uncle Pancham to me. I had no idea about our family background. When I realized I was going to be an actor and my family was involved with Bolywood, it was a bit of an “Oh wow, of course I”m suppose to do this, It’s in my blood” reaction.