10 to Watch – Poorna Jagannathan, Actor

Poorna Jagannathan. Photo by Amyn Hooda.

Born in Tunis, Tunisia, in an Indian Foreign Service officer’s family, Poorna Jagannathan has experienced life on the move. Growing up in Dublin, Islamabad, Buenos Aires, Brasilia, New Delhi and Washington, she acquired the resilience necessary for an actor to go the long haul.

It was in college, at the University of Maryland, that Poorna began acting, majoring in journalism with a minor in theater. She finished college, moved to New York and began the actor’s life – getting some formal training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the Actor’s Studio and struggling to make ends meet until the break came her way.

She got that break with the lead role in East West Players’ Queen of the Remote Control, which was staged in Los Angeles and got her some good reviews.  Then came a role in Law and Order and a Spike Lee film and a talent agent.

Forward to 2011, – she’s got a recurring guest lead on Royal Pains and a body of work to release this year that includes Aamir Khan’s Delhi Belly, a play written for her by Ayad Akhtar that she’s co- producing, and the movie Peace, Love and Misunderstanding with Jane Fonda and Catherine Keener where she plays Jane Fonda’s stoner friend. She tells us, “all I do in the movie is smoke pot and make out with Rosanna Arquette. Good times.” Indeed.

What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever gotten and from whom?
“You practice, practice and practice until you get lucky.” Ben Kingsley (who heard it from someone else).

What do you consider your greatest professional success?
Without a doubt it was working with Aamir Khan – he’s way ahead of his time.

What do you consider your greatest personal failure?
I decide most things by flipping a coin.

Favorite all-time…
Novel: Goodnight Moon
Album: 8 Mile
Song: Cohen’s “Suzzane”
Film: No Man’s Land and Team America. A tie.
TV Show: First few seasons of Weeds
Invention: Walkman
Painter: Max Beckmann
Photographer: Love the clarity of Bhrata Sikka’s photos.
Clothing Designer: Divya (based in Bandra, Mumbai)
Athlete: ALL soccer players but especially Number 9 Ronaldo
Architect: I used to live in Brasilia and was surrounded by Oscar Niemeyer’s work. Fell in love with him.
Food: anything my husband cooks.

What is the strangest number you have programmed into your phone?
An Alaskan fisherman’s.

How would you define love?
Children

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be and why?
Plop NYC next to Venice beach.

Describe your perfect day.
Sleep in.

List three things you cannot live without.
My family, morning chai, Birkenstocks.

Tell us one thing we don’t know about, but we should.
When I lie, my blood pressure drops dramatically and I sometimes pass out. So I have to keep lying to a minimum. Unfortunately.

What would you most like to accomplish going forward?
I want to develop a one woman show and Sarita Choudhury and I have been trying to make a movie for years. Would love for that to actually happen next year.

If you could get your news from only one source from now on, what/who would it be?
Fox. It’s totally entertaining and you can safely assume the opposite is happening. And probably South Park.

What would be the title of your autobiography?
No idea- “Who’s sari now?”, “You bet your sari ass”…. I could go on but will spare you.

See our complete “List of 10 to Watch”

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