The journey of a Sri Lankan-American to Hollywood
Q/ What was your journey like up to acting in Captain Marvel?
A/ It’s a bit of a long story! Ever since I graduated from college in 2013, I’ve been on a mission to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I looked for my purpose in all sorts of places. But then, in 2018, a good friend of mine, who is a director here in Los Angeles, asked if I’d be interested in working on a film with him as the Art Director. I’d never done anything like this before but I said yes in the spirit of adventure.
I got to work on an actual set for the first time and absolutely loved it! It was great seeing how someone’s creative ideas can come to life and all the different people it takes to make it happen. While I was on this set, it occurred to me that you don’t necessarily see people who look like me in Hollywood and I thought, ‘someone should do something about that’. Then, it dawned on me that I could be that person.
Growing up, I was always performing on stage. There is a huge Sri Lankan community in Los Angeles. As a matter of fact, from the moment I landed in LA, my sister and I were dancing, singing and doing plays in various cultural shows. In high school, I performed with the dance team and I guess you could say that being a performer was always in my DNA. My mom is a musician and my dad loves to sing at every family party!
Nevertheless, as a Sri Lankan and the whole ‘doctor, lawyer or engineer’ parental hope, I didn’t even think becoming an actor as an occupation was an option. It wasn’t until I was finally working on a set, seeing people who actually do this for a living, that I decided to pursue this.
At the beginning of 2018, I signed up with a casting agency and they’d put out a call for ‘short people with really short hair’. I had just cut my hair super short so I thought it was perfect. I had no idea that the role was to play an alien in Captain Marvel!
Q/ What kind of confidentiality procedures or policies did you have as a cast member up until the premiere of the movie?
A/ The hardest part about being a part of this project was keeping it a secret for almost a year! I was able to tell people I was in it, but the moment we got to set, the security would take all our phones. We were prohibited from taking any pictures and they even pasted a security sticker on our cameras. We worked in a few studios like the Warner Brother’s Studio and Sony Studios, and whenever we went to the bathroom, we had to wear big hooded cloaks so no one would see us.
The only pictures I was able to get were the ones the make-up artists took for continuity purposes, but I wasn’t allowed to have or share those until the movie came out. However, the whole experience was so amazing and intense! We would sit in hair and make-up for over four hours and then work about fourteen hours a day. Being in full facial prosthetics was definitely challenging, but it’s an experience I will never forget. It was also interesting working besides all the stars of the movie like Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson!
Q/ Do you have any other hopes for your career in the years to come?
A/ I do have high hopes for the future! Ultimately, I would love to land a recurring role on a TV show and play a Sri Lankan character. My biggest dream is to have our island represented in Hollywood!
Q/ Do you have a message for the Cosmo SL readers about working in the American film industry as a Sri Lankan?
A/ Find the thing that brings you joy and pursue that. I know in Sri Lankan culture we’re not always encouraged to follow our own passions or pursue anything in the creative field. But, ultimately, this is your life and you have to figure out what’s going to make you truly happy!
Being a brown person in Hollywood is not easy. When you don’t see anyone who looks like you, it can make you question whether you belong there at all. But it’s slowly changing and the more of us who take a chance in a field that isn’t ‘doctor, lawyer or engineer’, the more doors we open for others like us.
This article was originally published as “All You Need To Know About Marvel Phase Four” in the August 2019 issue of Cosmopolitan Sri Lanka. For more inspo, grab a copy of our latest magazine or subscribe online.
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