ANJLI MOHINDRA ON HER ACTION-PACKED ACTING JOURNEY
by PRIYA MULJI
IN THE most recent series of Doctor Who, Anjli Mohindra looked unrecognisable as the fierce alien Queen Skithra and added to her impressive list of winning turns on television.
The inspiring British actress has shown off her wonderful range with popular shows, including The Sarah Jane Adventures, Bodyguard, Paranoid and so many more.
She has also lit up the stage in high-profile theatre productions, including iconic play Noises Off, and is looking forward to continuing an action-packed acting journey that started as a naturally gifted teenager.
Eastern Eye caught up with Anjli to talk about her amazing acting adventures and future hopes.
What first connected you to acting? I always loved storytelling as a child and performing. I remember my first ever part in the school nativity. I was playing a china doll and took it so very seriously. I loved exploring how a doll might move. I think I fell in love with acting then.
How did you feel seeing yourself on TV for the first time? (Laughs) It was incredibly surreal. But also, so much fun and a tiny bit torturous too.
You have been lucky enough to do a wide array of projects, but which roles are closest to your heart? I played a character called Fahmida in My Jihad in 2014, which I believe is still on BBC iPlayer. It’s a heart-warming story about two unlikely people falling in love – there was so much truth and the pacing of it felt so real that I loved immersing myself in the character’s world.
What was the most challenging role? In the latest episode of Doctor Who last week, I played a Scorpion Queen called Queen Skithra. The part required three hours of prosthetic makeup at five in the morning, and I did lots of research on how to move and behave like a scorpion. The character lent itself to a slightly heightened performance, which isn’t within my comfort zone, but I loved pushing myself gradually into that.
Who has been the most interesting person you have worked with? I worked with an actress called Thusitha Jayasundera on a play called Behind The Beautiful Forevers. Her process on developing characters is fascinating; it felt like she started with a raw mound of clay, and every rehearsal, she would carve bits out and shape it a bit and by the end, had the most bold yet intricate and layered performance. She has a brilliant range as a performer and this incredible energy as a person.
What according to you is the secret of a great performance? I’m not sure how much of a secret it is, but truth really draws me in. One of my favourite acting quotes is from Sanford Meisner; ‘Invent nothing, deny nothing’. I think it says it all. Just be present and don’t try to manufacture anything, while not denying your instincts. Background research and creating the character’s inner world fuels my imagination more than anything and helps me feel free ‘in the moment’ – a term I never used to understand, but I guess is a state of full receptiveness.
Are you fearless as an actor? I definitely have insecurities, especially when first starting a job. But I try to push my own boundaries and the edges of my own comfort. I just want to keep growing.
Who is your own acting hero? I love Joaquin Phoenix. I’m inspired by the sheer amount of work he puts in and how much of himself he pours into his characters, where he ends and they begin is seamless.
What do you most enjoying watching on TV? I binge watch Marvellous Mrs Maisel in 48 hours every time a new season comes out. I also just watched Giri/Haji and The Victim, and loved both so much.
Do you have a dream role you would love to play? I’d love to play a real person. I’m utterly terrified by the idea so that seems like a good idea.
If you weren’t an actor, what would you have done? I love people and stories, but also weirdly mathematics. I found myself at a fork in the road when I got my first professional regular part in The Sarah Jane Adventures. At that point, I had been planning to go to university and read economics with a view to possibly work with an NGO as some sort of financial advisor.
Finally, what inspires you? Long walks (with a duvet-esque coat in the winter) helps to open my mind when stuck or in need of a creativity boost.