Poorna Jagannathan

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I am an immigrant mom, and I play an immigrant mom. I do believe that these portrayals change people’s perception of immigrants, which is such a hotly debated subject. I think audiences are bonded to characters like us; therefore it shifts the needle on how they perceive not only us, but immigrants in general. Positive portrayals of people like us actually galvanize people into action. People don’t have interactions with people like us on a daily basis. Media and the show have willed myself into being, as well. Audiences are definitely demanding that they be reflected back. I’ve been demanding it, and it’s an amazing thing to see.”                                         – Poorna Jagannathan, episode 239 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso

This week, we return to our studio with actor Poorna Jagannathan!

She reflects on the making of Never Have I Ever (5:16), the realization at thirty that changed the trajectory of her career (6:54), and how she initially processed the absence of complex roles for South Asian actors (11:37). Then, we walk through Poorna’s work in Bollywood (20:45) and the devastating event that propelled her and theatre director Yaël Farber to join forces on Nirbhaya, a testimonial piece highlighting true stories of sexual and gender-based violence survivors (22:07). She recounts her experience performing the play and its immediate political impact in India (31:21).

As we close, Poorna revisits the conversation around her role as Big Little Lies lawyer Katie Richmond (38:07), the visibility and connection that Never Have I Ever provides for young audiences (41:59), and her hope for the road ahead (46:53).

Show notes

Illustrations by: Krishna Shenoi