Bend it Like Beckham’s British-Asian star Parminder Nagra, has revealed she was turned down for a role on a popular US TV show because they “already had an Indian person”.
She told a podcast she had also heard producers on an unnamed production say “too many brown people” would not sell.
Parminder Nagra ascended to fame in 2002, when she starred in Bend It Like Beckham alongside Keira Knightly, before appearing on the American medical drama series ER.
In the podcast, Nagra noted how on-screen diversity has improved, but hoped it was not just a “quota-filling exercise.”
“We’re having the conversations happening more and more and things have moved on,” she told the Celebrity Catch Up podcast.
“My fear is that – which I think was happening a few years ago – it became about, ‘Oh well let’s get this box ticked’,” continued the actress, who lives in Los Angeles.
“I remember asking to go for a job because an actress basically left – it was a well-known TV show here. I remember phoning my agent and I went, ‘Do you think maybe you could just suggest me? The character is very non-specific in terms of family and between 35 and 40 [years of age].
“And the word that came back was that they’ve already got an Indian person on the cast.
“I went, ‘Yeah but I’m completely different to that person’. Is that ever gonna happen when you say that, ‘No we’ve already got a white person on the show’?
“I don’t think that conversation is happening – so it’s just very hard.”
She told the podcast she had experienced lots of “annoying”, “tiring” and “odd” moments like that in her career. Yet, she said, she was still “optimistic” that real lasting change could happen.
“I’ve been in rooms where people have gone, ‘Oh that’s not going to sell because there’s just too many brown people in it’, and you go, ‘Oh. OK’,” she added.
“Do you keep pounding? There’s moments where you get tired and then there’s people that do keep doing that and then they break another glass ceiling.
“You’ve got Riz Ahmed and Priyanka Chopra — they’ve got deals with networks and stuff like that, and so things have moved on.
“But, yeah, that was a story for the books and there was lots of little stories like that.”
Nagra will be next seen in Sky One’s space drama Intergalactic which will debut on Friday 30th April 2021.