The lure of Hollywood brings in many hopefuls and breaks many dreams. The path itself is an impossible obstacle for most young talents to approach, yet many desis have the added complication of conservative South Asian parents. A reality that would make many of us choose to opt into grad school was not intimidating enough to hold back young and ambitious Noureen Dewulf.
Like many daughters of first generation South Asians in America, she grew up in a strict environment. She wasn’t even allowed to watch The Cosby Show. Yet the opportunity to go away to college, Boston University, gave her the freedom to explore her true passions in life.
Her belief in herself and courage to overcome the adversities that lay before her has made her one of the most successful and sought after faces for ethnic roles in Hollywood. Sit back, relax, and get to know the girl that is well on her way.
SAPNA: What first inspired you to pursue acting? What were the early days like and what do you consider your first big break?
N: Well, I can’t explain it, it wasn’t one specific momentâ€¦it’s just a feeling inside me that I’ve always had, it’s my passion, and I feel extremely grateful to the universe that I can make a career at it.
My first big break was American Dreamz (which released in April of 2006). It was my first big studio movie. The film will be on DVD in October and stars Hugh Grant, Mandy Moore and Dennis Quaid.
SAPNA: Coming from a Muslim background, what are your family’s thoughts on your acting career and some of the things they are going to be watching you do on screen?
N: I have to be honest, I don’t think my career is easy to deal with for my Muslim family, and they have had to watch me do things onscreen that are unimaginable to them; kissing, cursing, me wearing what they consider to be risquÃ© clothing, etc… but more and more, and as I work in more roles, I think my parents are understanding it’s not me doing those things, but the character which I am portraying. I think they will continue to face challenges with my career, but I know in my heart that they are proud of my successes although they may not have chosen this path for me on their own.
SAPNA: In the course of filming, has there ever been moments where you thought, “dear lord, Baba’s not going to like this!â€ How do you deal with industry pressures on sex and the Eastern culture’s taboo perception of it?
N: That’s interesting. I just bring it down to the character; I think it’s always about maintaining the integrity of the character , the script, and the vision of the director. I think truth surpasses cultural standards of what is or isn’t acceptable, and in my opinion an actors job is to tell a story and not to put their own personal beliefs and ego into the story telling.
SAPNA: What part of South Asia are you from? And how would you describe your relationship with your culture?
N: Well, my parents are from Pune, India although I was born here in the US. I have a strong sense of my Indian culture, I can speak Hindi ,Gujrati ,and Urdu and I cook Indian food! I am proud of my background, I love being Indian. I love playing Indian roles Both dramatic and comedic ones. People ask me a lot if I get tired of playing ethnic characters, they ask me if I want to move away from it, but the ironic truth is, when I play an ethnic character I feel fulfilled on a personal level. I love my heritage both as someone who grew up as a Muslim and as an Indianâ€”it’s part of who I am and I would never deny it.
SAPNA: Who inside the entertainment business do you think you have learned the most from and have helped guide you?
N: Well, I think one of the common misconceptions of Hollywood is that actors have these strategic plans that are laid out for them with a lot of smart people making decisive moves on their behalf. The reality is that I moved out here to Los Angeles three years ago and I didn’t know a single person in the entertainment industry. I’m learning about the business as I move forward, I try to be open, talk to my friends who are actors and trust my instincts.
SAPNA: When it comes to the entertainment industry, who are your heroes and favorites?
N: My heroes and favorites in the entertainment industryâ€¦wow there are so manyâ€¦ I was pretty taken aback when I watched City of God (directed by Fernando Meirelles), I often recall the performances of the actors in that filmâ€”many of who were childrenâ€”I thought as a whole that film was magnificent. As far as directors who I dream to work with: Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and Baz Luhrmann. I named these directors because they have stylish, intelligent vision. Also–Mira Nair, Deepa Mehta, and Gurinder Chadha, for making films that I can really relate to as an Indian actor, and the fact that they are strong Indian women directors is awesome.
SAPNA: So with your amazingly busy schedule, what do you do on the downtime to relax, what are your other passions outside of acting?
N: In my downtime to relaxâ€¦I go to the beach, stare at the ocean,and daydream. I’m teaching myself guitar. I ride my bike around LA at night, there is something so magical about it, I feel like I’m Amelie, I even have a basket and a bell on my bike.
SAPNA: I’m sure all the gentleman out there want to know, do you have a lucky guy in
N: Yes, I do.
SAPNA: You have guest starred on CSI:NY, Love,Inc, Numb3rs, and Girlfriends.
Which show would you love to have a permanent spot on?
N: I loved each show I was on, but I have to say right now, I really enjoy not knowing what the next week is going to bring for me. I love to jump from movie to movie and then to TV for a guest spot. I guess I’m addicted to the unpredictability of my life.
SAPNA: Rumors are that you will be filming for the upcoming Oceans 13. As a girl, I don’t know what would be more exciting, landing such a prime role or
getting to hang out with Brad Pitt and George Clooney! How did you land such an amazing role? Was the process grueling? And what are you looking forward to?
N: Am I going to be in Ocean’s 13? Yes, in a funny scene with Bernie Mac and I am really excited about it! How did I score that? I auditioned for it and hoped for the best like I always do.
SAPNA: What is on your plate? Any future projects for all your fans to look forward to?
N: I’m so lucky to have 5 feature films coming out soon: Pledge This! (with Paris Hilton), Americanizing Shelley (with Beau Bridges), Killer Pad (from Robert Englund aka Freddy Kruger), The Strip (with Dave Foley) and Ocean’s 13. I am really looking forward to 2007