The normally publicity shy Shivani Ghai opens up to Anisha Vasani
Shivani Ghai is a celebrity. When you take all the young female Asian actresses working in
the UK today on board, you’ll be hard pushed to come up with many who are more successful than her. In the seven years since she came to our attention as the bride in Bride & Prejudice, her CV has been positively bursting with incredible roles that include award-winning shows such as The House of Saddam and Five Days, as well as starring in a string of successful movies like The Bounty Hunter, Everywhere is Nowhere, and co-starring alongside Sean Bean in Cleanskin.
This month she’s taking another step up the ladder into the world of soaps as she joins the team of Eastenders. Last year year Asiana featured an exclusive and rare interview with Shivani which makes for essential reading before you catch her in Albert Square.
I grew up with two brilliant brothers in Newcastle, but I always felt like a bit of an outsider. When I hit my teens I didn’t know where I fit in. Everyone was
hanging out in the park, going off the rails a little bit, but I’ve never been a rebel. When I’d visit relatives, I’d tidy up! I guess I didn’t want to give people the chance to put my mum down saying she couldn’t raise a well-behaved child…
I’ve seen my mum go through some real crap. I don’t want to criticise my dad, I love him a lot –no matter what I need, if I ring my him he will provide it. He helped give me and Parv the wedding of our dreams on a beach at the Leela Kemplinski in Goa, My biggest issue is when I look back I think: okay, my dad did what he did, my mum tried to cope with it as best as she could but it’s the people around you that make things so much worse for all of us.
When my parents separated my mum suffered a lot of stick and it really pissed me off. The hypocrisy and the double standards that exist are sickening. There were men worried their wives would leave them if they hung out with her, while the women saw her as a threat because she was beautiful and single. The whole thing was screwed up. They think if you’re a woman you should suffer in silence and not complain. They put me off Newcastle for life to be honest.
Moving to London
My parents knew how desperately I wanted to go into acting and my brothers sensed I needed to get away from Newcastle. I came to London for an audition –my intention was to be there for one night, but I got a few more auditions lined up, so rather than getting a train ticket back home, I spent that money on clothes for the auditions! I stayed, and pretty much didn’t go back.
I’ve been in the industry for just under a decade, and I certainly don’t feel as though I’ve made it. It can drive you crazy sitting around waiting for work, which is why I went to LA. I went for pilot season without expecting much but I got myself an agent and manager.
It’s not always a bonus. A lot of people in the industry have a narrow view of the Indian look – I missed out on a role even though the writers wanted me because the producers thought I looked 'too glamorous' to play the part and I thought no, you don't think I look ethnic enough for it!
If not acting…
I’ve thought about packing it all in a number of times, but there isn’t anything else I could do. I’ve seen a few actors trying to present, and I’d be one of those awkward ones, trembling and all sorts! And I could never model.
I'd like to say I go to the gym on a regular basis but I don't I go ad hoc – sometimes month to month, sometimes quite regularly. But I love to dance; I really want to do pole dancing classes!
I'm quite happy to be in my jogging bottoms and Uggs, but for dressing up, my favourite shop is All Saints, their cut is great, really comfortable and you don't have to iron it! I hardly have anything designer, and I can't really afford it! Although if I like something, whether it's second hand or a nice store I will buy it. I'm a little frivolous with my money!
I don’t get hit on that much. If someone comes over and talks to me I will chat to them till the cows come home, I neverassume someone’s chatting me up until they ask me out! If they do I show them my ring and that's done with. Good tip for if you're single and don't want attention – just pretend your taken and wear a ring!
The man of my dreams
I met Parv when I was starring in a really crappy play. The first time that we went out I talked to him for 11 hours straight. We still haven’t run out of things to say. When my mum first met him his hair was blonde, had piercings and tattoos and turned up on a motorbike! I’m not going to pretend its
amazing all of the time, but after ten years, I still love hanging out with him.
I would like kids at some point but at the minute I don’t want to change. I’m weird –I like kids that I know, but some kids can annoy me sometimes. Parv is even less patient with them!
Daring to bare
If you asked me five years ago I would have said no. But now I realise if you want to shine in the industry, you have to give yourself to it wholly. I was asked to bare all for Cleanskin, and I had a freak out about what people would say and called Parv, who told me I should do what feels right and he’ll deal with the rest.
I am a party girl but I’m not into drugs. Come to think of it no one has actually ever offered me any! I love to indulge and so if I did ever try it I would probably like it, a lot. I have a few vices but I don’t want to be dealing with that one!
I have got myself into a little altercation here and there, but it’s probably best to keep that off the record! I can be the sweetest nicest person, but if you do something bad to someone I love I can’t handle it. I’m from Newcastle after all – a feisty little Geordie lass!
Shivani Ghai will be making her Eastenders debut on Monday 17th December 2012