At its heart, Geek Bomb is fundamentally about celebrating, inspiring, and getting to know women in geek. Founded by our Boss Bomb Maude Garrett and featuring a Bomb Squad filled with diverse, talented, and totally badass ladies, Geek Bomb has a mindset much like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Females are strong as hell. And it’s about time we start celebrating that again. So, we’ve decided to relaunch Women in Geek, our interview series that spotlights, shows off, and talks about the wonderful ladies who are leading the geek entertainment field.
Joining us for this round is Anjali Bhimani, whom most of you know as the voice of Symmetra in Overwatch. But that’s not all Anjali is famed for; she’s a Northwestern University alumna, a stunning Broadway performer who’s appeared in plays that have snagged Tony nominations, and the face behind Nina Patel on Modern Family and tons of other characters in series like Silicon Valley, Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, The Fosters, The Sopranos, Law and Order: SVU, Necessary Roughness, and NCIS: Los Angeles.
We had the unparalleled opportunity to have a chat with Anjali about her geeky inspirations, how she got her start in the industry, and the advice she’d give to young girls wanting to enter the world of nerd.
Geek Bomb: First off, when did you realize that you were, in essence, a geek? What geeky things are you up to now?
Anjali Bhimani: I think I knew it pretty young, but I also think I really enjoyed being a geek until I reached an age where “fitting in” was the thing. I wasn’t much of an outdoor kid except swimming in the pool, so my days were spent reading and creating and imagining things in my own room — which I still look back on proudly. I had a real connection at an early age to exercising the “what if” muscle, which, needless to say, is important as an actress, but [I] also was very academically oriented, so I worked really hard to combine those two forces, especially in my writing assignments. I still have some of them from elementary school and junior high because that little geek was an AWESOME writer. I like her a lot.
As far as what geeky things I’m into now, I don’t know if we have enough time for me to list them. Let’s just say I’m passionate about a lot of things, and I’m happy to “geek out” about any of them.
GB: Let’s get our foot in the door by asking how you got your foot in the door. What’s your industry origin story – how did you get started? What advice can you give to those looking to break into your industry?
AB: Oh gosh, this question always worries me a little because it implies a starting point to something that really just evolved over time. I mean, you could say I got started with my first play in elementary school or with my first community theatre play or my first professional gig, but the real origin goes back to that little girl creating in her room. I suppose the only difference is that once I realized I could actually pursue that joy and passion as a profession, I pursued it with the same kind of intellectual and practical choices one would pursue any profession: I studied everything I could, I performed wherever and whenever I could, I went to college to study not just acting but theatre, meaning I got an education in all aspects of the theatre because I wanted to have a full breadth of knowledge. And then, it’s not a particularly sexy answer, but I just auditioned and got work. And auditioned and didn’t get work, and moved on and kept auditioning. And that cycle is pretty much what happens to this day.
The best advice I think I can give at this point to people who want to be actors is to learn. Learn EVERYTHING you can. There is no life experience, no bit of knowledge, no kind of focus or discipline that will not come in handy when you are performing. So don’t just study the things you think you HAVE to to get the gig, also learn and live the experiences that jazz you, because the fuller you are as a person, the fuller everything you create will be.
GB: What is the most difficult obstacle that you’ve had to overcome in your industry or maybe even still overcoming?
AB: This is actually an obstacle that applies in my life outside of acting as well. I still find it difficult to let go of not booking roles or missing out on experiences that I really wanted to enjoy and to trust the timing of my life, as a dear friend once put it. It’s a little like going on a date with someone that you are super into but [who] decides they don’t feel the same way. I often have to remind myself that if I didn’t book the role, for whatever reason, it wasn’t supposed to be mine, and to trust that the universe has other plans for me. As much disappointment as I have faced when not booking certain jobs, I’ve also looked back and seen most of the time there was a clear path after that disappointment that led me to a different success. Again, [it’s] a lot like dating. For all the relationships that ended painfully, I wouldn’t change anything because they led me to where I am today.
GB: Picture yourself at ten years old. What advice would you give her? What would she love to know about present-day you? Anything by which she’d be surprised?
AB: I would just encourage her to keep being proud of the things that make her uniquely her and not focus on the things she isn’t. There’s only one of each of us in the world, and if we spend all our time wishing we were something or someone else, the world misses out on the unique combination of things that we are. Plus, I was a really cool 10 year old… 😉
GB: Who are your female role models and/or inspirations?
AB: Honestly, my own family members are my greatest role models. My grandmother had the most extraordinary life and journey, and my mother continues to amaze me to this day. My sister-in-law is a powerhouse and passionate and brilliant; my two closest female cousins have the most extraordinary hearts their openness and generosity seem to know no bounds. I never had to look very far to find role models, I lived with them.
GB: Who are some of your favourite fictional female characters of all time?
AB: There are so many! I’m terrible at picking favorite ANYTHINGS, because when I pick one, I end up remembering five others. If I had to choose for this moment, I would say Lyra from the His Dark Materials series. Just read that trilogy for the first time a year or so ago and I’m still reveling in it. Also I have a strong affinity for Penelope and Athena in The Odyssey. I actually feel like the women in The Odyssey are as intriguing if not more than Odysseus himself. And now I’m blanking because so many amazing female characters are flying into my head.
GB: How would you like to see this industry grow for not only women, but within the entertainment space?
AB: I think I’d love to see us continue the movement toward inclusivity, not just cultural representation, because we are all such complex beings that representation by culture, background, gender, sexual orientation, or any single characteristic isn’t really enough. I love seeing characters in the world — and this is one of the many reasons I love Overwatch — that aren’t defined by any one part of their story or background, because that’s how we should be looking at each other and ourselves in the world.
GB: Where can people discover more about you? Socials/website/podcast or channel links.
AB: Facebook fan page: www.Facebook.com/AnjaliBhimani
Twitter/IG/YouTube: sweeetanj (with three e’s!)
Thanks again to the lovely Anjali Bhimani for joining us to celebrate the magic of women in the nerd world!