May Spotlight Excluisve: Geraldine Viswanathan
During a heavy press week for her blockbuster film "Blockers" Geraldine Viswanathan took time to sit down with us. We could immediately feel her infectious down to earth energy which frankly made us feel at home. Viswanathan was born in New Castle, Australia where she began attending a performing arts school starting at the age of 6 and really invested her time in drama classes. She eventually began writing sketches with her friends in high school where they performed at school assemblies. Eventually, those performances led Viswanathan to begin doing standup comedy. Being frustrated with the limited opportunities that were presented, she knew that creating and writing her own content would help fulfill her artistic passion while she waited for the industry to catch up.
"As soon I stopped waiting around and started doing my own thing, I felt so empowered and liberated. So many opportunities started presenting themselves in way more interesting ways. I got a job at a radio station and my group got commissioned to write sketches for TV and websites and we had creative control. Having this background I felt was one of the reasons I was cast in Blockers because Kay was really interested in that part of my life"
Entering the entertainment industry earlier in her career, there were definitely hurdles when it came to trying to find roles that were authentic and did not play on stereotypes. Geraldine was really excited when she auditioned to play Kayla, "When the role of Kayla came along I was like woah this is sick! She [Kayla] wasn't written as an Indian character, but our director Kay really wanted a woman of color in the role because I think she knew it would be super interesting to see John Cena as part of a biracial family." We have to say it was so refreshing seeing a Desi on screen that wasn't playing your typical Hollywood stereotype. Viswanathan truly broke ground by playing a cool, carefree and sexually liberated character that was grounded and relatable.
Geraldine credits getting most of her Desi culture from her grandparents. "My grandparents would spend 3 months in Australia and 3 months in India at a time. My grandma wears a Sari and she cooks incredible food. She makes incredible sambar and lamb curry. When I told my grandpa that I wanted to be an actor he was all, "what about law though?" so there were pressures with family but everyone has always been really supportive since I was young. My grandpa is definitely coming around to the idea. He's one of my biggest supporters."
How does it feel to be one of the first young Indian millennials in a leading role in a big budget film? There are billboards of you everywhere!
"It's sureal and unbelievably rewarding and it makes me feel really glad that I'm doing this. I'm not saving the world or anything but it's really cool. Representation is so important. I feel like a lot of people think it's not an option for them, but really you can do anything. I get messages on Instagram from young girls and it's the most rewarding feeling."
"I always got a thrill at making people laugh, I definitely feel like I fell in love with comedy first."
What TV shows are you watching?
"I just started watching this reality show called "Terrace House" on Netflix. It's Japanese and it's so great - it's really interesting to watch - the drama is so subtle and passive. It's interesting how different it is from an American reality show."
Who do you love to follow on social media?
"Chelsea Peretti. She just doesn't give a shit and I love her so much. Obviously Rihanna. There's a page called "She's Vague", it's all hilarious stuff from the 90s - I love it.
What music did you listen to growing up and what are you listening to now?
I grew up listening to The Wombats, The Kooks, Phoenix, Frank Ocean. Frank Ocean was really my number one for a long time. Anderson Paak is so unbelievably talented, I love this new wave of R&B artist, Steve Lacey, Kaly Uchis. I like Drake, Janelle Monáe is so cool, Daniel Caesar. Recently into Tommy Genesis. I could keep going.
Geraldine will be seen next on TBS's "Miracle Workers," created by Simon Rich, as well as starring in "Hala" from writer/director Minhal Baig.
Follow Geraldine on Instagram: @yoyogeraldine
Photos courtesy of Wire Image, Flaunt, and Universal Pictures.