Every great acting performance is rooted in truth. An actor cannot present every role with authenticity, hard as they may try. Recent years have seen a diversification and widening spectrum of female stories; those that communicate the reality of the female experience. Simmie Sangian is not only deeply committed to this task but also extraordinarily predisposed to empower it. A British citizen born to a traditional Indian family as well as a gifted actor, Simmie is able to portray characters who give a cross-cultural understanding and accessibility to the audiences who witness her masterful talent. Films like Honor and Sheepskin have both provided a vehicle that bares witness to Ms. Sangian’s skill and raised the awareness of how the plight of young women in different cultures share a common element of vulnerability. An outspoken advocate for female empowerment, Simmie possesses the stunning ability to breathe life into characters whom embed themselves into one’s memory and leave a lasting impression.
Simmie recognized the role of Serena in Honor as an opportunity for her to spotlight a grave injustice imbedded in a culture. This film portrays the experience of a young Indian woman who is experiencing the not uncommon practice of forced marriage. While this scenario is seething with anxiety, the matter is compounded by the fact that the central character Serena is also in love with another woman. Caught between a traditional world which sees women as property and the freedom of a modern woman, Serena is the perfect proxy for men and women alike to experience the suffering of so many in this situation. Simmie’s portrayal of Serena is moving and shattering as she channels the fears of so many whom have walked this path for countless years. Relating her personal connection and motivation to the character, Ms. Sangian communicates, “I have visited India many times during my life. I have met young girls in villages who will be put through the same ordeal but they have no idea that it is not okay; they believe that it is a way of life. They have no idea about the education they could get, the dreams they could fulfill. It is all taken away from them. I believe that every child should get a chance at an education, and parents of the victims of forced marriage don’t even consider that for their child. Much like Serena, I am both British and Indian and I feel we share the same strong opinions and values required to bring this character’s depth to reality.” Her performance as Serena in Honor earned Simmie a number awards including Best Actress in the Actors Awards, Festigious International Film Festival, Top Shorts, New York Film Awards, and “Inspiring Woman in a Film” at the Los Angeles Film Awards.
Presenting a commonality that we can all recognize is a strength of the greatest actors. For her role of Jasmine in the film Sheepskin, Simmie presented a character similar in age and appearance to that of Serena in Honor but shaped differently by American culture. The story is centered around a rape that occurs at a college party. The perpetrator is unknown to all except Jasmine, who is dealing with a slew of issues which impede her assistance with righting this wrong. Far from a hero yet not truly a villain, Jasmine is molded into a complex character through the skill of Ms. Sangian. Self admittedly rebuking chemical exploration, Simmie notes that she did ample research about how cocaine and alcohol effect one’s behavior and decision making. She states, “I had never played someone who was so heavily abusing drugs and alcohol, so it was a lot of fun as an artist to create this character with these hardships. I really enjoyed getting into her head, doing research on these subjects, and creating a story as to why she is the way she is. This role was very physical and I had to learn the behaviors and mannerisms that a person who is so dependent on drugs and alcohol would do.” Earning awards at the Festigious International Film Festival (Best Drama) and Los Angeles Film Awards, Sheepskin and Simmie’s performance garnered great praise.
Particularly profound in both of these roles is the element of abuse. Whether self-imposed or from other people, we all are confronted with moments which demand momentous decisions. The choice to let them overtake us and define us or instead to reject them and suffer the unavoidable consequences is a part of the human experience. When an actor as extraordinary as Simmie Sangian embodies characters like Serena and Jasmine, it becomes easy to see how character and strength are something that separates tragedy and inspiration.
Writer: Arlen Gann