Years before Sarita Choudhury was playing Seema Patel — the glamorous real estate agent who sips cosmos in fabulous clothes with Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessia Parker) on “And Just Like That … ” — she was a broke actor living in London who didn’t like her hair.
“My hair is so thick and I always looked so fresh and in my early 20s I hated that! That was not the look I was going for. I wanted to look like an intellectual,” the 55-year-old Indian British actor told the Chicago Tribune in an interview published Tuesday.
“And at that age, I wanted to look like a French movie star, I didn’t want to look fresh-faced and apple-cheeked,” Choudhury later added.
At the age of 22 — and with just £7.50 (about $10 USD) in her pocket — Choudhury went to an audition for the role of Mina in the 1991 film “Mississippi Masala,” which co-starred Denzel Washingston. Choudhury ended up getting the gig, which kickstarted her acting career. But her audition had a hairy start because Choudhury decided to alter her hair.
“I was thinking, I’m not going to wash my hair for a few days and I’m going to put some oil in it to make it look cool. I didn’t want to look like I was trying too hard, so it was sort of flat and a little greasy,” Choudhury explained to the Tribune.
Her cool look, unfortunately, didn’t gel with the casting director. The casting director told Choudhury to leave the audition, go to a hairdresser, get it washed and come back. The casting director also said she’d come up with some kind of excuse to give the film’s director Mira Nair for Choudhury’s tardiness.
A shocked and embarrassed Choudhury didn’t have enough money for a hairdresser, so she went to a barber shop with “tears in my eyes” where she asked an “annoyed and bored” barber to wash her hair, which he begrudgingly did.
“I had to stand in the corner and blow dry it myself, he wouldn’t even do that,” Choudhury admitted.
She said that she then “marched back to the audition” and it quickly became apparent to Choudhury that the director, Nair, had no idea why she had shown up an hour late.
“It was very awkward,” Choudhury said. “And I didn’t feel pretty, because my hair looked so fluffy and healthy.”
Choudhury said that at that moment she felt “panicky” and was worried that Nair was “not going to like the way I look.”
Choudhury auditioned anyway, and felt the reading went OK — though she was convinced she wasn’t going to get the job because she wasn’t “showing [Nair] who I am.”
“It’s a miracle that I got that role,” Choudhury said before revealing how she got the part.
Choudhury said that years later Nair told her that the casting director did tell her about Choudhury leaving to get her hair washed.
“[Nair] and the casting director had talked about it and Mira said she found it completely endearing,” Choudhury said, adding that her character in “Mississippi Masala” would do something like that, so Nair “thought it was perfect.”
“What’s funny about the story is, now Mira talks about it and she’s like, ‘I just kind of fell in love with you more,’” Choudhury told the Tribune with a laugh.
Since then Choudhury has had a long career, landing roles in “The Hunger Games,” “Jessica Jones,” “Little Fires Everywhere” and “Homeland” — the last of which she dished about with HuffPost in 2013.
Now Choudhury is part of the cast of “And Just Like That … ,” HBO Max’s “Sex and the City” revival, which she described to “Today” earlier this month as a pretty surreal experience.
“You’re joining an iconic show,” Choudhury said. “So when you’re there, part of your brain is yourself from 20 years ago, just screaming with delight at seeing the front door of Carrie’s building.”
But Choudhury may have never been able to stomp around the West Village in stilettos with Carrie if she hadn’t had her uncomfortable “Mississippi Masala” audition in which she learned “what seems to be an embarrassing story is just your human story and that’s why people like you,” she told the Tribune.
“There’s a Leonard Cohen quote I’m going to paraphrase that’s something like: That which we don’t like about ourselves, or are uncomfortable with, is often what people fall in love with,” Choudhury said.