In Miss India America you play Lily, a smart young woman who has a sturdy plan for the future, but it’s knocked off course when she enters a pageant. In what ways are Lily and you similar? If at all.
Tiya: I would say that I also have that type-A personality. I definitely relate to her drive to succeed and excel; I don’t like to be bad at things. I find it very frustrating which is why I don’t play sports. I’m bad at them! I relate to her in that respect. I wasn’t Lily growing up, and I’m sure my parents would have loved for me to be more like Lily as far as school’s concerned. And as far as being a neurosurgeon is concerned as well. I definitely related to her with that need to excel. But I would say, I like to think, I’m a little more well rounded and more of a people-person than she is.
I read that you danced as a young kid, so it seems you are well rounded. Does Lily have any dance skills at all in the movie?
Tiya: Lily, yeah. It’s part of the course with Indie-American kids. As Indie American girls we’re expected to excel in academics but also dance, sing, playing at least one instrument, or playing a sport. So Lily, there’s a scene where she goes visit Seema in her dance class and the dance instructor says ‘Lily, when are you coming back to class?’. She was definitely a part of that, just like me. I grew up going to all sorts of dance classes, piano lessons, figure skating classes, musical theatre classes, acting classes. Lily used to be in dance class, then when she gets a little older, I think she decided she was too focused on school and her plan to become a neurosurgeon. So it did not serve that plan, so she decided to stop.
You’ve appeared in a lot of TV shows and movies. At the top of your head, which was your favorite to film and why?
Tiya: That’s hard because there’s been a lot that I’ve enjoyed very much. Well, Miss India America, I feel such a connection to this role from the moment I read the script for the first time. For getting to play Lily was a really special experience for me. As far as a whirlwind of experience, I worked on this movie called ‘The Internship’ with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. I consider those two guys masters of their craft and to get to do comedy with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, it was just a dream come true. That was just such a fun shoot and many costars I’m friends with still which is really nice.
So would you consider comedy as more your forte, acting-wise?
Tiya: I love comedy and have always gravitated towards comedy. Even from a young age I have always loved to make people laugh. When I was a kid I used to tell jokes at family parties and do impressions and do gags. I’ve always enjoyed entertaining people and making people laugh. I think comedy comes most naturally to me. But I also love to do drama, and I also love to challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. If I had to my way, I would continue to do both for a long, long time.
Besides acting onscreen, you also do voiceovers, for Star Wars in particular. Do you prefer to be in front of a camera or behind a microphone?
Tiya: They’re so different. As far as voice acting, I’ve only been doing that for a few years and I feel like, of course I have a lot to learn. You should always continue to learn as far as being an actor goes. There’s always more to learn. I can’t say that I don’t learn on the other end of things. Voice acting, I was thrown into that world. I’m so in awe of my costars and their talent. That’s been a very crazy ride as far as getting involved in voice acting. I love them both so much and they’re so different! They use different sets of skills and different challenges as well. To emote by only using your voice is a whole different world than acting which I’ve bene doing for a long time. They’re both challenges and they’re both super gratifying. I love doing them both for different reasons.
Well, you’re very good at both anyway!
Besides acting, what do you like to do when you have free time?
Tiya: I love to travel. Traveling is top on my list. My parents were great. They were world travelers and traveled with me and my older sister. I think I took my first international trip when I was 6 months old. They kind of instilled this wanderlust in me from a very early age. Traveling to me is super important. It’s hard with an actor. Being an actor in LA, we don’t have a lot of time to go on these international trips. But whenever I can, I try to go to somewhere new. I love to dance and I don’t get to dance as much as I used to growing up which was a big part of my life. But dancing, anytime I can, I love to dance. I love to eat! I love cooking which for some reason people find surprising which I don’t know is an insult or not. I love to cook and I’m not terrible at it. I think I’m a pretty good cook, and my mom is a really good cook. Which I hopefully inherited some of her cooking abilities. I live in LA, so there’s so much amazing food and cuisine from different cultures. There’s no shortage of incredible pockets of places to explore. So I do a little of that in LA.
Is there a dish that you like to make? Because I can’t cook at all, so props to you that you can!
Tiya: Thank you! I try and cook all different types of food. I like to bake too. I make this pasta dish that is going to sound super weird, but I promise you it’s totally delicious. It’s baked ziti with Italian sausage and pumpkin.
Oh that sounds good!
Tiya: I know! I mean, I love pumpkin and who doesn’t love sausage? Unless you’re a vegetarian maybe. It’s spicy Italian sausage, pumpkin puree and a lot of other delicious spices. It’s pasta, so you can’t really go wrong.
Now I’m going to have to look up that recipe. My final question, I don’t want to keep you too long. What was your favorite part of filming Miss India America? Was there a scene that really stuck out to you? A scene that was really fun act out and film?
Tiya: I would say the pageant portion was totally foreign to me. I’ve never compete in a pageant and I don’t think I ever asked to be in a pageant, but I’m sure my mother would have not let me do that. Which I’m okay with. I didn’t even know that there was a Miss India America beauty pageant; it was kind of new to me. Funny enough, the girls who played the pageant contestants in the movie, most of those girls are beauty pageant winners or runner-ups or contestants. Specifically the Miss India America pageant, so that was cool because the talent portion in the movie, a lot of those girls-those were actually their talent that they used when they competed in their pageants. Because it was such a foreign world to me, getting to pick their brains and how the whole experience goes was really fun. Hopefully you can tell in the movie that the pageant part is a crazy, wild time.
And you got to wear some gorgeous costumes, so that was a plus I bet too.
Tiya: That was definitely a plus. I know there’s some actors that say ‘I hate to dress up!’, but I love to dress up!
Same! Thank you so much for your time. Can’t wait to see more of your work.
Tiya: Thank you!
You can watch Tiya in Miss India America releasing on digital HD and on demand April 5!