British actress Demi Mann, who had a role in Skyfall and will be seen in Emergency LA and Starblessed as the lead, is using her success to promote diversity and women’s equality in Hollywood. “It is extremely important to me and to society in general,” she says, “since there are so many talented actors and actresses who deserve their shot at stardom even though in the past, they were denied roles because they didn’t fit a certain mold. With the changes happening in the industry, not only I am so happy to see that my peers are being cast in roles they deserve, I am also excited to see major companies putting women on their boards of directors to make key decisions that affect the industry in a positive way.”
Demi’s passion for diversity comes from her own multicultural background. “My heritage is Indian,” she explains, “and I was born and brought up in London. It was a colorful upbringing, one filled with the idiosyncrasies of dual heritages, bizarre Indianisms, traditions, challenges, and a healthy dose of ambition.”
That ambition would be difficult to realize due to cultural constraints. “I have wanted to be an actress since I was a young girl,” Demi remembers. “As a child, I would watch movies and TV, and I wanted to be part of that storytelling and entertainment. I wanted to be like the role models I looked up to, especially Julia Roberts, Penelope Cruz, and Salma Hayek.”
The road to becoming an actress was bumpy at times. Demi says, “A girl becoming an actress was forbidden in my culture. It was definitely not a career choice. The safer option would have been becoming a doctor. I encountered some pushback, but I just could not let go of my dream of becoming a Hollywood star.” Destiny took over and Mann was destined to become an actress.
Demi studied Media Studies and Biology and graduated from the University of the Arts London. She then took as many classes and workshops as possible at one of the best schools in the world, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, before packing up to become an actor in Hollywood.
“I can’t tell you how excited I was when I got off the plane and realized I was finally in Los Angeles. That was a huge moment for me, to know that my future had arrived. I immediately started working hard, studying the craft of acting, taking classes, and auditioning for every role I could. It was a difficult time, but on a very real level, it was thrilling.”
Since being cast in Skyfall in 2012, Demi has had roles in Frank and Ava and will be seen as the lead in Astral Princess. She is getting to experience the industry from the inside out, and she is impressed by the changes it is undergoing.
“I definitely see more diversity today in terms of roles being given to women and to people of color,” she says, “so I couldn’t be happier about that. Because of streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Amazon Studio, HBO Max, and Hulu, there’s more content being created to reach more households. Therefore, there are many more roles and opportunities, which is great for women. More women are creating content, directing movies, writing, and winning awards like the Academy Awards and Golden Globes. As a female, there are stronger roles for me out there since I can play South Asian, East Indian, British, British Indian, international, American, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean characters.”
Demi becomes thoughtful as she thinks about how she wants to use her success to help other aspiring actresses and actors of color. “I want them to know that they can achieve their big dreams because of their culture, background, gender, or ethnicity, not despite it. I am doing that and am promoting leading roles being given to diverse women in the industry. Where I am today is a huge blessing, and I am full of gratitude. I am being considered for major leading roles in major studio films and television series, a big change from the past when people of my origin weren’t.”
Demi laughs when she is asked about what roles she would like in the future. “Oh, far too many to count,” she says. “I am so ambitious! But, if I absolutely must choose, I would say anything from Marvel or DC Comics to Academy Award winning. I would just love to play a secret agent or be a badass superhero. Now that would take the roles of people of ethnicities to a whole new level.”