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Interview: Nosheen Phoenix

Nosheen Phoenix is one of those entertainers that is the total package. She’s an actor, singer, model and dancer.

Although she has many things going for her in Hollywood, early on in her career, she was met with resistance from her parents about her choice of career. Although being raised in a conservative Pakistani family, Nosheen knew her destiny and continued to pursue her dream.

On the small screen, she’s made memorable appearances in series such as Happy Endings, Mile & Molly, Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family and she had a recurring role in the HBO series The Brink alongside Tim Robbins and Jack Black. Currently she's starring in the independent horror short Vexed.

Nosheen was a member of the UK singing group DeVoted before she decided to pursue a solo career and was also a songwriter on Japanese artist Kumi Koda's No.1 single Physical Thing. She’s has been modeling since the age of 20 and was recently named a Becoming Attraction by Playboy.

Today, we sit down with the Nosheen to talk about her wanting to become an entertainer, what it was like working on the HBO series Brink and what has been some of the best advice she’s received about her career.

Pop Culture Principle - When you were younger, wanting to be a singer or an actress was somewhat frowned upon in your family. Can you talk a little about that?

Nosheen Phoenix – Well, it pretty much is still the case, believe it or not; not much has changed. That is the downside of coming from one of those stereotypical backgrounds that you hear about on television but actually is true in real life, unfortunately.

Pop Culture Principle – Did that drive you to chase your dream even more?

Nosheen Phoenix – Absolutely. I was kind of like the black sheep of my family anyway. My mom and dad were estranged, and he wasn’t really in my life when I was younger. My mother remarried and had 2 other kids, my siblings whom I love to death! However I still kind of felt like the outcast. My mom and my dad, as much as I knew him, they weren’t overtly educated and were from poor backgrounds.

Their idea of education—and the value for it—wasn’t as high, as hard as I was working. So here I am trying to be this great daughter, coming home with great grades and one of the top students in my year when I graduated high school. For them it was like, “is that good?” and “good for you.”

I had always loved drama in school, and that was my escape. Every time I went there I could leave my family life and all the other issues behind. I could walk in and be this other person or I would write poetry which would turn into a song, and, no matter what the escape was, it tended to be creative in that sense.

My background hasn’t changed much. My mom still wishes that I was back home in London, was married and had kids, and that I would quit running around trying to be an actress across the world. I didn’t have any friends or family when I came to the United States. I just had this calling. Like a string from my heart attached to something here, and when I first arrived I fell in love with this place and knew this was where the next stage of my life was going to begin.

I am first generation born in the UK, but even there when I was a part of a pop group and then doing my solo music I met with pretty much most record labels and we worked with all these great renowned producers, yet still nobody knew exactly what to do with us because there were no iconic south asian/middle eastern artists at the time.

While I was in the UK there was a lot of stereotyping, unfortunately, which is why when I first came to America I felt like I was more accepted here. It was really refreshing to have that opportunity to be, Me!

Again, going back to my family, my mother still isn’t a huge fan of my career choice but she deals with it because she’s my mom and she loves me and I love her. It’s not something that I can talk about with my family, and I’ve actually had some disconnect with a lot of my family because of it. I got sick and tired of trying to please everyone. I didn’t want to be a doctor and get married and have a million kids at the time. So I decided to take a chance on myself and here I am today.

Pop Culture Principle – Coming over to America for the first time by yourself had to be very scary for you. What was it like being here initially on your own?

Nosheen Phoenix – It was crazy. I was very fortunate because the first time I traveled here was in 2006, and I really had no idea why I was going. I just knew I had to answer this calling. I found a place to sublet in Santa Monica and didn’t know how to drive or anything. I’d just walk down to 3rd Street Promenade pretty much every day making friends with all the performers down there, and that is how it all started.

I knew nobody and somehow I was very lucky. For a lot of people that could be a very dangerous call, but, luckily for me, I felt I had all this energy and excitement inside me from finally being where I wanted to be and that helped me meet some incredible people that I am friends with still to this day who helped me experience Los Angeles. Something I wouldn’t have been able to do myself.

Coming back to London, I knew L.A was my next step in life. I knew I had to find a way to be there and further my ambitions. I eventually found a manager who believed in me in every way I needed.

And today here I am in Los Angeles, achieving things I never thought I could and looking forward to everything to come.

I started late in life, but it’s better to start late than never start at all. Life works in mysterious ways!

Pop Culture Principle – One of your first television gigs was in an episode of Happy Endings. What was your experience like being on that set and working with that cast?

Nosheen Phoenix – You know what, it was my first television gig that I had ever booked. When that happened, it was mind boggling. It was my first experience on a close camera setting, all these people around working on set; it was the most incredible experience. Damon and Eliza were amazing to work with and such down to earth and wonderful people. They were so encouraging and so supportive of me.

It was the first time that I actually felt like I was definitely going in the right direction. The producers of the show and the directors and everyone where so phenomenal. It’s funny, the first gig that I land, not only am I on national television but I had my first lesbian make-out scene! They showed like two seconds of it on the show, but we had to kiss for what felt like a lifetime! Awkward doesn't even begin to explain it but it was funny!

In my mind, I was just thinking, “Gosh I hope my mom doesn't see this!" haha.

It was an unforgettable experience. I can’t even describe how great it was and it will always be my first; you never forget your first, right?

Pop Culture Principle – You also appeared in an episode of the hit ABC series Modern Family. What was that experience like?

Nosheen Phoenix – That was one of my favorite jobs to date. Rico Rodriguez, who plays Manny, was the sweetest kid and is super talented and Ed O’Neill? I fell in love with him! He was so incredibly funny on set and so incredibly genuine and sweet off set.

It was the best experience, and that entire group is like a working train; everything is perfect. The rooms are perfect, the setup and the lighting. I was in awe watching everybody working on set outside of the actors. What it takes to bring a show like that together is phenomenal. I was very much humbled by the fact that they had chosen me.

Pop Culture Principle – When you do a guest spot on popular series like Modern Family or Happy Endings, are you a little nervous when you step on set for the first time?

Nosheen Phoenix – It’s quite intimidating. I’m doing a scene with Sofia Vergara and Ed O’Neill and you have to be on point. They didn’t pick me because I was okay. They picked me because they saw something in me that was right for the role. That in itself is a huge compliment. They were so nurturing towards me and very caring. They make you feel special and important as a guest star. I can never express how much that meant to me; there are no words for it. Every experience I’ve had has been phenomenal, but those are some of my favorite!

Pop Culture Principle – You had a recurring role on the HBO series The Brink playing Nayyara. Can you tell us about the character and working on that series?

Nosheen Phoenix – That was an awesome experience in a, “I can't believe I got this” kind of way. HBO is in a league of its own and It was like the writers picked me and I couldn’t have been more honored! I had the most incredible time working with these people. I got to meet Jack Black who’s always a hoot and I got to work directly with Tim Robbins, who is simply amazing. After shooting the pilot, finding out that they wanted me to come back for 3 more episodes was the cherry on the cake. All in all what an amazing cast and crew. I am very thankful for having been a recurring guest star on such a star studded show.

For some reason they decided not to go ahead with Season 2 which was sad because it was a great show, and was bringing light to the side of the Middle East that has a lot of adversity going on right now, but I guess theres a reasons for everything. As for me, I'm so thankful for the incredible opportunity to work with such great people on such a great show!

Pop Culture Principle – One of the most popular series on television is Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton. You were part of a parody web series called Inside the Extras Studio with Barry Botswick. What was it like working on that webseries?

Nosheen Phoenix – That show was super fun! The script was hilarious and it was so fun when the team allowed me to add my own nuances to the character of Jane Menkin the ‘name dropper’. She thinks she’s a starlet when she’s actually just an extra. I thought a very East London accent seemed perfect for this character—a bit snobbish—and they loved it. Again, I worked with the incredible Barry Botswick. (Spin City) It was a ton of fun. He's such a down to earth and super talented actor who was so incredibly encouraging. We bounced off each other really well and we were in and out of there in thirty minutes. The whole team were so great and I'm so thankful to Mildly Fearsome Films for having me.

Pop Culture Principle – You are a model, actor, and a singer. Do you think it’s important to be a triple threat or offer more than one talent?

Nosheen Phoenix – You know what, it’s one of those things where it is difficult to say because it’s great to be a jack of all trades, but there’s something to say about being a master of one. That’s one of the reasons why I was doing my music full time for the ten years when I was in the UK, but as soon as I switched over to the States and I was doing acting I focused on it a hundred percent and gave the other side of it a break. I felt like I needed to focus on one thing at a time. So that was my take on it.

The good thing now is that if casting wants an actor who can genuinely sing or a model who can act well, that works greatly in my favor because I have that in my back pocket. So in that scenario I can proudly be a triple threat.

Theatrical, Commercial, Print, Music ; every single genre of entertainment in our business has its own niche, and it can be difficult to gauge what everyone wants so it’s definitely helpful if I need to do something with vocals or an accent or if I need to be a character, that I have those skills in my repertoire. It’s good to have these things in your back pocket, because it’s better to have more things in your basket than to have only one.

Pop Culture Principle – What has been the best piece of advice anyone has given you as far as your career in Hollywood is concerned?

Nosheen Phoenix – I think the best piece of advice is actually a quote that I found and recite often to myself and others. ”Your value doesn’t decrease based on someone’s inability to see your worth". I think that is very important when you are an actor, musician, or any kind of artist, because you are going to deal with a lot of rejection.

It took me a long time to deal with it because, anytime I walk into an audition and I put my heart on the table and I don’t hear back, I take it personally and I can’t help it because it’s the kind of person I am. I had to teach myself to stop taking it personally because perhaps it may be because someone was taller than you or shorter than you, or had blue eyes, or was another ethnicity etc. The fact that you are making callbacks means you that you have talent, otherwise they wouldn’t have called you back in the first place.

So to anyone that is in this business, that’s the one thing that I feel they should know. Just because someone doesn’t see your value, doesn’t mean that your talent or your worth as a person diminishes in any way. No one can tell you that you’re not talented; it’s just about finding the right people and the right opportunity that fits you like a glove.

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Out of the hundred auditions that you go in on, there is going to be one that fits you to perfection. You are going to have to stick it out and wait for that one, and I guess that’s what defines people who make it in this business versus the ones that go home because they didn’t have that thick skin and couldn’t tough it out. My advice to anyone is don’t let someone else saying no to you mean that you are not good at what you do. Keep waiting for that ‘yes’, because it’s coming!

Pop Culture Principle – You did a Becoming Attractions photoshoot and interview with Playboy. How was the experience?

Nosheen Phoenix – Playboy reached out to my manager saying they wanted to interview me for my role on The Brink. They wanted to feature me in one of their "Becoming Attractions" segments. The amazing Shane Singh did my interview, and set up this incredible shoot. To this day, I still can’t believe that happened. It’s one of the most coolest experiences that I’ve had. It makes you feel relevant and important. Its always nice to know that there are people out there who are interested in the new and upcoming.

It was such a phenomenal experience for me and, on top of that, being Pakistani and coming from my background where all of that is taboo. Being in Playboy was the number one taboo thing that I could have done, and I did it. My mom is becoming really savvy with computers and she came across my behind the scenes video on YouTube, and that was the worst month of my life haha. Ultimately though, if you don't take risks and break stereotypes, how are you ever to progress? I’ve broken boundaries for a long time now. Its who I am and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Empowerment comes from the self.

Pop Culture Principle – Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

Nosheen Phoenix –Well I just finished up shooting a horror short film called Vexed. Previously known as The Dream People, directed by Mark Cartwright and produced by Glass Cabin Films. We're hoping for it to do well at many of the indie film festivals. So I'm pretty stoked for that and to keep working towards more future projects. Life is good and I'm excited for the next elevation and adventure this career takes me on! I'm a Phoenix, its what I do. 🙂

We would like to thank Nosheen Phoenix for taking time out of her schedule to talk with us. It's definitely one of our most revealing interviews to date. If you would like to keep up wiht all of Nosheen's latest news and projects, you can like her official Facebook page here, follow her on Twitter @OfficialNosheen or on Instagram @nosheenphoenix.

**Photos courtesy of The Rikers Brothers/Josh Reed/Playboy**

**Television photos courtesy of ABC/CBS/HBO**

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