After spending one full hour on the treadmill at a New York health club, Reshma Shetty had to huff-and-puff back to a place where she can accept a phone call by her publicist, himself setting up the British-born Indian actress to chat exclusively about her recurring role on USA Network’s top-rated cable television series starring Mark Feuerstein, Royal Pains.
Reshma, a former stage actress who debuted in the touring company of the 2006 musical Bombay Dreams before starring in the 2007 film Steam and appearing in an episode of 30 Rock, was excited to share with Buzzine the evolution of Divya Katdare, the character she so aptly plays on the much-watched cable program directed by Jace Alexander.
As she finally got to a phone just in time for an early afternoon phone conversation with this writer, the face of Dove moisturizer bar in India and a regular guest panelist on Fox News Channel’s satire show Red Eye w/Greg Gutfeld told Buzzine that fans of Royal Pains will begin to see Divya in a different light after the show’s second season debuts on June 3rd.
Specifically, Reshma, who is also slated to star in the upcoming film Hated, said that Divya’s evolution this season was natural. After all, fans were already introduced to her last season. Now they want to get to know her and grow with her — something audiences will definitely get to see, according to the actress:
“I think it’s the case with any kind of dramedy — that they get to learn about the story in first story, but they delve into the characters and their relations in the second season. [Divya has] definitely evolved,” Reshma excitedly said as she caught her breath after that intense workout at the gym. “It’s always going to have a metamorphic storyline. That’s what USA is known for — ‘Characters Welcome,’ and [Royal Pains] is about four separate characters.”
Accordingly, Reshma said it was vital to the specific development of her character that audiences see a different side of her that was not on display during last year’s pilot season. If such a development did not happen, audiences would not be able to distinguish her from the rest of the cast, and Divya’s character probably would not be able to make a valuable contribution to the storyline: “She’s completely changed from … the pilot. It was a very generalized role — a very simple, businesslike woman. But now there is a glamour factor, so it’s a huge change,” she humbly said. “There was also a mystery behind her in the first year, but toward the end, she really cared about her patients. She’s definitely coming out of the shadows. Why does she have all these secrets? People are learning more about her.”
In fact, Reshma herself is learning about Divya, as the Indo-Brit actress candidly confessed she has little in common with the person she portrays on Royal Pains. Even more, Reshma wanted to keep her real-life personality traits separate from the fictitious ones possessed by Divya.“I didn’t want to make her like me. Divya isn’t me,” the 32-year-old British-born actress emphatically told Buzzine, adding that Reshma, in real life, is almost the polar opposite of Divya. “With Divya, she is so put together. She’s someone one should emulate to become.”
Yet Reshma said there was one trait both her and her character shared that neither could escape from no matter how much they tried — their respective Indian roots: “We have a common thread in our heritage. My knowledge of being a first-generation Indian and trying to please my family and peers (helped me identify with Divya). I was pre-med in college, but I had a bit of a dream and I knew I would regret it if I didn’t pursue it. Divya is going through the same thing...It’s different when its East meets West. I don’t think people understand the pressures of pleasing your parents. You have to hide things. When I was a kid, it was difficult to go out with boys. I wasn’t allowed to date. It’s being ‘Indian.’ I am sure other cultures get this, but it’s all I know. You are always faced with stereotypes and you have to battle them to put food on the table. All we have is what our parents taught us, and that is to work hard.”
Oddly enough, it was that prickly relationship with her parents — the type where an optimum balance of mutual understanding between Eastern thought and Western lifestyle — was what allowed her to ditch her plans to be a doctor and instead pursue her dreams of becoming a talented actress. It is this same struggle, Reshma says, that Divya endures on Royal Pains — a struggle audiences will probably see more of as the second season unfolds during its 18-episode schedule: “You don’t think like (your parents), and they don‘t see us (their offspring) as Westerners, but they see us as their children,” she explained about the differences in mentality of immigrant Indian parents and their Western-born (and raised) sons and daughters. “No one else will understand that battle.”
While that struggle and battle helped Reshma bring a very real and unique (but still relatable) edge to Divya, the beautiful actress also has personal perspective to apply to her own life. Accordingly, such perspective in real life places Reshma in a very respectable position, as audiences will be able to relate to her both as an actress and as a human being.
It is a perspective that Reshma explained through the development of her personal dreams, putting in context how her acting career came to a tee despite the struggles she faced as an ethnic Indian — a struggle obviously shared by many other ethnicities and cultures: “Nowadays, careers are so important. I grew up thinking you go to med school, go through residency, and that was that. But life is different and doesn’t work that way,” she explained, adding that she only views herself as a “role model” because she is in the public eye (and for no other reason). “I studied through school, (but) ever since I made a choice to (be an actress), I have felt a bit of a role model in the sense that just because you are an Indian doesn’t mean you have to be a doctor or lawyer or engineer to be successful. If you want something, go for it.”
Just be sure not to “go for it” as you are running in place on a treadmill. After all, Reshma clearly made her career happen in the moments between cardiovascular workouts, all because she wanted it badly. Going for it definitely put her on a path to personal happiness and success. Clearly, she urges others to pursue their own dreams so as to prevent their own lives from being a “royal pain.”
Be sure to check out Reshma Shetty as Divya in USA’s Royal Pains, which debuts in its second season on June 3, 2010. The complete first season was made available on DVD under the Universal Studios Home Entertainment banner on May 25, 2010.