TERRIFIC TV star Jennifer Winget has lit up the small screen with her natural talent and winning personality since her childhood.
A whole generation has grown up watching her in a string of successful serials that helped put Indian television on the global map, turning her into a contemporary role model and iconic style diva.
The strikingly beautiful actress has also become a strong symbol of female empowerment with her work ethic, strong persona and positive outlook on life.
Jennifer is currently starring in Sony Television’s latest prime-time show Beyhadh and is enjoying playing the unpredictable role of the no-nonsense boss lady Maya Mehrotra.
Eastern Eye’s Asjad Nazir caught up with the small screen sweetheart to talk about her remarkable journey, new serial, fashion, inspirations, incredible fan base, what keeps her grounded and more…
How do you look back on your acting journey so far?
It feels like I only just began yesterday. (Smiles) It doesn’t seem long at all. But yes, it’s been simply amazing. I’ve literally grown up on these sets. It’s been an enriching journey, from start to now.
What motivates you?
Self love, because from it stems self-worth and self-respect. It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you’re not. I realised that it wasn’t everyone else’s job to like me, it was my job to do that first! You owe yourself the love that you give so
freely to others. So yeah, when you get that it motivates you enough to work on yourself, for yourself and by yourself.
Which of your many roles has given you the greatest satisfaction?
I could never pick between any characters as they’ve all been distinct and close to my heart at each of their points in time. I’ve immersed myself completely into understanding and living them out on the set every day I came to work. (Laughs) It has always been: ‘See ya later, Jennifer Winget’ the moment I set foot on set.
But thinking of it all now, I think my character Maya in Beyhadh has been the most challenging one to take on so far. But I have to admit I was a little skeptical playing a character with as many layers as Maya!
Why is that?
I work hard to challenge myself and I was due for a shake up. Not all risks are bad for us and I’m glad I took this one. However, I don’t think calling her character negative is really doing it justice.
Maya has her shades of grey as an obsessive lover with an undying passion for everything in life; be it her career or love. We do our fair share of homework researching looks for each of the characters we portray.
With Maya, there’s learning and unfolding a new side of her every day. The show’s been on air for two months now and the excitement hasn’t mellowed a bit. That definitely has got to count for something!
What attracted you to Beyhadh?
(Smiles) Have you been introduced to Maya yet? How could anyone turn that role down? I was really gripped by her strong character and the script. Being part of Beyhadh is surreal for me and it’s still kind of sinking in. The response has been phenomenal and continues to edge on positively, which is so encouraging for not just me but the whole cast
and crew. So yeah, it’s overwhelming! What has the experience of shooting Beyhadh been like?
It’s been a rollercoaster ride of emotions since day one. With Maya, you can never know what to expect. She isn’t predictable and that’s also what draws you to her. I make it a point to get to the sets every day with a clear head, but come back home all heavy and intense on some days.
It’s a constant process of learning and unlearning with this character, and to have that at this point in my career is an absolutely enriching experience.
You are one of the most naturally gifted actresses in India; how do you approach the process of creating a character like Maya?
Most times it’s all about spontaneity. I have to feel what the character is feeling. I don’t really rehearse that much, I can’t actually!
I think it kills the process for me. I try and avoid a lot of takes for a particular shot, because then it tends to get too monotonous and breaks the flow.
What has been the biggest challenge of playing your Beyhadh character?
The subtlety of the emotions she goes through, I think.
Do sky-high expectations ever put pressure on you?
Fortunately, they do the absolute reverse for me. They challenge first, then encourage me twice as much.
What are some of your biggest passions away from work?
Animals, art and nature. I draw a lot of inspiration from them every day! I am currently pursuing quite a bit that goes beyond what I am known for. (Smiles) You will know in time.
It seems like the whole world knows how famous you are except you; what keeps you so grounded?
My roots are mine. I am constantly reminded of them from the constants in my life, my family, friends and my team. Their humility keeps mine intact and their energy keeps me upbeat.
You always remain calm and positive. Where does that come from?
I owe that to my dad, I am exactly like him.
You always look incredible; what are your biggest fashion inspirations?
(Smiles) I come armed with my fab team of style warriors – my stylists, hair and make-up team, my man-Friday, Sameer and my go-to consultant for style and all else, Simone D’Cruz. I owe it all to them! They inspire me every day.
My style sense is alternative, but very personal.
Comfort is key. I like clean, minimalistic and fuss-free clothing. I love my whites, just like Maya, but I can get experimental with colour now and then.
I take inspiration from my travels, be it from fashion runway trends set globally or statement looks from the smallest of villages and tribes in India, rich with heritage.
Do you see yourself launching a fashion line?
Why not? Never say never, right?
You were meant to make the movie to Bollywood. Will that happen still?
It’ll be a little more waiting for us all on that front. But when it happens, I’ll tell you first!
How much do your fans mean to you?
They are the reason why I am, where I am and where I’ll go from here.
What has been your most memorable fan encounter so far?
When all my fans that used to write to me from Dil Mil Gaye met up with me when I was filming in London. It was like meeting old friends.
You have an incredible global fan base, but who are you a big fan of?
Meryl Streep and Mr Amitabh Bachchan.
If you could learn something new, what would it be?
Countless guys love you, but what qualities attract you in a man?
Honesty and confidence!
What is your idea of happiness?
Whatever makes you smile, the little and simple things in life! Indulging and sharing in the joys of those you love, and who love you is pure happiness.
Why do you love being an actress?
I love my work, being involved in the process of creating a show and performing. I get to be so many characters who are all different people and nothing like me.
You also have the opportunity to travel and meet with so many interesting people. You get to share in the talent and stories of other people, including fellow actors; there’s always so much to learn.
Mostly, I love acting because you are blessed with the love and blessings of fans from across the globe, and that makes it the most satisfying job by far.
Finally, a message for your fans?
As clichéd as it may sound, I really want to thank my fans for the kind of love they have for me. I feel like I have this extended family who only want to see me happy and that itself fills me with so much joy; it’s overwhelming at times. Thank you for the continuous, love and support through the years. I am truly grateful.