Interview by Zara Rawoof
Science fiction first dominated television in the early 2000’s. More than twenty years later, the genre still has viewers obsessed. It’s not a surprise that “The Winchesters” ranked as CW’s most-watched debut this fall. A spin-off of the hit show “Supernatural”, the new series is a prequel that tells the story of John and Mary Winchester during the 70s.
As much as young viewers are obsessed over the hybrids and monsters that have infiltrated the media, many of these shows in the past have lacked diversity and centered around a mainly white circle of characters. Nida Khurshid stars as Latika in “The Winchesters”, a hunter-in-training part of the core group. “[Latika] is very much the brains of the operation right now,” Khurshid explains, “She's a really big asset to routine, but she's really trying to figure out her part. Does she need to actually fight to be a hunter, or can she continue supplying information?” A fan of “Supernatural” herself, the actress remembers what it was like acquiring this part. “It was unbelievable when I first got the call. It was wild from day one because this was exactly the sort of show I would want to be on. I mean, I love “Supernatural” and shows in general that have that theme. I love when you can escape through magic on television and movies and still have characters that have so much heart to them.”
Khurshid’s own affinity for the fantasy and science-fiction world brought to life by shows and books helped shape the woman she envisions Latika to be. Her character on “The Winchesters” contains elements from both J.K. Rowling’s Hermoine Granger and Keira Knightley’s portrayal of Elizabeth Swann from “The Pirates of the Caribbean '' franchise. Well versed in the genre, Khurshid knows the draw to the magical world so many fans feel. These werewolves and mythical beasts find strength in what makes them stand out. “They're using what makes them feel different as something that is going to change the world for the better,” Khurshid explains.
Khurshid is extremely honored to represent her Pakistani heritage on the show. Citing Alia Bhatt and Mindy Kaling as some of the few women who served as South Asian representation to her, Khurshid acknowledges that the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry was a draw for her. “I love creating, and I want to be a familiar face to people who are watching television,” the actress says. Finding the balance between representing Latika’s background without letting her ethnicity define her was a challenge made easier with the help of showrunner and writer Robbie Thompson. Khurshid praises the creators of “The Winchesters” for their collaborative spirit, allowing her to come on board in the process of bringing Latika to life. With parents who experienced The Partition of India, it was important to think about how the character’s heritage shaped her into who she became. Khurshid describes Latika as, “a pacifist, and she is a pacifist for many reasons, but one of them is because her dad grew up talking about the war and it was something that really deeply affected him. [Latika] doesn't want violence to be the thing that solves problems.” As a character who operates logistically rather than hunting out the demons that threaten humanity, Khurshid explains Latika’s actions with the Pakistani experiences of her family. In a sense more apparent on-screen, Khurshid knows that her character is also just “a brown girl in the south in 1972 just trying to fit in.”
Nida Khurshid relates to Latika in that sense, by immigrating herself to a small town in Texas from Pakistan. The arts were a way for Khurshid to express herself, noting that she was very shy in the environment she grew up in. Her mother could see the need that Khurshid had to release something in her, and enrolled her five-year-old in ballet classes. Dance is still something Khurshid uses as an outlet as much as she can. “I was more of a quiet observer throughout my childhood, and ballet was such a great outlet for me to storytell without having to be super vocal and jazzy about it,” she reflects. But Khurshid found herself yearning for a voice by the time she graduated high school, and swiftly moved to L.A. in pursuit of professional success.
Khurshid cites her mother as the backbone to who she is now, supporting all of her dreams from the start. When Khurshid first decided that wanted to head out of her farm town for the City of Angels, she wrote her mom a letter encapsulating the passion she felt for acting. Her mom agreed that Khurshid should “give it a go”, allowing the young girl to explore the ins and outs of the entertainment industry.
Reflecting on her beginnings as an actress, Nida Khurshid knows how hard it is to find yourself as a young woman while also playing the parts of someone else. Throughout the journey of self-identity, Khurshid knows the importance of maintaining an authentic persona while also trying to figure out your career. Khurshid advises that during auditions, actors should remain fully themselves. While the scripts you read “are beautiful words written by insanely talented writers, it's your job to bring them to life authentically in a way that sits well with you,” the actress says. When it comes to rejections, Khurshid appreciates the denial that comes her way. “Thank you for that ‘no’, because a ‘yes’ that’s more aligned with me is coming,” she says.
During her periods of waiting, Khurshid kept her creative spark alive with culinary interest. “I felt like I could really pour my creativity into [cooking]. I love that you can start your day by creating something that's going to be nutritious, feeding yourself, feeding your body, but doing it in a fun and creative way.” Taking it a step further, Khurshid combines poetry with cooking in a cookbook she is working on in between jobs.
No matter what the actress is doing, she immerses herself completely into her art. Keeping her mind and soul vibrant, Khurshid finds artistry in all she does. “I like to be really present and listen and let every tape be slightly different, and I also feel like it's really important to have a side practice to help you achieve that creative, free, creative flow state. And for me, I have cooking, dancing, or all these things where I do feel physically and mentally free. I feel like those helped me on set even more so.”