Casting the Impossible: Finding Henry
Meet Sushma Saha, the young actor who is the beating heart of Interstate. A talented performer starting their junior year at Ithaca College, Sushma tells us why playing Henry, a 16-year-old transgender South Asian teen from Kentucky struggling with his identity, feels like a dream.
NAME: Sushma Saha
PREFERRED PRONOUNS: She/Her/Hers and They/Them/Theirs
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN ACTING?
I've been singing and dancing my whole life, but I got into acting and theatre when I started middle school!
WHERE HAVE WE SEEN YOU BEFORE?
I was in Ithaca College's productions of Cabaret (Victor) this past spring and In the Red and Brown Water (Aunt Elegua) in the fall. I also did a regional production of The Amish Project (America) at Open Stage of Harrisburg a couple of years ago. And starting mid-May, if you go to a Regal Cinema near you, you'll see me alongside other theatre students from Ithaca College in a new Coca Cola commercial made by student filmmakers from IC!
WHY DID YOU SAY YES TO INTERSTATE?
Being POC and queer/genderqueer, I am a huge advocate for all the representation that there can be in the future of theatre, and seeing as many diverse stories told as possible. As an Indian person who looks "ethnically ambiguous" and "straight-passing", it's more often than not where I am playing races I am not born under, and simply filling a "melanin quota" for a show. It's a challenge to get work that feels fulfilling and truthful to people like me. So to hear about a show like this that tells a story not only about a transgender South Asian teenage boy who is sweet and quirky and determined and passionate and vulnerable, but also about queer Asian people in music who are affecting the world? If I didn't audition for this show, I would've been majorly missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime, and to be the one to say yes to being a part of Interstate as Henry feels like a dream.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT INTERSTATE?
On top of the mad Asian, Indian, and vast queer representation that I love, I love how the story doesn't hide from certain truths and realities of the POC and LGBTQ+ community that may be uncomfortable for audience members to learn about and witness on the stage. But they've got to be shared!
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR CHARACTER HENRY?
I love how empathetic Henry is. Throughout his arc in the show, as hurtful as it is, it is so clear to see how much everything that people say or do to him affects him, from his bullies calling him names to the expectations his parents put on him. He feels everything so deeply. But as much as a curse his empathy can be, it is also a gift, because it led him to start video blogging and sharing his experience to hopefully help people like him, like Queer Malady helped him!
ANYTHING ELSE YOU WANT TO SHARE?
When I began taking acting classes in middle school, my first acting teacher literally sat my class in a circle and told us one by one what kind of roles we would play in our careers. Every white girl and boy was told they would be a leading lady/man for life, and me and the two other people of color were told we would forever be the "sidekicks". After that year, I never took a class from her ever again. Because I knew I was the protagonist of my life, and every person who doesn't fall under the European, heteronormative, cisgender standard should also feel they are the leading character of their own life! If we continue to speak up and make our stories heard like Melissa and Kit have done with Interstate, we will continue to have our narratives be recognized, which will in turn improve upon the narrative of the world!