The Hundred Foot Journey Interview | Dishing with Manish Dayal #100FootJourney Sit down for a delicious behind-the-scenes look at this actor’s first starring role! Post sponsored by Disney. All opinions are my own.
The Hundred Foot Journey Interview | Dishing with Manish Dayal
(photo credit EnzasBargains/TheCouponista.com)
I’ll be completely honest. I totally wanted to take Manish Dayal home with me after The Hundred-Foot Journey Interview. Ladies, this guy is definitely something very enjoyable to look at while interviewing. But enough dishing about Manish! I got to actually dish with Manish Dayal on his first starring role in this summer’s “feel good” film, The Hundred-Foot Journey movie. He told us about his own journey in making of this epic summer film, advice from Helen Mirren, and the role Jurassic Park plays in his acting history.
Check out our exclusive The Hundred Foot Journey interview!
He’s charming, young and still grasping that he was a star of this movie. But the role of Hassan did not come easily or without it’s challenges. But it all started at the beginning…with Jurassic Park 🙂
Where are you from? How did you get started acting?
I’m from South Carolina. And then how did I start acting? Well, I didn’t go to drama school or anything like that. Like Helen didn’t also– Helen didn’t go to drama school either. So that’s something we sort of connected on. But I ended up pursuing sort of…I’ve always…I saw Jurassic Park. I knew I wanted to be in the business. [LAUGHTER]
I saw Jurassic Park, and that was it. And the minute I saw that movie a light switch went on for me in my head. And my life has never been the same since. And then I was just sort of obsessed with that movie and movies. And I grew up in South Carolina, so literally there was nothing for me to do but watch movies. That’s what I did. And my mom, she has a lot to do with my life. But she picked up on my interest and an unwavering support my whole life. And she encouraged me to take a film class ’cause I wanted to be a director and producer at that point. I thought I still want to do that. But I took a film class, and I was just jazzed. And I just was in love with it. And there’s nothing else I wanted to do until someone asked me to be in front of the camera really quickly for a project, a favor for a friend. And I did that. And it was a really surreal experience, one I won’t forget because I didn’t know what I was doing. I was confused as h*ll. I felt like I was nervous. I felt like I was like falling off a cliff or something. I didn’t know what I was doing. But I understood it. And I felt like I definitely understood it if that makes any sense but also didn’t know what I was doing. And I was having a lot of fun. And so after that I was hooked. And that’s where I sort of started on the whole path to be an actor.
How did you get attached to the project?
It was a really, really funny story actually. I mean I don’t know how much time we have to tell you the whole story. But, um, so I went in for a voiceover audition for an animated feature that DreamWorks is doing. And then that day I went in and one of the people that sort of first =spotted me was Leslie Feldman. And she’s the casting executive over at DreamWorks. And we ended up having this great conversation the whole time we were in this audition, Not auditioning, just talking. And then that night I get a phone call asking if I’d come back in and read for a different project. They wouldn’t tell me the name or anything about it. And then I did, of course. I found out that Steven Spielberg was involved. And so I was like holy sh*t. [LAUGHTER] He’s like a childhood hero of mine, which I’ll talk to you about later.
But, anyway, so I go into this room. And I ended up reading a scene I think 38 times I must’ve read it trying it every different way you can imagine. And then those tapes went to Steven, and Oprah [You can tell that working with them hasn’t really sunk in yet]. And apparently I found out that they were very excited. And then I went in for more meetings and sort of an interview and then more meetings and more meetings and over the course of four and a half months. Then I met Lasse Hallström in New York who ultimately I think signed off. And then I got a phone call the next day saying that Steven wants to hire you. And that’s how it happened. It was a long, long crazy amazing entertaining experience.
What’s it like working with Helen Mirren?
First I should tell you that she’s hilarious, and she has a very, very, crass sense of humor. And I think that’s something we had a lot in common. So we ended up just laughing all the time. And she was telling me stories about her life and how she got started in this business. So it was good to learn from her. Also when we were working, I could see like how she prepares, what her process was like. That was also really cool. So it was an amazing experience. And she also told me something that I won’t forget, which was when you pick movies to do you should just pick them based on how much fun you’re gonna have. So I thought that was really good advice.
Did you meet Oprah?
I did meet Oprah. And, yes, she’s really amazing. She’s all the things that you know about her, she’s that much more incredible. She’s, as you know very giving and generous. But, most specifically, I mean most interesting thing about her is how generous she is with her knowledge and her knowledge of the world and how much she did impart and which things that we talked about on set. So I did get to spend some time with her. And it’s clear to me, and I think all of you guys, of why she’s connected to this story. I mean this is a story about a displaced family that has to sort of find their way in this new place and sort of overcome all these obstacles culturally, racially, in every way. And it’s a real immigrant story. And I think that that’s why she connected to it. And these are the stories that she wants to tell. And I think she did it.
Did you read the book?
I read it before. I read it twice before. I always had it under my arm when I was shooting because there were certain times when, like Lasse’s directing style is the best because it’s– his vision’s always moving, organic. It’s evolving. Things change. Lines get added. Lines get cut. It’s just like this thing that moves all the time. And I wanted to have the book because sometimes if I was unsure about something that I was doing in the movie I would refer to the book. And there was this one line that I remember when I was, I don’t know if you remember the scene where I go to the window and I say, “We’re not visitors anymore. We’re not visitors anymore. If you can’t beat them, join them.” It’s a huge turning point for my character because he’s starting to sort of play the game if you will because he has to do that at several points in the movie in order to reach his point of realization. And at that point I knew that something needed to be said. And the line that was in the script just didn’t make sense. To me it was it wasn’t poignant enough. I flipped open the book, and I saw that line. We’re not visitors anymore. And it spoke to me in a real way because that’s exactly what they’re trying to achieve. They’re trying not to be nomadic anymore. They are trying to settle down. They’re trying to find a life for themselves to survive. And that line completely said it to me. And so I went to Lasse, said this is what I want to say. He said do it. And those are the things that the book brought to me.
How long was filming?
From beginning to end, my first– got the part on June 11th, 2013. And I finished shooting on November 29th, 2013. We started shooting though in July. Like I started doing the screen test with Charlotte in July. We actually started rolling camera in August or September. ‘Cause, we shot the film very quickly. But the process for me from start to finish was a lot longer than that.
How is working on a movie like this different than on a TV set?
Most of my experience is in TV. And I’d say that the coolest thing about working on a movie like this is that I really got to evolve this character myself with the help of Lasse of course. And, you know, really understand where he is in the beginning of the movie as a young man with very few responsibilities, with not much going on except this sort of love or interest in cooking to this grown man in Paris who’s over the span of many years who has these huge conflicts and these really major responsibilities and so much on his shoulders. I think that’s what make it very different that you can really experience that, work through it, figure out how this person changes, evolves mentally, physically, verbally, everything. You don’t get to do on TV as much. And in this movie I got to really sort of see this young man from a boy to a man and how that really evolves.
What scene was the most difficult?
Most difficult scene to film for me was the scene when we’re cooking for the Maison of Mumbai. Around the boning knife. I don’t know if you remember that line. But that scene had to be choreographed in a way because so much is happening in that scene. The stakes are so high. This is a family, that this is their one shot. Papa’s coming here, and he’s having to sort of make a life for his family. The stakes for him are through the roof. These are new immigrants coming to this foreign place. And for me I felt like my character should feel the weight of the world on his shoulders in combination with Papa. And I thought that the scene needed to be very quiet and still. And what made it challenging was the environment around me. You know, we have a huge boisterous family in this kitchen and so much going on and lines and things just flying all over the place. And I just have to really be kind of still and silent and observant in that scene. So I thought that that was pretty challenging.
What foods evoked memories of home?
Well, two things, of my mom, grilled cheese sandwiches. Nobody can make a grilled cheese sandwich like my mother. It’s this one thing. She didn’t do it often growing up. But I remember when she did it it was always late at night for me and my siblings. If we were hungry she would make grilled cheese sandwiches. And she makes them perfectly. And it is something that she does that I really sort of love. And then also, Indian-wise, she makes rice and daal, which is a very simple thing. But everybody makes it differently. That thing about daal is that it is, depending on where you’re from in India where your family originates, daal is a uniform dish. But everybody cooks it differently. Like where I’m from, where we’re raised, which is also where the Hagi’s are also originate in the movie, they put sugar in it. So to me daal should be sweet. But to a north Indian it shouldn’t be, you know? And for us it’s also it’s runnier. And in the north it’s thicker. It just depends. You know, everyone makes it differently. But that’s something that my mom makes. I’m actually going home tonight. I haven’t been home in a while. So hopefully she’ll have it…
What was your favorite dish on set?
The beef bourguignon. That was good. I killed it. [LAUGHTER] I ate so much of it that day. And I remember it was a scene that I was shooting before lunch broke. Afterwards, I couldn’t even eat lunch I ate so much of it. It was really good.
Did your weight fluctuate at all?
It did, yes. It did, it did. I lost a bit of weight for the India portion. I’m not sure how– unless you can tell, but I wanted to make sure that he had sort of a youthful presence, innocence presence, one that sort of void of any sort of complications at that point in the movie. I did lose weight for that portion of the movie. And then I had a normal weight and then lost it for the India portion, which we shot at the shoot.
Do you cook in real life?
So I’ve been getting that question a lot lately. And this is what I would say is no. [LAUGHTER] But, I’ve definitely learned a lot about cooking. And definitely in the movie it wasn’t so much about learning how to cook but more just how to like understand kitchen culture. Because we had to understand how to chop and where to stand and how to move and how to make sure that all of the dishes were effectively made. And I think like that was sort of the challenge in terms of learning kitchen etiquette and stuff like that for the film.
How was the chemistry between you and Marguerite [Charlotte le Bon]?
Well, you tell me. [LAUGHTER]
It was hot and spicy.
There we go. I think it was hot and spicy off too. Like we definitely became “good friends”– no, no, no, no, no. [LAUGHTER] [as he realizes what he just said] What? I think we did have very good chemistry because we were friends. Like we just became friends fast because of her sort of sense of humor. She’ll make any joke and she will say any d*mn thing you can imagine. And I love that about her. I thought she was just very like sort of off the cuff. And we just laughed a lot, and we became sort of pranksters. And it was fun. And so I think that that translated on screen. Also I think what made working with her unique was any time I had a scene with Charlotte I never prepared really. I just knew what I was gonna say. And I understood the tone of the scene and the objectives and things like that. But we never worked before shooting because when we were shooting anything it was just like the weirdest things could happen. And we just had to roll with it. And that’s what made our scenes really alive and I think pumped with energy. With the other actors it was a little more planned. I had to really think about the beats and where things moved and how they ultimately– where we’re starting, where we’re ending. ‘Cause with Charlotte it was just– we– there was no– there was nothing. You just sort of– we just sort of did it. But that’s what made it cool.
It’s such a passionate film. What was the cooking like on set? Did Chef Floyd do the actual cooking on set?
Oh, there were so many chefs on set. There were Indian chefs. There were French chefs, all over the place. Like, um, definitely Floyd was– came in at the– towards the end of the process. But, ultimately it was a combination of many different chefs, many different cooks in the kitchen if you will, especially because we as you saw, we traveled through about four kitchens in the movie. We begin in India. And then we go to a classic French kitchen in the south of France. And then we move to a molecular kitchen in Paris. So it definitely travels, you know?
This next question was the most poignant for me. As an Asian girl living in an American society, it was wonderful to see the relationship and blending of different cultures naturally on-screen.
How did you feel about the interracial aspect?
It’s very interesting. I would have to say two things about that. One, I have no complaints about kissing Charlotte. [LAUGHTER] She’s a French model for God’s sakes. The second part of your question is, you know, it’s funny. I thought about that. But, the one thing that I’ve been really lucky to do in my career is I’ve been able to play, and I don’t know, maybe, I am not sure why this is, but I’ve been able to play an Indian guy in an American experience or in a western experience. And that’s something really unique for south Asians. We’re a very growing, fast growing immigrant community. And I think– one of the fastest actually, economically, socially and so on. But, uh, we haven’t gotten to a point where we are represented in film and TV on the mainstream level. So for me it was a real privilege to sort of be a part of that movement because that’s what this is in my opinion that, you know, an Indian and white relationship is something we don’t see all the time. I did it on 90210. And I don’t know many other storylines on TV or in film on the mainstream level that have that. So I’ve been a part of that twice. And I think that it is a reward, and it is privilege. And it also is something that I hope becomes more common.
What was most surprising about food culture? What do you hope audiences will take from this?
I went into it thinking that the French culture and the Indian culture are completely different. There’s nothing about these two cultures that are similar, until I started working on the movie and really sort of living with these people who were making the movie. And I realized they’re actually distinctly similar unlike any other culture in the world because of their appreciation for food. They both have this sort of like razor sharp appreciation for it that I don’t think any other culture has that I’ve been a part of. And I think that the interesting part about that is that a French kitchen is really structured. It’s very formulaic. There’s a formula for everything. There’s a way to do everything. And there’s a way to stand. And everyone has a skill in the kitchen. And you know your skill by not going beyond your skill. There’s a hierarchy there that’s really respected. And it’s really quite amazing to watch how everyone follows the rules. And it’s like sort of perfect. And the level of respect you have chef, it’s really insane. Then in an Indian kitchen, it’s not like that at all. It’s about however you’re gonna get this thing cooked, and how are we gonna make it happen? And both yield great tasting food. But the cultures in these kitchens is so different. And that’s one of the most interesting things I learned. But they still have the same sort of razor sharp appreciation for cooking and food. It’s just done in a very different way.
What’s the message you want everyone to walk away with?
I would say that this movie, the message that I hope people feel or walk away with is that in order to achieve something great you have to go after life’s uncertainty. And I think that is what I believe this movie is about. It’s about going into the unknown and not knowing what is gonna happen. Going after life’s uncertainty and committing yourself to a higher purpose. For everyone in the movie, not just my character, it’s that way for Om Puri who when he arrives in France, this guy with four kids to feed. Like wow! And, you know, Helen Mirren really trying to sort bring–sort of do away with years and years of culture and experience that she knows. And she’s hardened to it and then sort of loosening that up. That’s tough. So I think everyone has a little bit of a journey. My character really does go after something that is difficult and challenging and not knowing what the result. That is real courage in my opinion. So that’s what I think the movie’s about.
(photo credit Disney)
Seriously, Manish Dayal was fantastic to interview. I definitely felt like I could relate to him on a personal level and he was well, adorable. C’mon! But honestly when he made the point of talking about interracial relationships and how important that is for people to see, I was sold. This movie is more than food, but relationships and cultures and life. So if you’re thinking about seeing this movie, I hope Manish has convinced you. I just love this film and cannot say enough great things about The Hundred Foot Journey Interview.
If you haven’t gotten a chance to read my review on this movie yet, this was by far the most surprising film review I have done to date. Check it out HERE.
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The Hundred-Foot Journey, in theaters starting today August 8th! Who will you take to see this amazingly awesome movie?
Disclosure ~ I received a once in a lifetime trip from Disney to attend The Hundred Foot Journey interview and media press trip. All opinions are my own. Be sure to follow Raising Whasians via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube for more reviews, giveaways and more.