DUBAI: British star Jameela Jamil has been hitting the press circuit promoting her latest show — and it’s something new for the TV actress.
Jamil, who was born to a Pakistani mother and an Indian father in London, is starring in a new Disney Junior series, in which she voices the aunt of a headstrong young detective.
Set to be released on March 20, “Mira, Royal Detective” features a smart, resourceful lead character, entertaining sidekicks, and a bright, colorful animated environment, filled with song and dance.
The cartoon incorporates the cultures of India and centers around Mira, a young girl who is named by the queen of fictional Jalpur as, yes, you guessed it, the royal detective. She’s got friends and relatives who help her solve her cases, along with two chatty mongoose sidekicks.
The actors voicing the recurring and guest characters include a who’s who of South Asian talent, like Kal Penn, Freida Pinto, Utkarsh Ambudkar and Jamil. The voice of Mira belongs to 16-year-old Leela Ladnier in her first professional role, The Associated Press reported.
“I would say this is a pretty good start” to a career, Ladnier said. The show has been a reminder of “how beautiful our culture is and I’m really excited to share that with the public.”
For her part, Jamil, who plays the role of Pushpa, took to Good Morning America last week to explain why she is proud of the show.
“It’s incredible. The whole time I was growing up I would see, perhaps, white actors playing my people … to now be part of a story where we are showing a different type of beauty and culture … is so important.
“And also, it’s a girl who’s not just waiting for a prince to sweep her off her feet, she’s the protagonist, she’s the hero.”
From the start, the intent was to make the show as true to its Indian inspiration as possible, said Sascha Paladino, the executive producer.
“We wanted it to feel authentic,” he told The Associated Press. “The biggest piece of that in terms of authenticity was making sure we included as many South Asian voices in the process as possible.”
That means writers, designers, musicians, a cultural consultant and even seeking the input of the people working in the animation studio in India that did some work on the project.
For Penn, who plays Mikku, one of the mongooses, being part of the show is a thrill. He’s excited for people like his young nephew to have a show like this and other diverse offerings on television.
“This is going to be a generation of kids for whom this is going to be normal,” he said. “They don’t carry the emotional baggage or institutional memory of what it was like for us growing up with a lack of content on TV, they just don’t have that.”