Sway Bhatia comes from a rare South Asian star who has experienced both the diversity and representation debates.
The Indian-American teenager who grew up in Dubai recalls how being fed a Bollywood diet at a young age influenced her career dreams. With her role in Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, she acknowledges herself playing a key role in inspiring other Desi people of her generation and the next.
“When I was in Dubai, I was surrounded by representation. I was surrounded by people who looked like me,” Bhatia told Gulf News on Zoom. So when I came to America, I think I was confused about where the Shah Rukh Khan poster went.”
Bhatia, whose real name is Swayam Bhatia, plays feisty ice hockey player Sophie Hanson Butt in The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, based on the 1992 film. He has also appeared in the black comedy ‘Succession’ and the Netflix series ‘Master of None’.
She says that when she started her career, she realized that not many people looked like her.
“I was quite young and it took me a while to really understand what that meant. I realized I could express it,” said Bhatia, who loves singing, dancing, ice skating and boxing.
In our conversation, Bhatia displays a clear-thinking betrayal of confidence and youthfulness, about what she wants to do in the future, which is basically everything. The actress talks about when she made Priyanka Chopra cry and what kind of films she hopes to one day direct.
Tell us about the new season of The Mighty Ducks and how your character has evolved from the previous season.
I definitely think season 2 will be very different from season 1. We are in a different environment, at summer camp. I think Sophie has changed too. I think that the degree of perfection as a character is high. She went through a lot in Season 1 and I think she’s taken all the experiences and put them to use in this new team and this new group of friends she recently joined. I think what I love about her is that she can use what she has gone through to help others.
How do you feel about your character now? Do you think she grew up with you?
I definitely feel that I grew up with her. She was 12 when she was first booked for the role, and now she’s 15. And she definitely learned a lot playing her part of Sophie. There are a lot of things about her personality that I myself relate to, and she also learned a few things from her. She’s a very mature character and I think she knows how to assert herself. And I think she also found her own identity in playing her.
You spoke to Gulf News last year. What about your career after that?
I think a lot has happened since last year — obviously Season 2 is one of the big things. Also, I’m just getting older. I am now a sophomore in high school. But in this industry, right now I like to focus on original work, and I think that’s very important to me. I always wanted to be a director. This season, episodes 8 and 9 have allowed us to cast a shadow over the director. Working with Jay Chandrasekhar was a dream come true as I got to experience what I’ve been dreaming of all along. Apart from that, I’ve been working on songwriting, singing, other music and other skills…and season 4 of ‘Succession’ is currently underway.
What projects do you plan to oversee in the future?
I have several favorite genres. I’ve always dreamed of playing a Marvel role. And I think it would be insanely fun to be able to direct something like that. But I think what I’ve been interested in lately is the true story. And breathe life into such stories.
What was the reaction to your character and role?
I have received some really special messages. It’s amazing. I love hearing from the fans and viewers of the show. The main response I get a lot is that your character inspired me to play hockey, or your character inspired me to be myself…and my true identity. I don’t hide it. Those messages mean everything to me. That’s one of the most important things about playing this character, being able to be a model for a strong woman role her, especially the tan hockey player you rarely see.
As a desi person who grew up in Dubai, do you think these things have helped your career?
Growing up, I was lucky enough to be part of the Bollywood industry and I think I was a fan of it, so I had a role model in that field… I don’t think there were a lot of role models. [in the US] Until Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone entered the Hollywood industry.
We were able to go to a South Asian event while filming in LA and Priyanka Chopra was there. And she talked about how she celebrated her 10 nominees from South Asia at that year’s Academy Awards. But I think what she was mostly talking about was how to normalize it.So she said she’ll be 20 next year [nominees]Then I’ll be 30 and keep growing. So I think that’s something I want to keep pushing.
Do you have a moment with a star-struck celebrity?
I think there was actually quite a handful of it… Priyanka Chopra is one of them. It was a perfect circle moment. When I met her at an event in South Asia and I showed her the photo, her eyes were actually watering and Priyanka Chopra was in tears when she saw my photo. It was a moment that really came full circle when I danced in front of her when I was three years old. She’s 14 now and she’s on a TV show on Disney+ and I was telling her how she was a role model to me and I wouldn’t be here without her I think it was a very special conversation.
You act, you play music, you play the drums, you ice skate, and many other things. How do you balance everything?
I believe that everything comes from passion. If you have passion, I think it will come easily. It’s definitely a lot of work, but if you tap into that passion, it becomes a lot easier. My parents never force me to do this. In fact, I let them do more. So I think that’s the most important thing for me. Acting is arguably the most taken over. But what’s so important about all other skills is that you never know what role you’ll get. I was always confused whether to train at the Dubai Mall skating rink… I had no idea that I would later become an actor. When I first auditioned, I remember being very puzzled as to why this happened. Then I went back to my old ice rink and started skating again. All these little things that I do, all of the different skills I have, have taught me how to easily play out as an acting role.
Besides acting, do you have any special talents or hobbies that you are really involved with?
That’s a tough question for sure… aside from acting, I’m really connected to songwriting these days. Composing notes feel like a therapist because you can write down all your emotions through music. I am really connected with music. Just got Apple Music Rewind for 2022 and he’s already played 53,000 minutes. Well, music is like my second language and being able to tell my life story and my emotions through music is the greatest superpower anyone can have.
What is available at Sway Bhatia?
I think a lot. Like I said, I keep training. Perhaps original music someday. directing; writing; new projects I’m starting to work with and people I’m talking to. I think it’s definitely who I am in the future… I’m looking for my dream college and NYU is definitely where I want to go. But for the future, I will go to Dubai soon.
Do not miss it!
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers will stream on Disney+.