On Location: Behind “Three Veils”


Looking for Nikki
After two years of raising the money we needed, and putting in some of our own to cover the rest, it was time for casting. The great thing about not having big investors is you have no one to answer to except yourself. So I had complete and total freedom when it came time to selecting the cast and crew.

We went through Dream Big Casting in L.A who were just excellent in working with us to achieve what we were looking for. We had to find the perfect lead actress to play the character of Nikki, a young Iranian-American who is acting out her promiscuities as she battles her own demons after a tragic death in the family. During the film she meets the devoutly Muslim Amira. Nikki’s magnetic and lascivious character awakens Amira’s repressed feelings towards women, and Amira’s kind and tender nature bring Nikki back to a safer and more secure time in her life. A co-dependency is struck, as well as unmistakable sexual attraction.

From the moment Sheetal walked through the door I knew she was our Nikki. I had known her from her previous films American Chai, and Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, and being a good After Ellen.com-er, I of course loved her two most recent smashes I Can’t Think Straight and The World Unseen. I told the casting agents to immediately stop any future searches for Nikki, and to do whatever they could to bring Sheetal on board. I did not want anyone else to play the role of Nikki. When it was confirmed that she would be willing and available, I knew the project would take off.

Up close and personal, Sheetal-style
So now comes the part where I find out from Sheetal what her experience was leading up to the role, and what it was like in Nikki’s skin. Keep in mind I’ve never asked her these questions before, so I am eager to hear what she has to say. OK, here we go:

Rolla Selbak: So Sheetal, why did you decide to take on my film Three Veils?
Sheetal Sheth: The script. Truly. I had goose bumps when I read it and that rarely happens. The writing was special and everything about Nikki appealed to me. Her heart, mostly, and why she struggled so deeply. I wanted to tell her story and be a part of this film.

RS: I never asked you this before, but what was the hardest part about making the film? 
SS: The hardest part? Probably that we shot it in pieces. For the readers, let me elaborate a bit. We shot about a week every month for three months. It was a logistical thing as we only had access to certain equipment at these times, but it does make it challenging to stay connected when you are in and out like that. Especially when you have other things happening in between. On the other hand though, Nikki was a part of me for a long time and I could really sit with her and explore. 

RS: And Nikki is certainly a handful to keep up with for three months! I must say I couldn’t be happier with the performance. Was there a personal connection you felt with the character Nikki?
SS: I felt very protective over her. My heart broke for her and I can understand feeling lost and alone. We all obviously handle it differently but I did connect with her vulnerability. There’s something beautiful and tragic within it.

RS: Were you anxious about the intimate scene between you and Angela Zahra, and any backlash that would come with that? (Especially considering that she’s a high-profile actress from Syria, and the first actress from the region to participate in a scene such as this.)
SS: As far as backlash, I am no stranger to it.

RS: Really? I hasn’t noticed, LOL!
SS: LOL! I have gotten used to it. I seem to always be naive about such ‘controversies’ as I don’t see things that way. I say, bring it. Let’s talk about whatever it is that’s “bothering” you. One of the best parts of making films is the hope to stir something in someone that could hopefully lead to the better. 

RS: Yes indeedy. (Can we please cut that “indeedy” part? It just slipped out). What was the best part of making this film? 
SS: Working with everyone, the cast and the crew. And now, meeting people who are moved by the film after watching it for the first time. For me, I hope to be in movies that not only entertain, but impact, and this one seems to be doing that!

RS: OK, last question. You have some of the most loyal fans I have ever seen, how do you do it?
SS: All I know is that they mean so much to me and I truly appreciate the love and support. I love interacting with them and hearing their stories. I learn all the time and am a better person because of them. xx

And there you have it, Sheetal leaving her fans with double-kisses. Always the charmer.

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