Supinder Wraich is an actress and filmmaker whose original series, The 410, will make its three-part premiere on CBC Gem this May 2019.
Close-up Culture’s James Prestridge spoke to Supinder about the series similarities to The Godfather, telling stories about the Indo-Canadian community, writing and playing a particularly personal character, and much more.
Q: I’ve heard ‘The Godfather’ and ‘The Sopranos’ mentioned in relation ‘The 410’. Can you give us a taste of what we can expect? And, tell us where your inspiration for the series came from?
A: The inspiration for the show came from real world events within the Indo-Canadian community. Similar to The Godfather – in that the creation of that iconic figure and storyline came during a time where the Italians were still a new immigrant group to America and fighting for a position in that society. I would argue that the new waves of immigrants in Canada (Indian/ Chinese/ Middle Eastern, etc.) are in that same battle for equal footing in a new country.
A few years ago I began to notice a reoccurring narrative in the Indo-Canadian community where South Asian truck drivers were arrested at several borders for attempting to traffic narcotics. I imagined the lives of those truck drivers: what aspirations drove them to commit those crimes: money/ power/ social rank.
I wanted to dramatize that experience so I took inspiration from what was happening and wrote about a fictional family, where the father is arrested for attempting to smuggle cocaine into Canada, and his daughter moves back to Brampton to help take care of her grandmother, eventually falling into her father’s footsteps to raise enough money for his bail.
Q: How important and exciting for you was it to write a story that features the Indo-Canadian community and a female protagonist?
A: It’s very exciting to align ourselves with iconic family crime dramas like The Godfather, and The Sopranos while also highlighting specific and unique attributes of the Indo-Canadian community and challenging them at the same time. The fact that it’s a young South Asian daughter taking the patriarchal throne, we hope will encourage a dialogue about traditional male/female roles in the Indo-Canadian community.
Also, it was very important for me to write not just a female protagonist, but a South Asian female anti-hero. So often as an actor, the characters I’m asked to play were very much written as a ‘good girl, educated, follows the rules’ sort of archetype. I wanted to play a lead character that was messy, and nuanced and troubled and often you don’t see those roles cast with South Asian women, so I wrote it for myself.
Q: The series also allowed you to address important issues within the South Asian community. What did you want to shine a light on in ‘The 410’?
A: First off, I don’t think any community is issue free. If I were to say here that the important issues I want to address are trafficking/ addiction/depression, those subjects would resonate with any cultural group. What I do believe is that for the Indo-Canadian community their experiences with these issues have not been given a venue to be explored, or examined.
Our aim in producing a series about the South Asian Community for the CBC that addresses a strained father/daughter relationship, addiction, imprisonment, suicide, dealing drugs, etc. is that it’ll shine a light on things we’ve felt the need to hide. That it’ll help us feel less alone, less ashamed, and maybe even bring us together.
Q: Can you give us more insight into your character on the show? Does your approach to a character change when you are the one who has conceptualized/written the part?
A: The character I wrote/ play is Suri Deol. She’s a Insta-Celebrity wannabe, when we meet her, she’s living in Toronto and dons blonde hair and blue contacts, and is running from the fact that she’s in fact Indian, and from Brampton.
In a sense, I think Suri’s attributes are my own personal desires, and fears and insecurities magnified on screen. I was born in India and moved to Canada when I was four years old. I had to take ESL classes when I started going to school and for a long time, just wanted to fit in, which meant trying to be less Indian.
They say ‘write what you know’ so I put a lot of myself into Suri and I was afraid that when I was done writing, I would have to play her. Since a lot of her inner life was so close to mine, I was worried it would be too close or that I wouldn’t be able to do the usual character analysis I undertake as a part of my personal craft.
But the truth was that it came pretty easily. Since we didn’t have a lot of time between when I finished writing to when we went to camera, I actually wasn’t able to fit in much character prep, but because I had spent so much time with Suri, she kind of just came through me. Which was a nice lesson to learn in terms of trusting myself and my instincts.
Q: Can you tell us about some of the other people involved in helping make this show a reality?
A: There are so many wonderful souls that helped us sew this project together, I might need an entire article to go through everyone who made a significant different in helping us get to this point!
Here’s a list in terms of the chronology of how the series came together and who was involved at each step: The first most important person was our Executive Producer at Mad Ruk Entertainment, Matt Power. I took the idea for the series – the synopsis and a draft of the script – and he brought it to Mad Ruk and we began the process of trying to secure some funding.
Gave Lindo, who was the director at The Reelworld film festival put us forward as ReelWorld’s selection for Telefilm’s Microbudget fund. Luckily we were chosen. Then Renuka Jeyapalan (our director and fearless leader) agreed to come on board!
Around that time, my friend Anya Mckenzie, who I had met while I was at the CFC helped us get a meeting with the CBC. There we met Mélanie Lê Phan and Zach Feldberg who look after production for CBC Digital series and were familiar with me as an actor through Mike Clattenberg’s series Crawford and Renuka had directed Kim’s Convenience and Workin’ Mom’s for them and they were excited about two strong females collaborating and decided to license the show for CBC gem. Once we got the green light we brought the rest of the team on board.
The talented Ian Macmillan shot the show and established our look, and we filled the screen with an extraordinarily talented diverse cast including Cas Anwar from The Expanse, Jade Hassouné from Shadow Hunters, Hamza Haq from Indian Detective, Balinder Johal from Beeba Boys, and Sarena Parmar from How to be Indie to name just a few of them!
Q: This is the another big step for you in your career. How do you reflect upon your journey from the Sawitri Theatre Group to making series for CBC?
A: The journey has been up and down, and sideways and back. But the nice thing is that overall it’s been in perpetual forward motion.
When I was at Sawitri, which is a wonderful community group focused on telling South Asian stories, I just wanted to get a real paid acting job. And then I booked a few commercials and I thought it would be wonderful to be able to travel for work, and that happened, and up until now, I only dreamed that I’d write something and it’d end up getting produced, and now that’s happened.
I think next, I’ll just focus on what I think is impossible to accomplish and see if we can knock that wall down as well.
Q: What are your hopes for ‘The 410’? and for your future more generally?
A: My hopes, like every creators hopes when they finish one season arc I think, is that I get to do it again with a second season. Really this season for The 410 is like a prequel to Suri’s story.
My hope for the future is that I get to keep on playing nuanced, characters, and that if they’re not offered to me, that I continue to write the parts that I want to play.
Title photo by Dan Robb