It always makes us happy to meet actors and actresses that make us feel – well – happy. In this day and age more than ever, we really love when art is uplifting, and Bollywood star Ali Fazal – who stars as Abdul across Dame Judi Dench in Victoria & Abdul (coming out in theaters today) – is absolutely a guy who makes your mood altogether better upon meeting him; let alone watching him act. Fazal let us in on quite a lot, including Ms. Dench’s penchant for a fidget spinner, what he used to do with Nutella and the reason why he has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder about eggshells…
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
Breakfast is my favorite meal. It’s the heaviest one, so I can eat away and then hit the gym. I love eggs, lots and lots of eggs. I love my porridge, fruit, sausages, and sourdough toast. I really fill up. And, of course, coffee. I have to start my day with plain Americanos. That would be an ideal breakfast. Lunch would be something light. Maybe soup or some grilled chicken with sautéed vegetables. Dinner would be soup or sometimes pasta. I’m staying in NY, my God, the pasta.
What were your favorite and least favorite foods growing up?
Eggplant, I can’t stand it. Bhindi, ladyfingers. What do you call it? Okra! That’s not going down too well. My favorite foods… I have a sweet tooth. Anything to do with chocolate. I remember as a kid growing up I used to take Nutella jars and I’d finish half of it so I could put a scoop of ice cream inside the jar. Then, I’d mix that and stuff my mouth with it. I love steaks. Maybe that was my reason to come to New York for the first time, to have a good steak!
What was the best advice you received from Dame Judi Dench while filming Victoria & Abdul?
“Learn your lines and don’t bump into furniture.” That’s a famous quote from Spencer Tracy, but that’s what I got from Judi Dench! And every single day just watching her break the patterns, reinvent every single take that she would do. She doesn’t need to. She could sleep through a part and probably still win an Oscar. She’s brimming with energy. So, I observed and I watched.
What was the funniest thing that she said to you, through your time shooting or promoting the film?
It was day one of promotions; I think we were in Venice. We’re sitting at Cipriani and Judi Dench just pulled out a fidget spinner! Just very casually. I don’t even own a fidget spinner! And she pulled it out and she’s teaching me how to spin the wheel. It was hilarious! It was badass.
How is the movie relevant to what’s going on today?
I think knowingly or unknowingly all of us are pulled into the politics of our time because it is in our faces. I think anybody who says they are apolitical or not interested or want to stay away from it is lying to himself or herself. Sooner or later you have to accept it. Especially art. Art is different. It’s not just entertainment. Art reflects your times, today. Even if it’s a film about 40 years down the line or it’s a sci-fi film. This movie in it’s essence talks about the underlying racism, the root of it, that culture differences that existed, the class differences that existed, that people saw people differently. It’s sad that one hundred and thirty years down the line, the costumes have changed but unfortunately people haven’t. I hope that people take something positive from the movie. For once, people are for something as opposed to being against something. We’re always against something. It’s easy to wake up every morning and be against something. I think this movie is for love and for hope.
What’s the issue you feel most passionately about right now, and why?
The world leaders. Trump. It’s so sad. I remember the day he got elected. We were in London shooting and my girlfriend calls me from India almost crying, in tears. Then it hit me how much it affects everybody. We’re not just talking about America or India. Everywhere.
Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?
No! But looking back I used to lie a lot. I used to make up stories and I used to lie since I was a kid. But acting really happened in school. I took sciences and economics. I was a bit of a geek. I also played sports. The day I broke my arm and life was done, as I knew it. I just remember sitting for a month doing nothing. I was depressed thinking I’d never be able to play sports. My friend came to me and said, “Your English isn’t bad. There’s a Shakespeare play happening and there’s this really beautiful girl down there from Canada.” We were in an all boys’ school, a boarding school. So I run to the auditions and somehow got the part. I played Trinculo in The Tempest and she played Miranda. It was this lovely three month romance. I was having my first school romance and I started winning these acting awards and I just loved it. I thought it was the best thing that could happen to me. Just like sports, I had this wonderful sense of discipline.
I think peeling eggshells is the biggest waste of time on this planet.
Your favorite movies growing up…
There’s so many. I grew up on Hollywood films. I was a big fan of Brando. I remember some of the first films I saw were On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire, The Godfather, and Scarface. Chinese Coffee is one of my favorite films with Al Pacino. It’s not a commercial film. It’s based on a play by Ira Lewis. Rain Man, Once Upon a Time in America, Bertolucci films, Hitchcock. It’s endless! I’ve done a lot of movie watching.
What would your last meal be, and who would it be with?
I think I would love to be with my family. That’s the last meal I want to have. Hopefully, I’m chained to Donald Trump so if I’m falling down he’s coming down with me. We’d eat good, homemade Indian food. Galouti kebabs made by my grandmother. The sabzi, the roti, the biryanis. I love my food. There’s no food that matches it.
One weird thing we most definitely do not know about you…
I have OCD. I think peeling eggshells is the biggest waste of time on this planet. It’s a void. It should not be there. Eggshells are wrong. There is nothing productive. God forbid the egg chips while you’re peeling it, it’s done. It’s hell. The whole egg is ruined. I’m sure there are more complex things…
If you could host a dinner party with any five people living or dead, who would be there? What would you cook?
Chaplin, gotta be Chaplin. Gotta be Brando. Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, of course, and Tupac Shakur. Can I add in Muhammad Ali? I’d make them their favorite dishes. I could do that. We could Google that.
Can you create your own quote of the day right here and now? It can be about anything…
“If you want to have the things that other people don’t you’ve got to put in the work that others won’t.” And it rhymes!