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Malaysian actress Shiva Kalaiselvan is a rising star in Hollywood

Writer: Heidi Hsia

We hope Shiva can make it big like Michelle Yeoh
We hope Shiva can make it big like Michelle Yeoh

2 Aug – Did you know that Michelle Yeoh is not the only Malaysian-born actress around in Hollywood?

There is another female in town, and her name is Shiva Kalaiselvan.

The Manhattan-based KL actress-producer, who has starred in "Charmed" and "The Originals", first made it big through the 2018 series, "Gotham", playing the role of Lelia.


"I don't exactly know what I would call the feeling. It's more than happy or joyous," she said in an interview in 2018 upon accepting the offers to play the Batman villain. "You dream of opportunities like this in this business, and you have an idea of what it is going to be like when you get it. But it's more than that. I couldn't have imagined this experience."

Aside from the these shows, she also has a role in the 2020 movie, "A Nice Girl Like You", and created, wrote and produced "Tuesday Nights", a six-episode web series first released in 2019.


Shiva fulfilled her parents wish that she gets her degree first before becoming an actress


Shiva as Lelia in "Gotham"

Prior to returning to performing arts, Shiva was an investment banker who worked in Milwaukee, Chicago and London, admitting that she thought that was what her parents wanted when they told her to "get a degree first". However, she has always wanted to be an actress, which is how she ended up coming back to it.

"Three years into [investment banking], there was this burning feeling in your heart, at the back of your head... I told my mum I want to do acting, and she said, 'Okay, I told you you have to get a degree first, and now you can do whatever you want'," she said.

Shiva stated that she didn't leave right away, but continued with her job until she was forced to leave it due to the US economic recession in 2008.

"I still don't know if I know how to answer it precisely, but I think it's the chance to tell the story, and not necessarily mine," she said, when asked why she chose acting. "Every time you get to touch people's lives, it makes it all worthwhile. Sometimes people don't care about your story and that's fine. But you learn."


Shiva is currently based in Manhattan

As to why she decided to go to the US to become an actress, Shiva said that she had the opportunity due to the fact that she studied acting in Columbia University, and was able to get an agent and a manager. However, it still took her two years before making it to her first Hollywood show.

"In those two years, I think I got 300 Nos before I got that one Yes. It's a lot," she added.

Among the challenges that Shiva had to face was the fact that she did not have the look for a specific type of role.

"Specific parts it might be hard for me to go to. Certain parts want a black person, but I'm not black. Certain parts want a very Indian, but 'oh, she's not very Indian'. Sometimes they don't know where to put me, so it makes sense that my first three roles is a witch, an assassin, and a Wiccan-like [character]. I enjoy it, but for casting agents, they don't know what to do with me now," she said.


Shiva as Katrina in "Charmed"

As to her advise to those who wants to make it big abroad, whether it's too become an actor or other things, she said, "You just got to pack up and do it. You can't think too much about it. If you're too aware of everything that can stop you, you won't do it. You have to just get it done, even if you fail. You have more stories to tell when you fail anyway. If you want to do it enough, you will get it done."

Right now, Shiva is a part of the third season of NBC's "New Amsterdam", which has begun airing since March. The actress plays Leyla Shinwari, a Pakistani doctor who comes to the US to start anew.

The talented actress is currently based in Manhattan.


Shiva currently stars as Leyla in "New Amsterdam"

Cinema Online, 02 August 2021



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