Adit Dileep on being multicultural, living truthfully and South Asian representation in Hollywood

Adit Dileep is a Hollywood actor, who grew up in India and Singapore. He is known for his stellar work on award winning film Midnight Delight and more recently, as hip-hop sensation JJ Smooth in Netflix’s Brown Nation.

Filmwallas had a chance to speak with Adit about his experiences as an Indian actor living in NYC.

You graduated from NYU with a degree in Business, but what inspired you to become an actor? Tell us more about any films or actors that attracted you to the art of acting.

It’s always been THE dream for me, I knew the why, but I didn’t quite have the “how” figured out. The combination of being at NYU Stern, right in the heart of NYC, and growing as a person and building my brand and passions did I get closer to the doing. After graduating business school, I trained for this work, and still do. At NYU, I was the secret agent artist no one would expect, and now, I’m doing what I love.

You were born in India, and after, your family relocated to Singapore. Could you share with us your family background? What were your early years of growing up like?

Yes, I was born in Bangalore, India. We moved soon after I was born, but we would visit family in Chennai and New Delhi quite often. I feel a good connection with India, I consider it home away from home. I grew up in Singapore and visited often before attending high school and college in the U.S. I see myself as a third culture kid, someone who doesn’t quite fit in to any one culture, but who’s identity is shaped powerfully by experiences in diverse cultures and communities. I think a lot of people can relate to this today. Those are the stories I want to tell.

How did your family react to your idea of becoming an actor?

After the initial shock, they’ve really grown to love and encourage my career. When I learned that our family comes from the Muthuswamy Dikshitar lineage, one of the pioneers of the Carnatic Music “Holy Trinity,” it confirmed what I have observed for most of my life: we are a family of artists. I’m looking to take us back to where we belong.

You have played a myriad of interesting characters in several works such as the theatre production “Disgraced” and award-winning film “Midnight Delight”. How has your acting journey been so far?

I’ve been lucky enough to work on some really great, well-written roles. Some amazing teams of directors, producers, writers and technical crew. With each new character’s world, I learn more about myself and access versions of me that have an outlet to express themselves. It’s very fun - and very difficult - to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances.

You’re currently in Hollywood and was involved in Netflix Indian sitcom “Brown Nation”. How do you position yourself as an actor in Hollywood? What do you think of South Asian representation in Hollywood?

I think South Asian representation in Hollywood is growing and much more visible than it was even 10 years ago. But there’s still a long way to go, and I’m here to help. Brown Nation was one of the first in a wave of Netflix-generated content for the South Asian market, and it warms my heart to see fans of the show and of JJ Smooth all over the world. I am looking to bring New Age John Steinbeck Hero to Hollywood. Oh, and by the way, he happens to be brown.

JJ Smooth being smooth on set of Brown Nation

As an actor of Indian origin, did you face any challenges? Could you share with us some interesting anecdotes? Have these challenges evolved over the years?

There are definitely challenges, even if the roles exist the chance to get it might go before it’s even auditioned. But with all the challenges, South Asians are on the right path and I think our content, our characters, our storytelling is going to get better and better. When I first signed with my Agency, I went through pilot season with the energy and verve of a recent college graduate: I was determined to book something big and make it to the mainstream before anyone before me. I ended up booking a play in a regional theatre: “Animals Out of Paper” by Indian Playright Rajiv Joseph. The ability to perform for a live audience, 8 shows a week, was the first time I truly lived the life of an actor. It taught me how to build a role for an audience you haven’t met, gave my family a chance to discover live theatre, and taught me the diligence required to make a living in this field.

Adit Dileep as an origami prodigy in theatre production Animals Out of Paper

Any plans of expanding into the Indian —and maybe Asian— cinema?

Yes! I’m involved in a project called Breakfast in Bangalore, and we’re aiming to make it India’s first TV sitcom. Think Modern Family meets FRIENDS, about an Americanized Indian family who moves back to India, and doesn’t know how to handle it! My character’s name is Subu, and he’s not the sharpest tool in the box. It’s a humorous look at cultures crossing and clashing and I can’t wait for people to see it. And absolutely with regards to expanding into Asian cinema, never say never!

What are some other projects you are currently busy with?

Apart from Breakfast in Bangalore, I’ve got some exciting work in VR coming soon too, stay tuned!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now? ?

I see myself building brands across entertainment, fashion, digital media, advertising and environmentally conscious produce and products. The speeding train never jumps its tracks, or else it won’t get to its destination.

Adit Dileep in a jewelry commercial

What do you think about a platform like Filmwallas? How, do you think, digital platforms will transform the current film industry?

I’m excited to work with and help Filmwallas grow. When I met the team in Singapore, I was most impressed by their passion and dedication to put like-minded people together, and I think that will be a powerful tool to build ideas to fruition. I think digital platforms are the future, and they are tied to changing viewing habits of generations build on smartphones and screens. It will be most interesting to see how on-screen affects off-screen reality.