Amrit Kaur was glowing. “It’s like I’m doing a Pantene Pro-V ad,” the actress, freshly coifed, said with a flip of her shorter new ’do on a video call from her home in Toronto.
She had gotten too attached to her long hair, she said, “so it’s like, chop it all off.”
Kaur was also fresh off the buzz of Season 2 of the HBO Max comedy “The Sex Lives of College Girls,” in which she plays an eye-on-the-prize aspiring comedy writer trying to navigate messy campus romances and cringe-worthy social climbing. The series, which has been renewed for a third season, has taught her “how to become funny,” she said.
This year, Kaur pivots from college calamities on TV to a mother-daughter story on film. Tentatively titled “Me, My Mom & Sharmila,” it focuses on a Pakistani Muslim woman and her Canadian-born daughter, who come of age in different eras but share an obsession with Bollywood. Kaur, who is also Canadian, plays the daughter as well as the mother in her youth, which at times has meant shooting one character in the morning and the other in the evening.
“I got to stretch myself artistically and learn a new language,” she said of Urdu. “It’s very vulnerable.” The film will make the festival rounds in the coming months, headed for release later this year or early 2024.
On a cold winter day after her return from filming in Pakistan, Kaur talked about her elaborate chai fixings, a return to her faith and escapism in reality TV. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
I wake up after being mean to my alarm a couple of times. Finally, by the third time, I’m like, fine, you’re right, I should start my day. I do morning pages, which is stream-of-consciousness writing. The days I need to do it the most are the days I resist. Then I’ll get up and listen to Japji Sahib, which is a morning prayer, and then I have my chai. I have a cupboard in my kitchen just for chai spices. Every day I wake up, and I’m like, what do I want today? What does cardamom go well with? Do I want fennel seeds? Do I want ginger? That’s really nice. Some people have that with coffee. For me, it’s chai.
I’ve been studying at the Lonsdale Smith Studio in Toronto for six years now, continuously. I take classes, even while on set, every Sunday. When I’m not on set, I’ll take class a couple of times a week. It’s a religious place for me. Acting class in many ways was my first religion. In Pakistan, I took class from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., virtually.
A Special Piece of Paper
I have this paper, which you’re supposed to keep in your pocket, but I keep it in my bra so that it’s closer to my heart. The paper holds an exercise we did in acting class where you write down three things that are true of yourself that you don’t wish to be true. The whole idea is to come to terms with and face the parts of myself that hurt the most, or that I don’t like, to come into consciousness of who I truly am.
I aspire to be far more in touch with my faith. I think it’s in my nature to be quite devoted; it’s in the bones of who I am. When I found out I’d be going to Pakistan, there were so many messages that I needed to go on a pilgrimage. I went first to Nankana Sahib on the border of India and Pakistan, which is the birthplace of Guru Nanak, the creator of Sikhism. People who are Muslim and Hindu still go to show him respect, and I think that is so telling. I stayed overnight, spoke to the priest and learned so much about my culture and my history.
I’ve never been a gift giver. I love it now. I’ve always had a dream of giving my mother a beautiful gold jewelry set — and it’s now off my dream list. One of the questions I asked the priest was, “What is the purpose of money?” And he said, “It’s about giving it away.”
One of my dreams is to create a school in Hoshiarpur, the city where my dad is from in India, for girls who don’t have the opportunity to study. My artistic vision is to be part of a future where girls are not living in oppression and to be part of relaying that message. I’m going to be doubling down on writing and creating my own material to inspire women and girls to be their true selves, to be big and bold in the world.
In the last year I’ve been to New York, California, Nova Scotia, Italy, Istanbul, Karachi, Lahore and more. I’m really lucky and grateful that I’ve been able to travel. The dream is to be an international artist, and I’m working toward that, telling stories and working with artists in different parts of the world.
‘Super Soul Sunday’
I religiouslylisten to “Super Soul Sunday,” Oprah’s podcast, when I’m running. All these thoughts are going through my head, and I’m like, “I’m going to get through it, I’m going to run through it. Yes, Oprah, tell me!” It’s so powerful to run through the wind and listen to all of these people who have so much insight into life.
WhatsApp is a very Indian thing, I think. I use it so much that now all my Canadian friends are on it. It’s just so much easier because I travel so often. And I love looking at people’s faces. I’m a very big video caller.
I love to watch “90 Day Fiancé,” “Too Hot to Handle” and other trashy shows. When I’m on vacation, that’s my favorite thing to do, just lying down on my couch with my best friend, getting all the chocolate on Uber Eats, watching all of these people behave so badly and not having to think.