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In The Mix
August 02, 2017

Nice Guise

Living an everywoman life.

Paula Hendrickson
  • Francis Hills

Strangers often recognize Sakina Jaffrey, yet seldom place her.

“They think I go to their gym. They think they met me at the wedding they went to last week. They have no clue,” says the actress, who was seen this past season on NBC’s Timeless and recently had recurring roles on such series as House of Cards and Mr. Robot. “And they insist they don’t watch television!”

Jaffrey loves it. “I think knowing that Linda Vasquez [White House chief of staff on House of Cards] is also Mindy Kaling’s mom [on The Mindy Project] has really thrown people for a loop,” she says. “As Mindy’s mom I look different, have an accent and am a huge character. In the first episode I did, she’d gone back to become a Bollywood star — at her age! — which was really absurd. But I love the fantasy life of someone like that.”

The native New Yorker is of Indian heritage — her father, Saeed Jaffrey, was a beloved sitcom star in England; her mother is actress and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey — but she has avoided being typecast.

She credits growing up in the artsy Greenwich Village of the ‘70s with her mother and stepfather (violinist Sanford Allen, the first African American to play in the New York Philharmonic) with her acting success.

“My friends were Jewish, black, Puerto Rican — one was even a mobster’s daughter. It was pure Greenwich Village,” says Jaffrey, who also lived in India briefly. “I’m representing all of them, my family, my friends. I think that’s why I slip into characters so easily.” On the time-travel drama, Timeless — which did not receive a season-two pickup — Jaffrey played Homeland Security agent Denise Christopher.

“At one point we got a chance to go home with her and see that she’s very attached to her children, is very committed to them and is in a very loving relationship, which just happens to be a lesbian relationship. There doesn’t have to be a context for it — it’s just life.”

And life doesn’t always include a series renewal. But this actress finds ways to lighten the mood. “I love to laugh,” she says, “and I’m very huggy.” 

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 5, 2017

EDITOR'S NOTE: After this article went to press, NBC reversed its decision and gave Timeless a full season 2 renewal.

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