Interview

Actress Nazneen Contractor Discusses Ransom, Her Career And What She Does To Stay In Shape

To say Ransom star Nazneen Contractor is a world traveller would be understating things just a little bit. The 35 year old actress was born in India, raised in Nigeria, London, England and Toronto, Canada, and currently lives in Los Angeles. She’s starred in TV on 24, Heroes Reborn, as well as the films Star Trek: Into Darkness and Roman J. Israel, Esq.. We caught up with her while she was in Budapest to talk a little bit about her current TV series Ransom, her career and what she does to stay in shape.

Real Style: Tell us about your character in Ransom.
Nazneen Contractor: I play Zara Hallam. She was a former NYPD cop, who gets recruited by Eric and the Crisis Resolution Team. She is the lead investigator and security expert of the team. She often liaisons with the cops, and she is the moral compass of the team, in the sense that she is very much in the pursuit of justice, and right over wrong. She is a very straightforward woman. 

RS: How did you prepare for the role?
NC: I played a lot of cops before, so that was the easy part. What was fascinating about this role was the psychological elements behind the show, and that is the fact that none of our characters carry guns, we use our words to get ourselves out of these situations. To prepare for that, I read a bunch of books. The most recent one I read for Season 2 was On Emotional Intelligence by The Harvard Review Board. It’s a fantastic book on how to read people and reason with them, and essentially get what you want out of them, which is what we do on our show. We are also very fortunate because the people who the show is based upon, Laurent Combalbert and Marwan Mery, are actually around. We were able to meet them  and talk to them. Some of the stories on our show are actually from their own case histories. We were able to get a lot of information from them, and they were invaluable resources.

RS: You studied theatre, but you also studied psychology and sociology. Do you draw upon those disciplines when figuring out your character?
NC: I draw upon those disciplines when I am figuring out any character. That’s what really appealed to me when I was studying those in university, this could totally help my acting career!

RS: You’ve been a part of several long-running TV series. What draws you to TV?
NC: I like to do film and television. I try to make a movie every year, but TV has just gotten so good lately and so dynamic, and it’s really changed the landscape, especially in the last five years. It’s become far more dynamic, interesting and provocative. You have all these great scripts that come out that you want to be a part of. You really have room for your character to grow. On this season in Ransom, I had another baby, and they wrote it into the show. My character grew exponentially, you got to see her pregnant on the show, and then having her third kid on the show. You don’t always have room for that in movies. Movies are great because you have more time to shoot them, but then they are done. A TV show can go on for a while, and you can dig your heels deep into that character. I try to never let myself be limited or pigeonholed, so that’s why I try to work in as many different mediums as possible, and playing as wide variety of roles is possible. That’s what makes it fun, and really enjoyable. Who wants to do the same thing over and over again? That’s not why I became an actress. 

RS: Did it make it difficult to be pregnant on the show, or is it something that you have gotten used to?
NC: I really think that pregnancy is not a handicap. I am really glad that they wrote my pregnancy into the show. Obviously, I was very fortunate to have an uncomplicated, healthy pregnancy. I was fortunate to feel great, to see Zara just doing her job while she was pregnant. I was eight months pregnant filming the show. I think that sends a very positive message, to show both men and women, how to be on the screen, but also in the industry. A lot of women are discouraged from becoming pregnant, because they can’t work, and in a lot of cases, that is true. The show handled it very well, in the sense that they would mention it every now and then, but it was never the focus of my character, or the focus of a storyline. It was always just the circumstance that was in the story, or situation that was in the story. I’m really proud of the way that writers handled that.

RS: What do you miss about living in Toronto?
NC: There’s a lot I miss about Toronto. I miss the urban environment that an East Coast city provides; I like sort of a collection of suburbs. I miss walking places, taking the transport; I miss my friends and my family, obviously first and foremost. It was our home first, and it’s a place that we really enjoy. We love the city, we love the restaurant scene, we love being there for TIFF. It’s a great place. The only thing I don’t miss is the winter!

RS: What do you do to stay in shape?
NC: There’s a lot of stuff shooting in Budapest right now, and one of the things is a TV series based on the movie Hanna. I actually train with one of the stuntwomen from Hanna. We went to Margaret Island,  and she made me do stuff I have never done before, like sprinting with an elastic band around your waist, and these workouts where you leap upstairs and jump into these jump squats. I try to do everything to stay in shape. I believe in not doing just one form of exercise, because I believe that your body gets used to it. It doesn’t really change. Having just had a baby, of course I’m being cautious getting back in shape. I’m a runner. I’ve been a runner for more than a decade, so I have run pretty much every day. Then, I’ll mix it with Pilates, I’ll mix it with high intensity training, I’ll mix it with exercising outside. I’ll do a yoga class when I have the time. I try to do as much as possible. Then, I have another trainer here that is specifically for my core, and rehabilitating it. That’s a lot of micro movements and balance work. She’s amazing too. I try to keep it spicy.

RS: What do you have coming up?
NC: I have a massive new voice project, but I actually can’t talk about it. It’s in the sci fi world. They haven’t even announced that the show exists, and we have already been picked up for a second season. I’ve been recording it from Budapest.

The last two episodes of Ransom season 2 air this Saturday starting at 8 PM on CBS and Global.



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