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Rising Star Nidhi Ghildayal on why it’s so important to have diversity represented in TV and Film

Well, first of all — film, books, television, etc. are a reflection of the world — and our world is diverse! And there’s nothing more inspiring than watching someone who you see yourself in doing something great, because it makes you feel like it is possible for you. And not only is diversity important in front of the camera, […]

Photo Credit: Chris McDuffie photography and Molly Pan photography
Photo Credit: Chris McDuffie photography and Molly Pan photography

Well, first of all — film, books, television, etc. are a reflection of the world — and our world is diverse! And there’s nothing more inspiring than watching someone who you see yourself in doing something great, because it makes you feel like it is possible for you. And not only is diversity important in front of the camera, but behind as well — culture only changes and progresses when you try to understand it through the lenses of different perspectives.


As a part of my series about pop culture’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Nidhi Ghildayal. Nidhi is an American actress who has worked in a string of episodic television roles over the last several years. She regularly appears on NBC’s Chicago Fire. Other credits include NCIS: New Orleans and Z Nation, among several others.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I was born in Minneapolis, MN, grew up in a suburb of the Twin Cities, and made my way back to Minneapolis for college.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Well, Minnesota has a really great theater scene; and also, a great commercial scene due to so many big companies being based in the area. I started doing print ads, just for fun, around the end of college — which eventually led to commercials and allowed me to meet local actors and artists. I completely fell in love with the whole community, and it was great to have a sounding board of individuals who were really doing art on the daily and who I felt I could relate to. I ended up doing several commercials, and subsequently started booking television — and here we are today.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

One of the first roles I ever booked had extensive hair and makeup that took about three to four hours for my character, daily. On my first day of shooting, we had just finished my look — when the director came and told us, by no fault of anyone’s, that they just couldn’t get to my scene that day. The makeup artist on the show, who I adore, and I — we just had to laugh because of the ludicrous amount of time that was wasted. As we were removing my layers of makeup, I complimented a Game of Thrones figurine on her table and said I was a huge fan. She offhandedly mentioned I must be excited about George — but I was completely clueless as to who/what she was referring to. Turns out, George RR Martin was cameoing on the show on that particular day and was sitting in the chair right next to me. I’m so glad I had been accidentally called in that day — I was awestruck, to say the least, to meet one of my favorite authors.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I can’t think of just one that stands out, because there have been so many! So many cringe-y auditions and ideas. But it’s like the Ira Glass quote — you really have to be bad before you’re good. You have to make the mistakes, and just move on — that’s what makes you interesting and human.

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Yes! Well, first of all — film, books, television, etc. are a reflection of the world — and our world is diverse! And there’s nothing more inspiring than watching someone who you see yourself in doing something great, because it makes you feel like it is possible for you. And not only is diversity important in front of the camera, but behind as well — culture only changes and progresses when you try to understand it through the lenses of different perspectives.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Find a group of people you can trust, depend on, and create with. This is the most important.
  2. All the lore the majority of the world thinks about how creative industries work — including myself, at first — is in my opinion, mostly inaccurate. Film, television, book publishing, etc. — it’s where art meets business. 99.99 percent of people get to where they are by hard work meeting luck meeting eventual excellence.
  3. The notion of only one clear-cut career in your life — that will change as technology changes. You can create your own path and create a job description that fulfills all your wants.
  4. Be consistent.
  5. Don’t stress. You’re so lucky to love the things you do.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I would say feed all of your interests. I certainly don’t define myself as being singularly fulfilled by working in film and television; I love poetry, entrepreneurship, and study and do public health research. We live in such an exciting time where we are able to successfully work with all of our interests; and I think this helps individuals today avoid burnout in any one area.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I feel very strongly about the work I do in the public health realm. One thing I hope to spend more time on in the near future is working with media to help effect change and share knowledge on how individuals in different regions, or who are part of vulnerable populations, can best utilize the tools their communities provide to lead healthy lives and prevent or treat these illnesses. The number of people that television, blogs, and other media reach every moment is unbelievable — and to use that force for health awareness is really something we all need to be held accountable for.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My family has been amazing. My siblings are the most creative people I know, and my parents were really incredible to support me being in a field that was so far outside of anyone we know’s realm of reality. It was really bizarre for me to choose the path I did with the academically-inclined upbringing I had, but they still believed in me.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I remember one time in high school, I embarrassingly started crying because I had lost in some extracurricular activity. My dad told me something I’ve remembered ever since — 99 percent of the time in life you fail. This has certainly become more apparent as I’ve gotten older — and if it’s not true, you’re probably not really living life to the fullest or taking any real chances. It’s the one percent of the time that you have to try for. And if you’re a hard worker and big dreamer, that one percent is enough to have the life you want.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Haha, well it has to be Mindy Kaling — she’s brilliant and hilarious, and even if I didn’t adulate her career, I just think she’d make basically the best lunchdate!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on Instagram @nidhighildayal.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

Thank you!

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