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My first encounter with Freida Pinto isn’t quite what I expected. After Red’s shoot, during which she hugs everyone, nibbles on almonds and twirls in Erdem and Valentino, Pinto, her publicist and I hop in a taxi to her central London hotel, where our interview is scheduled to take place. I’m hopeful for a pre-interview natter. Instead, Pinto announces she’s going to nap. I wonder if this is a canny tactic to avoid talking to a journalist more than is absolutely necessary. Within seconds, despite the rush-hour traffic and a brake-happy cab driver, she’s asleep. The driver, her publicist and I sit in hushed silence, for fear of waking her, for the next 25 minutes.
Both Pinto and the situation perk up, however, when we arrive. “I needed that,” smiles the actress, 32. “I was up until 3am working.” She seems so grateful for the shut-eye, I instantly forgive her for not indulging me with small talk. Publicist gone, we ensconce ourselves in the squishy Chesterfield sofas of the hotel’s drawing room. Pinto orders the baked apples with cinnamon that the kitchen prepare especially for her (“I don’t eat sugar, but I love a treat in the evening”) and sips still water. She’s casual – indigo Mother jeans, a Madewell Breton top, and a grey Lavish Alice coatigan) but properly, effulgently beautiful, all cut-glass cheekbones and Colgate-ad teeth. For the next hour she talks animatedly.
After playing sweet, shy Latika in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, the 2009 film which propelled Pinto to stardom, I was expecting to meet a wallflower, but Pinto is anything but. Where some A-Listers might shy away from talking politics, we dive straight in. Her latest project is Guerrilla, a six-part thriller set in 1970s London about the real-life Black Power Desk, a secretive counter-intelligence unit of the police that was dedicated to crushing black activism. Pinto plays Jas, a political protester turned radical militant. She wastes no time in comparing the plot to today’s politics. “There’s Brexit, Black Lives Matter, Syria… The show feels very ‘of the moment’,” she says.
As is evident on her Instagram page, Pinto went on the Women’s March in LA in January, rallying with a friend atop her shoulders. “What’s happening right now isn’t just political, it’s inhumane,” she explains. “It’s divisive. I have friends in the Muslim nations aff ected by the travel ban. This is not the US I came to. I was accepted after arriving from India and being in one film.”
Glimpses of the firecracker that lies behind Pinto’s clean-cut image begin to emerge, though she insists, “I am a good girl!” and laughs puckishly, sticking out her tongue. “But I am opinionated about the things I believe in. Sometimes people who don’t like confrontation find it hard to be around me. My rebellious side is there, but only when required.”
The full interview appears in Red’s June issue, on sale today!