Sheetal Sheth

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Sheetal Sheth
Sheetal Sheth
Alma mater NYU Tisch School of the Arts
Occupation Actress / Producer
Years active 1999–present

Sheetal Sheth US pronunciation: Listeni/ˈʃθəlˈʃɛθ/ is an American actress and producer. She starred opposite Albert Brooks in his film Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World. She debuted to rave reviews in the films ABCD and American Chai, and has appeared in the films I Can't Think Straight and The World Unseen. Sheth has been selected to represent such brands as CHI haircare[1] and Reebok.[2] She was also the first Indian American to appear in Maxim magazine.[3]

Early life[edit]

Born in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, Sheetal Sheth is a first-generation Indian American. Her parents came to the United States from Gujarat, India in 1972.[4] The second of three children, Sheth has an older sister and a younger brother. When she was twelve, her family moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where her parents still reside.[5] As a youth she traveled to India frequently with her family, and continues to visit family there regularly.[3] English is her primary language, but she is fluent in Gujarati, and has studied Hindi, French and Spanish.[6]

As a child, Sheth loved performing and watching TV and films, but academics were her priority. She also studied multicultural dance[7] and was very involved in athletics, particularly basketball.[8]

In high school, friends encouraged her to audition for the school play, and she was offered the lead in the production of "Slight Indulgences".[9] Although she excelled at academics, dance and sports, acting provided her first true challenge. She began to study, determined to learn and excel at acting. As she trained her passion for the craft grew, and she soon realized she wanted to make acting her life's work.[10]



Sheth debuted as the lead in the groundbreaking 1999 film ABCD, starring opposite Madhur Jaffrey and Aasif Mandvi. The film won Best Indie Feature at the Houston film festival[11] and received critical acclaim from the likes of The Hollywood Reporter[12] and Rolling Stone[13] Sheth was widely praised for her performance.[14][15] Both the film and Sheth's character stirred consisderable controversy. "But," Sheth responded, "that is exactly the kind of character I like to play. I want to tell the kinds of stories that people have a strong reaction to, positive or negative. It means it has touched them in some way and then I have done my job."[16]

In 2001, she played a dancer in American Chai. The film won the Audience Award at the 2001 Slamdance Film Festival, with the New York Post describing it as a "slight but sweet film". Sheth went on to perform in a variety of roles in independent film and on network television, including the lead in the film Wings of Hope, for which she won Best Actress at Cinevue Film Festival.


Albert Brooks and Sheetal Sheth
Albert Brooks and Sheetal Sheth at Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World premiere, 2005

In 2005 Sheth starred as Maya opposite Albert Brooks in Brooks' film Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World. Brooks conducted an extensive international search for the ideal actor to portray Maya, and says of Sheth, "Once I came across her, I watched everything that I could. I didn't care to look at anybody else…I just knew I had to put her in the film." [17] The film was shot on location in India (Delhi and Agra).[18] Sony Pictures Entertainment originally carried the film, but Brooks parted ways with them when he refused Sony's demand to remove the word "Muslim" from the title. The film was picked up and ultimately released by Warner Independent Pictures.[19]

Following her success in Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, Sheth won the recurring role of Martina in the NBC TV series The Singles Table, starring opposite Alicia Silverstone and John Cho. Six episodes were shot, but the series never aired.[20] She also performed in the ensemble The Trouble With Romance and starred in the thriller First Fear opposite Sean Patrick Flanery.

Sheth's work brought her to the attention of the award winning writer and director Shamim Sarif. Sheth starred opposite Lisa Ray in two lesbian themed films, I Can't Think Straight and The World Unseen, both written and directed by Sarif. I Can't Think Straight won more than ten Best Feature awards at film festivals around the world. The World Unseen premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and went on to win four Best Feature awards internationally. The World Unseen, which was shot on location in South Africa, also swept the 2008 South African Film and Television Awards, winning eleven SAFTA's (South Africa's equivalent to the Oscars). Sheth won three Best Actress awards for her performance in The World Unseen. Both movies have achieved cult status, and have earned Sheth a large, loyal fan base for her portrayals of Leyla (I Can't Think Straight) and Amina (The World Unseen).


Sheetal Sheth
Red carpet of 2011
AIF benefit gala

Sheth went on to perform in Why Am I Doing This, and starred in Stalemate opposite Josh Randall and Burgess Jenkins, for which she was nominated for Best Actress at the 2011 Staten Island Film Festival. She guest starred in the popular television shows Nip/Tuck, Royal Pains and NCIS: Los Angeles, and provided the voices for Sumi and Shark in the animated feature film Johnny Bravo Goes to Bollywood, based on Cartoon Network's popular animated TV series Johnny Bravo.

In 2011, Sheth starred opposite Mercedes Masöhn and Angela Zahra in Three Veils, which portrays three Middle Eastern women living in the United States. Even before it was released the film sparked intense controversy, and death threats were made against those involved with the production of the film.[21] Three Veils has won numerous Best Feature awards at film festivals internationally, and Sheth's performance was widely acclaimed.

In 2012, Sheth continued to choose a variety of challenging roles in independent films. She starred opposite Lynn Chen and Parry Shen in Yes, We're Open, a sex comedy exploring open relationships. She again paired with Chen in Nice Girls Crew, which also stars Michelle Krusiec, and starred in The Wisdom Tree, a film blending science fiction, new age and mysticism. Sheth stepped behind the camera to co-produce Reign, a short film dramatizing how miscommunication can lead to war. She also starred in the film, which was written and directed by Kimberly Jentzen and shot by Oscar-nominated Cinematographer Jack Green. Reign received the Award of Merit from Best Shorts.[22]

Sheth began her career at a time when few South Asians and very few Indian American women were making their living as actors. Still, she was surprised to find herself a pioneer. Nothing in her experience, education or personal outlook had prepared her for the role her ethnicity would play in casting decisions. She was frequently expected to change her name to something "more American," and was even denied representation when she chose to perform under her own name.[23] Ultimately her body of work demonstrates that her expertise as an actor and her talent for accents enables her to portray characters of a wide variety of ethnicities, temperaments and circumstances. Her successful career has opened doors for other South Asian actors to pursue careers in American film and television. Sheth supports Asian Americans and other under-represented groups in their pursuit of careers in the entertainment industry, not only through her own pioneering work as an actor, but also by appearing at festivals, workshops and panels and speaking directly to issues facing those communities.[24]

Other projects[edit]

Sheetal Sheth
Cover of CHI Magazine (photographed by David Ferrua)

Sheth's career and personal reputation have drawn the attention of companies internationally. She was selected as the spokesperson for CHI haircare products and represented Reebok's New York sneaker in their 2008 international Freestyle campaign.[2] She was also the first Indian American to appear in Maxim magazine.[3][25] CHI says of Sheth, "Grace, artistry, passion and the most compelling elements of every culture – that's the essence of Sheth."[1]

Humanitarian causes[edit]

While at NYU Sheth continued her history of service to her community. She was selected to be a part of AmeriCorps, a division of the Corporation for National and Community Service created by U.S. President Bill Clinton. Through Americorps, she worked at an inner-city high school, developing progressive lesson plans and activities, tutoring, and dealing with conflict resolution.[26]

Sheth is actively involved in community outreach and causes that are important to her.She participates in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles as a Big Sister,she also supports and promotes Women's Voices Now an organization which encourage communities that are under-represented in American media to make their voices heard.[27]

Personal life[edit]

Although her parents were devout Jains and active in the local Jain community, they enrolled Sheth in the local Catholic school because of its focus on academics and reputation for toughness.[4] Sheth attended Catholic school until age 12, when her family moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.[3]

Sheth attended Liberty High School (Bethlehem, Pennsylvania), where she was very involved in school organizations and student government, serving on the student advisory board. She received the Student Government Award for her contribution to the school,[28] and was one of two students invited to speak at her commencement.[29] While in high school, Sheth discovered her passion for acting and was determined to master the craft through study and performance. After considering a variety of undergraduate programs, Sheth auditioned and was accepted to the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.[4]

At Tisch Sheth studied the classics - some of her favorite works included Antigone and The Crucible.[30] She also trained extensively at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in the technique known as "The Method". She spent a summer abroad in Amsterdam as part of the intensive International Theatre Workshop, studying under such respected acting teachers as Kristin Linklater. Sheth excelled and earned the honor of being selected to participate in the Tisch Scholar's Program. After graduating from Tisch with honors[5] Sheth continued her studies even as she built a successful career. In New York she studied with Wynn Handman, one of the founders of The American Place Theatre. In Los Angeles she attended weekly invitation-only classes with renowned acting instructor Milton Katselas until his death in 2008.[31]

Sheth is heavily involved in community outreach and causes that are important to her. She takes an active interest in politics, she's served in AmeriCorps, she participates in Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Los Angeles as a Big Sister, and she supports and promotes organizations such as Women's Voices Now which encourage communities that are under-represented in American media to make their voices heard. She also regularly speaks on panels and forums internationally.

Sheth is married to husband Neil Mody[32] and has one daughter.


Winner, Best Actress, Wings Of Hope, Cinevue Film Festival, 2003
Winner, Best Actress, The World Unseen, Gran Canaria Film Festival, Spain, 2009
Winner, Best Actress, The World Unseen, Festival del Mar, Ibiza 2009
Winner, Best Leading Performance, The World Unseen, Out Takes Film Festival, Dallas 2009


Year Title Role Notes
1999 ABCD Nina
2001 American Chai Maya Choreographer
2001 The Princess & the Marine Layla TV movie
2001 A Pocket Full of Dreams Sanjana
2001 Wings of Hope Kaajal Verma Winner, Best Actress
Cinevue Film Festival, 2003
2003 The Agency Layla - Jamar
Akil's sister
TV series
2003 Beat Cops Gwen Lampoor TV movie
2003 Line of Fire Fathima TV series
2004 Strong Medicine
  • Ears, Ho's & Threat (#4.18)
Shaheena TV series
2004 Indian Cowboy Sapna
2004 The Proud Family
  • Culture Shock (#3.3)
Radhika TV series (animated)
2005 Dancing in Twilight Nicole
2005 Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World Maya
2007 The Singles Table
  • Pilot (#1.1)
  • The Work Dinner (#1.2)
  • The Housewarming Party (#1.4)
Martina TV series
2007 The Trouble with Romance Nicole
2007 First Fear Maya
2007 I Can't Think Straight Leyla nominated for, Best Actress
gay Film Festival,2008
2008 The World Unseen Amina Harjan Winner, Best Actress
Gran Canaria Film Festival, Spain, 2009

Winner, Best Actress

Festival del Mar, Ibiza, 2009

Winner, Best Leading Performance

Out Takes Film Festival, Dallas, 2009

Winner, Best Actress

Festival del Mar, Ibiza, 2009

Winner, Best Leading Performance

Out Takes Film Festival, Dallas, 2009
2009 Why Am I Doing This? Nira
2010 StaleMate Kayleigh Nominated, Best Actress
Staten Island Film Festival, 2011
2010 Nip/Tuck
  • Dan Daly (#6.11)
Aria TV series
2011 Three Veils Nikki
2011 Being Bin Laden Nabeelah TV movie
2011 Royal Pains
  • A Little Art, A Little Science (#3.10)
Raina Saluja TV series
2011 NCIS: Los Angeles
  • Deadline (#3.10)
Shari Al-Kousa TV series
2011 Johnny Bravo Goes to Bollywood voice of Sumi,
2012 Yes, We're Open Elena
2012-13 Nice Girls Crew
  • Out of Order (#1.1)
  • Count Chocula of Venice Beach (#1.2)
  • The Byronic Hero (#1.3)
  • Hoot N Holla (#1.4)
  • Castle in the Sky (#1.5)
  • Sisterhood of the Traveling Fat Pants (#2.1)
  • The Reluctant Mixologist (#2.2)
  • Game Day (#2.3)
  • The Talented Geraldiney (#2.4)
  • Sophie and the Giant Buttcake (#2.5)
Leena TV series
2012 Reign Fadwa Co-Producer
2012 Brickleberry
  • Hello Dottie (#1.7)
Dottie TV series (animated)
2012 The Wisdom Tree Dr. Trisha Rao
2013 Blue Bloods
  • Warriors (#3.15)
Isabelle Nassar TV series
2013 Lips
  • Audition This! (#2.6)
Rousaura TV mini-series
2014 Futurestates
  • Sister of Mine
Evelyn Malik, Cammie Malik TV series
2014 Go North Riya Short


  1. ^ a b "In Any Language", CHI Magazine
  2. ^ a b Reebok Freestyles – New York
  3. ^ a b c d Sharma, Jaya. "Simply Sheetal"
  4. ^ a b c Melwani, Lavina. "Lethal Sheetal"
  5. ^ a b Song, Jenny. "Sheetal Sheth – Gorgeous and Grounded"
  6. ^ Metal, Sheena; Sheth, Sheetal: time 19:17
  7. ^ McManus, Bridget; Sheth, Sheetal. Brunch with Sheetal Sheth (Brunch with Bridget, Episode 70), Part 1 of 3: time 1:54
  8. ^ Roy, Sandip. "Straddling Cultures"
  9. ^ Longsdorf, Amy. "Ray of Sunshine": p. 1
  10. ^ Girn, Raj. "Out in the Open with Sheetal Sheth"
  11. ^ Apeles, Teena. "Bright Eyes" Audrey magazine: p. 70
  12. ^ Honeycutt, Kirk. "Film Review - ABCD". The Hollywood Reporter. "Reminiscent of early films by Wayne Wang and Ang Lee, ABCD should win enthusiastic fans"
  13. ^ Travers, Peter (April 2, 2001). "ABCD". Rolling Stone. "Extraordinary…funny, touching and haunting…seek it out"
  14. ^ Thomas, Kevin. "Immigrants, Their Children Raised in America, in ABCD". The Los Angeles Times. "Sheth illuminates the tempestuous Nina"
  15. ^ Sebastian, P. "Film Review - ABCD". The Deccan Herald. "Sheetal is a find, an Indian beauty who can act - she's star material."
  16. ^ Pasha, Kamran. "Desi Diva"
  17. ^ Karn Batra, Rohit. "Getting Noticed: Sheetal Sheth", East West Woman, p. 32
  18. ^ "Sheetal's Showtime". Indian Life & Style Magazine, 2005, p. 110
  19. ^ "'Looking for Comedy' Among Studio Execs". Studio Briefing - Film News.
  20. ^ Schneider, Michael. "NBC's Table Gets Smaller". Variety.
  21. ^ Curiel, Jonathan. "At Arab Film Festival, a Daring Drama Features a Lesbian of Faith". KQED.
  22. ^ "Best Shorts". January 12, 2012.
  23. ^ Apeles, Teena. "Bright Eyes" Audrey magazine: p. 73
  24. ^ Chung, Leeva; Sheth, Sheetal; Chen, Lynn; Kim, Elaine H. (2011). "Asian American Women in Hollywood and Beyond" Panel
  25. ^ "Girls of Maxim - Sheetal Sheth"
  26. ^ "I Can't Think Straight - Cast - Sheetal Sheth"
  27. ^ McManus, Bridget (March 31, 2011). "Interview with Sheetal Sheth".
  28. ^ "'Transcend Mediocrity,' Liberty Graduates Told", p. 3. The Morning Call. June 18, 1994
  29. ^ "Liberty, Saucon Valley Grads Are At The Head Of The Class". The Morning Call. June 20, 1994.
  30. ^ Metal, Sheena; Sheth, Sheetal: time 31:05
  31. ^ Metal, Sheena; Sheth, Sheetal: time 23:38
  32. ^ "Sheetal Sheth & Neil Mody Tie the Knot", People Magazine, 11/24/2013


External links[edit]