Nazneen Contractor is a Canadian-Indian actress currently co-starring on CBS’s Ransom. She plays the fabulous Zara Hallam. The show follows a team of hostage negotiators who try to help society limit the number of hostages. Contractor talks about her experience on the show, the reality of an actress life, and her experience abroad
ATM: Tell us about your character Zara Hallam.
NC: She was a former NYC cop. Eric recruited her nine years ago to be a part of his team. She works as the led investigator and security expert on the team. When they go to a situation, she accesses the actual risks. She basically functions as a cop from the team, but she is not officially a cop.
ATM: Walk us through a day of shooting for this series.
NC: On a typical day I get picked up very early in the morning. Sometimes too early. Sometimes as early as 4 :45am. We shot this season in Budapest, Hungary. It was absolutely gorgeous. I was staying in my apartment there and I would be taken to location where our trailer is set up. We are more than often on location. I was taken to base camp, which is where the hair, makeup, and personal trailers are located.
I would have a coffee, get hair and makeup done, and then get into wardrobe. We would all pile into a car to go to location. This could be a street corner, a building, or an open field. Then we rehearse the scene privately. The cast and the director talk about it what the scene is about and what we want from it. We welcome the guest stars if there are any. The DOP lights the scene and then we shoot it. We do this all day for a minimum of 12 hours. We wrap up and then go back to our lives.
ATM: What is the most difficult aspect of working as an actress in Hollywood?
NC: With every actor. Oh yes, this is the most difficult part absolutely. This is a very real thing. There are a lot of very talented people out there who have breaks and times off in their career. There is the challenge and you do it. There is no safety net for going under unemployment. I cannot get another job because this is what I do.
ATM: Have you ever experience this?
NC: Yes. The hardest part is getting the job and staying with it.
ATM: Explain your favorite part of this show.
NC: I love the cast. It is not everyday you get on set and enjoy the people you work with. I think this is the number one reason. We all support and help each other. The second best part of the show is the travel. We shot this second season in Toronto, Canada. Last year we shot the show in Budapest, Hungary. As we traveled we became closer. This the adds more valuable experience.
ATM: What should a viewer expect from the current season that is now airing on CBS?
NC: The difference between season one and season two, is that we get to really dive into us as a character. We have far more character driven story-lines. In the villain episodes, we try to paint them with a border stroke. We try to see why the people do what they do. We try to give dynamic and dimension to our regular cast and to our guest stars. The response has been great. I was pregnant this season.
They wrote the pregnancy into the show. I was working a month until I delivered the baby. They said it immediately elevated the stakes of the show. They did a great job of incorporating in a way to allow me to still be involved in the show.
ATM: Congratulations on motherhood for the second time.
NC: Thank you so much!
ATM: Your last name is Contractor?
NC: Yes, it is.
ATM: Is this your real last name?
NC: Yes, it is my real name.
NC: I am Indian. My last name is a product of British colonization. Basically, when the British came to colonize India, my people who were originally from Persia. Persia is now Iran. They worked with the British. When the British left or were kicked out, they renamed us all by our professions from generations ago. My grandfather had a contract with the British to build the bridges in India. So, they called him the contractor.
NC: My people are called the Parsi, which is an ethnic-religious title. We all have last names like the Contractor, Doctor, Driver, Engineer, and Cooper. These are the very common last names. You have it in Britain as well. You have Mason, Smith, and Cooper. All of these names were once professions.
ATM: This is very interesting. When I first saw your name, I thought to myself that you had a very distinguishing last name. Your name stands out. I feel like you just took me through a history class!
ATM: How did Nazneen transform in this second season?
NC: Being pregnant on the show chances you. I had a lot of growth as the character, which allowed me to have a lot of growth personally.
ATM: Did you have a boy or a girl?
NC: I already had a boy and now I have a little girl.
ATM: What is her name?
ATM: Is there a special meaning behind this name?
NC: Ava is a Persia name. Lucia is my husband’s paternal grandmother’s name.
ATM: Describe your personal experience working with your co-stars?
NC: We all met two years and did not know each other. We all came from different parts of the world. Luke lives in London. Brandon and I live in Los Angeles. Even though we are both Canadian, we had never met each other. Sarah Greene is from Ireland and also lives in London but never worked with Luke. We came together very quickly and gelled. Sometimes this magic happens. We all go out for dinners and put each other on for other auditions.
ATM: What different aspects have you learned out their culture?
NC: I learned a whole lot of Irish slang from Sarah Greene. We all adopted a lot of this slang on set. They have a different way of working in London, Canada, and the south of France. There are cultural things. We came into this fresh.
ATM: Say one Irish slang word you learned.
NC: Ride. The Irish definition for a ride is someone you want to have sex with. They said, “She is a ride.” Like someone says you want to jump their bone.
ATM & NC: (Laughs).
NC: Also, if an experience was amazing. You would say, “This concert was a ride.” Another word was crac. It is spelled C-R-A-C. There is no K. This is if someone or something is really really fun. You call them the “crack.” Also, if you have a good time with someone you say, “gas”.
ATM: So, you say, “Oh she is gas.” G-A-S?
NC: (Laughs). Yes. This is some Irish colloquialism.
Contractor’s character Hallam never results to violence on the show. She tracks and hunts down the people harming the community with a team. Her personality and character are expressed through her onscreen character. She will continue to take risks and deliver a wonderful performance.
You can catch Nazneen Contractor on CBS’s Ransom on Saturday nights at 8 pm.