From Broadway and film to television and video games, Anjali Bhimani has done it all. Growing up she never considered acting to be a viable career choice, but had a love for storytelling that still rings true today.
After deciding to go to college for theatre, Anjali realized that she could act for a living and she’s been doing just that ever since. She’s appeared in Modern Family, Law and Order, Young Sheldon, on Broadway as a lead in Andrew Loyd Webber’s Bombay Dreams, and of course as Symmetra in the hit video game Overwatch.
CGMagazine’s Alex Handziuk got the chance to chat with Anjali ahead of this weekend’s Toronto Comicon about her diverse acting career, the Symmetra effect and how we can all band together to fight toxicity.
CGMagazine: It’s been almost three years since Overwatch’s launch and the game is still going strong. Why do you think that is?
There’s a lot of factors but I think one of the main ones is that they’ve done a fantastic job of creating a world but very aspirational, not a word with the world. There are problems in the futuristic world of Overwatch, but it’s a world worth fighting for. It doesn’t feel like a dark, apocalyptic place that we don’t want to be. And then, of course, they’ve created this wonderful pantheon of heroes and there is someone for everyone to be able to connect with on one level or another.
It’s not just people of different backgrounds in terms of their race, which obviously is one way that the game stands out, but also just their background stories. There’s a complexity to what makes someone turn to the forces of good versus the forces of evil, there’s this wonderful grey area in between. There’s something very intriguing about all these characters and even though it is not a story based game, they have created so much story around it that I think it can really pull people in. Also, the game has ongoing updates so it’s not the same thing all the time. If people are getting to step into the world a little bit differently every time they play that’s remarkable and Overwatch is killing it.
CGMagazine: How has your life changed since you got the gig as Symmetra in Overwatch?
It’s given me this community and it’s not just the Overwatch community but the broader gaming community. I was a gamer when I was little and kind of fell away from it, so to be brought back and to be accepted so warmly has been a really beautiful blessing over the last few years. At the same time, I’m no more special than the person next to me but being given the megaphone and to be able to share this message with everyone about using your voice for the common good it’s made a big difference. This is the first time that I can remember in over 20 years of my career that my personal mission of helping people find their best selves and their superpowers and my choice to vehicle be an actress have really completely aligned which has been really rewarding.
CGMagazine: You’ve acted in television, movies, video games, and Broadway. How do they compare to one another?
They’re all different in their own ways, but at the core, acting is acting and telling a good story, making it clear to the audience your part in it, and sharing and taking them on that journey is consistent. The difference I find really has to do with how you’re connecting to the audience. And then what aspects of yourself you happen to be using it any given moment. With voice acting, even though you may be acting with your whole body, and using movement, when you’re in the rhythm, ultimately, you’re trying to convey everything with your voice, right?
CGMagazine: You were at the Overwatch League on International Women’s Day how was that experience?
I love going to Overwatch League! I’m going to be completely honest, I’m terrible at the game. I just don’t seem to have the hand-eye coordination to be able to pull it off. So when I get to watch other people play I’m mesmerized by their ability to do it. And all of the players in the Overwatch League are just so incredible at what they do. I just love being around the fan excitement, the people who are in the audience, a lot of them are players and members of the community as far as the game is concerned. But it’s so much fun watching it being treated as a sport. We didn’t have esports and now we do. So it’s really fun to watch people getting as excited and into it as they do.
CGMagazine: How does it feel to be an icon for female gamers, especially given the toxicity that often exists in the gaming community?
As far as the toxicity and trying to support female gamers it’s part of what I said at the Blizzard Arena. I think it’s up to all of us right now in today’s day and age, because we all have a voice, it’s all of our job to be icons, role models, whatever you want to call it. It’s not just people in the public eye who should be paying attention to how they present themselves and how they share their experiences with others. I think all of us need to do that. Honestly, the toxicity just breaks my heart it absolutely breaks my heart and. It’s not just in gaming but it’s on the internet in general. It breaks my heart because our words are so powerful and here we have this ability to inspire people and help people and support people, bring people together, to work with people, and yet there are still people out there who are using their words in damaging ways.
It’s something that I don’t understand viscerally and I wouldn’t do myself. I think it comes from a place of needing to feel powerful or needing to feel better. I can tell you from firsthand experience, nothing makes you feel better than supporting people. I am very grateful to have been given a broader voice to be able to share that with the world. I think that if people who think that toxicity is the way to feel more powerful hear a message from someone like me or anyone else that they may or may not admire can make a big difference. The more they hear that message from people around them the more likely they’ll be to change. It’s on all of us.
Check out the full interview in an upcoming issue of CGMagazine!