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an you hold on a minute?” asks the clear voice on the cell phone. “Sorry, I was at the grocery store, and I didn’t want to just start talking about myself in there,” laughs Navi Rawat. Doing her own groceries? Reluctant to promote herself? For a rising Hollywood starlet, this actress is surprisingly down to earth. To top it off, Rawat’s strong performances in a myriad of different television and movie roles have the entertainment industry taking notice. And the media is not far behind–the New York Daily News named 25-year-old Rawat a “Hot Face to Watch” in its January issue.

Born in Malibu, California, to a German mother and an Indian father, Rawat initially felt self-conscious about her ethnicity. “I definitely struggled with that when I was younger, trying to fit in. I went to a school where all the kids were Caucasian and made fun of me for my skin color.”

For a rising Hollywood starlet, this actress is surprisingly down to earth.

Rawat would have the last laugh, though, as she soon found a way to use her distinctive appearance to her advantage. Relying on a family friend’s connections, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting and quickly found a manager. “It was different when I was growing up, but it’s all fine now,” she admits. “Since I first started acting, I’ve found [my ethnicity] to be beneficial instead of something to overcome.”

navi-rawat-1.jpg
Blending in

Indeed, Rawat’s exotic good looks make her something of a chameleon, helping her play characters from widely differing backgrounds. Her breakthrough role on the hit Fox television series, 24, was not specifically written for an ethnic actress, and she portrayed a Hispanic girl on the wildly popular teen soap The O.C. On CBS’ new crime drama NUMB3RS, she plays an Indian graduate student studying mathematics.

“They specifically wanted someone who was ethnic in that part. They were initially interested in an Indian actresses [to play] someone whose family was traditionally Indian but who grew up in the States. But I just did a movie where I was not [ethnic] at all,” she says. “Yesterday, I was in an audition with all girls who were blonde. I’m not too worried about [typecasting] at this point.”

And though Rawat may have been worried about her ethnicity limiting her acting opportunities, she was fortunate in finding an experienced acting hand to whom she could turn. Sir Ben Kingsley, the half-Indian actor who so convincingly portrayed Mahatma Gandhi in the Oscar-winning role, was her co-star in the Academy Award nominated film The House of Sand and Fog.

“It was wonderful. I had a great time working on that part,” says Rawat. “It was great working with Shohreh Aghdashloo and Ben Kingsley. [Kingsley's] father is Indian, so we talked about that.” Even more so than bonding over a common background, Rawat relished the chance to tackle a dramatic role in the company of such distinguished actors. “I love Ben Kingsley, he’s an incredible actor, and that was one of the main reasons I wanted to do that movie. I was just giddy over that fact that I got to work with him.”

In the upcoming horror film Feast, Rawat plays the aptly named Heroine, a kick-ass girl who makes a plan to save the lives of a group of bar patrons who get attacked by cannibal-like monsters.

A thespian at heart

Drama seems to be Rawat’s forte, and she admits to having a preference for the genre: “I like roles that have complicated parts, and lots of things going on with the character, like Jennifer Connelly’s character in House of Sand and Fog, or Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby. In a perfect world I would do those kinds of roles–I don’t even care about the money.”

Navi Rawat in Feast, a Project Greenlight film.
Navi Rawat in Feast, a Project Greenlight film.

Lately, though, Rawat has been cast in a number of action movies, much to her amusement. “I just seem to get cast in parts like that. I’m a bit of a wuss; somehow people find me credible in parts that are tough. I’m actually kind of sensitive,” she says. However cautious she may be in real life, Rawat tackles the action-oriented roles with relish: “I like to do physical stuff–roles where I can fight and get things done.” She certainly accomplishes that in the upcoming Project Greenlight sponsored horror movie Feast. Rawat plays the aptly named “Heroine, a kick-ass girl who makes a plan to save the lives of a group of bar patrons who get attacked by cannibal-like monsters.”

Perhaps Rawat’s love of drama stems from her years at New York University, where she completed her undergraduate degree. “I actually double majored,” she says. “NYU is private school and expensive, I figured I should get the most out of it that I could.” With her studies in at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts as well as her second major in English and American literature, Rawat earned quite a comprehensive education. Her focus on literature stemmed from her initial literary aspirations. “Prior to being actor, I wanted to be a writer,” admits the actress. And although she swerved from her original career path, she doesn’t consider her literature studies an exercise in futility. “As an actor, it’s good to have a knowledge of different time periods. I’m so glad that I didn’t only study acting.”

While her studies focused on English and American literature, Rawat definitely favors writers from the subcontinent as well those from the standard western canon. “I actually do like a lot of Indian writers. Jhumpa Lahiri–I love her work. I like Michael Ondaatje. I like the way that they look at a foreigner in a foreign land, trying to exist and fit in America.” Rawat relates to the themes of such writers’ books and considers them a reflection of her own experiences.

But in contrast to the embarrassment of her youth, she now embraces her ethnicity. “I feel very fortunate, I’ve been exposed to a lot of different cultures. If I wasn’t from a multi-ethnic background, I wouldn’t have had these great experiences. And one of the things that makes me a good actor is life experience.” She continues, “I don’t see it as something that sets me apart in a negative way at all. It’s not something where I feel different from everybody else. I think it’s something positive: It makes me interesting, makes me separate. And we now have a very diverse society.”

Navi Rawat
Cultural clarity

Rawat credits her parents, now divorced, for instilling this heartfelt appreciation for her multi-ethnic roots. “I couldn’t imagine not having my background. My family brought me up that way, and I can’t imagine not having grown up that way.” She also firmly believes that she was equally influenced by both sides of her heritage. “We definitely celebrate some [Indian] holidays. And there definitely is a very kind of European influence in my life. When I was younger I could speak a little Hindi, and I know a little bit of French.”

Her parents, who met as tourists traveling in the United States, may also have imparted some of their wanderlust to their daughter. Rawat has lived in California, Connecticut, Miami, London and New York, and still loves to travel. “I’ve been traveling a lot recently–I was actually thinking about going to London this week,” she muses.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Rawat’s busy work schedule keeps her travel plans to a minimum. “If I take any kind of extended vacation, it’s really hard for me to get back. And inevitably, something always comes up. I find it really difficult, but I’d rather work, to be honest.” Though she can’t jet-set around the globe, Rawat manages to stay occupied between jobs. “I go to the gym quite a bit, I work on my exercises and I study with a voice coach. I read books. I’m also looking for another film.”

Unsurprisingly, she stays true to her dramatic inclinations. “I’d rather do something dramatic than something that’s more an action-adventure type of thing.” Even the actors on her list of dream co-stars have a dramatic bent: “Meryl Streep, of course. Kate Winslet: I really, really like her. I love Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman. I like English actors; I don’t know if I have an affinity from living there, or studying English literature in college.”

Navi Rawat reveals a number of different faces, each with its own particular power and grace.

So what’s next for this multi-faceted actress? The possibilities are endless. If the drama NUMB3RS gets picked up for the fall season, she’ll have a much more visible presence with a regular part on the show. And what about The O.C., in which her character’s storyline was left without resolution: Will she be back to break up the show’s super couple? “I don’t know about that, we’ll just have to wait and see, I guess. Maybe if they want me to come back and see my availability,” hedges Rawat. And horror flick Feast is slated to be released sometime this spring.

With her impressive resume of film and television roles and a number of upcoming projects in the works, Navi Rawat certainly lives up to the “One To Watch” moniker. Whether as a literature scholar, dramatic actress, kick-ass heroine, sensitive girl, multi-ethnic woman or the down-to-earth girl next door, she reveals a number of different faces, each with its own particular power and grace. And that very versatility and talent ensures that hers will soon be a familiar face you won’t forget. n

Especially in the dead of a Chicago winter, Deepa Kamath wishes she lives in the O.C.
Published on April 4, 2005.
Photography: Courtesy of Navi Rawat.
Comments are closed.
  1. March 1, 2007, 3:30 pm LaRue

    I very much enjoyed the interview and beautiful photos of Ms. Rawat. I’ve been watching her on Numb3rs for a while now, and just saw her movie, Thought Crimes on TV last night. I am very impressed by her presence and abilities, and hope to see much more of her work in the near future. I wish I was just like her. She is one of my current heroes.

    LaRue Wilkerson, Age 45
    Fairfax, OK

  2. April 4, 2007, 1:56 pm Omar Cruz

    Maybe I have seen Navi before but didn’t pay attention to. I have just watched Thought Crimes for the first time and thought she’s beautiful. She shared some facial features with my wife but definitely Navi is lovely. I’m sure she will be good at portraying a heroine in an epic movie.

  3. May 1, 2007, 8:06 am Scott wilson

    I thought i was in a heavenly place when i saw her face ‘ And with such grace’ I stated to my hart find your natural pace . ahhh that’s better Tuesday’s nights 9.30 pm ( QLD AUSTRALIA ) time slot .I now that a talent like hers seldom comes along and all Aussies are better for it. Navis a goddess in my book’ And will always have a monopoly in any conversations i have with others. And apart from that Navi and i have the same birth day 05/06/?? L8R C U When im Looking @ ya Bye

  4. May 5, 2007, 9:34 pm Debbie Joyce

    I agree with Larue. I’ve been watching her on Numb3rs for a while now as well. First time I saw her with The O.C. and she was lovely and gorgeous. Hope she replaced Marissa’s role as one of the main characters. You rock Navi! Hope to hear more news about you!

  5. May 9, 2007, 2:36 pm jaydeo

    very nice photos

  6. June 2, 2007, 5:02 am Ysabel

    I just discovered Numb3rs and Navi is so the best ever!!! I love the pics… and I think Navi and Charlie look great together. Totally love you Navi!!!

  7. June 28, 2007, 12:28 pm A.T.

    oh please, i had to interview her. she was the most arrogant, snobby, and conceited person ive ever talked to. makes paris hilton look like mother theresa. plus she hates poor people.

  8. July 3, 2007, 4:25 am arunim Sinha

    love your work in numb3ers good work mam

  9. July 11, 2007, 11:39 am Gaute ''Thiren'' Åsmundsen

    please AT, read this..

    I’m a reporter for a norwegian magazin called Se Og Hør, where I got the honer of interviewing her, she was a realy nice person and was helping poor people..
    She told me about a ring she was in where she gave food to homeless and brooke people..

    I love all her work my self..wery much liked the film toughcrime!

    Mvh Åsmundsen.

  10. July 20, 2007, 3:42 pm amanda

    first of all a.t must either be really really dumb or must have been on drugs either during the interveiw or while typing the comment because in my oppinion navi rawat is the most cencire nice beautifull woman in hollywood and i looooooooooooove the show numbers it is in my oppinion the best show on television these days and navi is exactly what livens the whole show up

    that is all that i have to say

  11. August 15, 2007, 8:55 am Ctrl*Alt*Del

    Damn. She is so hot! And she plays a terrefic role in Numb3rs! Girl! You Rock!

  12. September 1, 2007, 2:12 pm Ami Spiegler

    Hello Ms. Navi !

    I’ve just watched the “ToughCrimes” – 2nd time, and I’m struck by your beauty – adn play also.
    Found your name afterwards using http://www.imdb.com, and yes, downloaded quite a few pictures of your.
    With all respect, you are stunning!
    Hope to see you in many more movies!
    You’ve left a big imprint on my soul, and I’m lost in your huge, beautifull eyes !

    Wish you all the best,

    Ami

  13. September 8, 2007, 4:09 am Toby

    What about your uncle? Prem Rawat?

  14. September 21, 2007, 10:00 pm pravin

    In which way is Navi related to Prem Rawat

  15. September 22, 2007, 3:46 am Toby

    She is the daughter of Dharam Pal Rawat, Prem Pals brother and Claudia Rawat (former Littmann). She was born into the environment when Prem Pal was still the Lord of the Universe

  16. October 5, 2007, 8:41 pm Steve O

    I love the show “Numb3rs” and she really stands out. Looking forward to following her career.

  17. December 16, 2007, 10:33 am Krupa Patel

    I think she is so amazing because she can play such a variety of roles and is exotic looking.

    I don’t think anyone can do as many types of roles as her.

    To A.T, think you are tryng to ruin a perfectly apt and nice actress’ career and you haven’t even got the guts to show your name so we don’t even really know if you interviewed her.

    All the best to Navi.

  18. December 18, 2007, 10:46 am Janet Maggio

    Navi,

    Good luck with your career. You have certainly turned into a lovely young lady. I knew you and your sister when you were young and was good friends with your mom.

    You mom and I and Sam Robin had a lot of fun together. Would love to get in touch with her if possible. You can reach me at my email.

    Janet Maggio

  19. December 25, 2007, 8:04 am Dr. Ravi Dani

    The current trend seems to be in favor of all major hollywood stars taking up a humanitarian aid project and also making a significant movie depicting realities and assets of India. Have you ever thought of teaming up with Knight Shyamalan, or Jhumpa Lahiri, conceiving a dynamic and hitherto new idea as never before?

    It is one thing to take pride in one’s ehtnic hertiage and another emerging as somone unconditionally committed to the cause. I think many of the holly-bolly starts simply use thier ethnic advantages more so to boost up thier own image and to advance career prospects (several of those also tend to run into controversies, including dangers of confused identities and misplaced loyalties, leaving dedicated fans into huge disappointments).

    There is amlost a spiritual diemnstion to your talented role in Numbers that you handle so well. Love spiritualtiy, as they say, not so much for the morality part that the Indians often take (rightly or wrongly) so much pride in, but purely for the joy of it. Your life seems to be cast just for that, so be proud and make the most of it you can. Good luck, Navi!

  20. January 16, 2008, 10:47 pm Jean Bernard

    Navi is the most beautiful girl I’ve never seen in my entire life.

  21. January 17, 2008, 11:27 pm jeanine miller

    I really enjoy watching Navi on Numbers. I have been a big fan and am glad to see more of her on the show.

  22. February 1, 2008, 6:36 pm rachel

    hey hey hey navi I LOVVE THE SHOW THE OC!!!!! benjamin is soo HOT HOT HOT hey

  23. March 15, 2008, 6:35 pm samantha

    Navi’s dad, Raja Ji, is still right hand man for Prem Rawat also known as Maharaji. Her parents met when they were both following the former Guru around the globe. She never makes any mention of her famous uncle.

  24. April 20, 2008, 6:23 am katrina

    She’s really pretty. I first saw her in the OC, and I was happy to see her again in Numb3rs. She seems like a cool person.

  25. June 2, 2008, 2:52 am Ravi Rawat

    Hi Navi, Good Luck! keep up the good work.

  26. June 6, 2008, 8:52 pm Kay A. Dunlap

    Navi,

    You are a wonderful actress and a beautiful woman. I love your voice. I wish you much success in your life and career! A big fan and your new friend,
    Kay Dunlap
    Midland, Texas….fornerly of Hominy, Oklahoma

  27. June 24, 2008, 5:14 am Ashleigh

    Navi,

    Since seeing you on Numb3rs, I do remember you from The O.C. (which is pretty good as I hardly ever watched it), and I’m just surprised that I didn’t pick up on your skill then.

    A good night of TV is a new Numb3rs episode, and then Thoughcrimes following it, which I was pleasantly surprised happened a few weeks ago.

    Thanks for all your contributions, and you certainly make watching Feast and Undead or Alive a whole alot better. XD

    Look forward to your future projects,

    Ashleigh.

  28. July 9, 2008, 10:57 am NY

    I watched her in The O.C, 24 and Numb3rs.
    I like her acting in Numb3rs, I think she has a really good style.
    I’m looking forward to a new season of Numb3rs.
    NY
    South Korea

  29. July 28, 2008, 5:31 pm Krupa Patel

    Hi

    I know I have commented before but I can’t help myself.

    Such a talented and beautiful actress and I look forward to Numb3rs every time it is on.

    Keep up the good work!

  30. August 15, 2008, 11:39 pm CR

    Hello Navi,

    I came across your name; never seen you in film before; but I see you are very talented! I was googling german/indian descent; and your name came up. I am dating a man who’s father is Indian and mother is German. I was not accepted in the family. I am of Puerto Rican decent. I’m torn. Thank you for keeping your culture alive on both sides! He is such a great guy!

  31. August 27, 2008, 3:49 am MUHAMMAD USMAN

    she is a good girl

  32. September 18, 2008, 4:17 pm Ken Silvestri

    Navi,

    Keep up the great work! I was next to you on a plane from Miami to LAX right after the writer’s strike was over and you had just come back from a photo-vacation and were going to make a portfolio out of those pictures. I would love to see that album if it is posted anywhere!

    I myself spent June in Tanzania working with street children teaching them English at a shelter and that trip reminded me of your project.

    Take care!

  33. September 21, 2008, 3:31 pm maha mahdi

    i love navi on numb3rs i am a big fan of the show i like to watch amita & charlie they r so good togther i hope that she never leave the show ever.

  34. December 27, 2008, 4:47 pm Stephen Villano

    Navi is an excellent actress! She plays her parts that I’ve watched with a level of skill seldom experienced in Western television.
    While her current role is supportive actress, I suspect she might gain a higher level, her performance when she went into danger to expose the gaming maniac was memorable, based upon some personal experience, her conviction in that role was even more memorable.
    If the Numb3rs writers fail her in writing for her, it’s on their lack of skill, not hers. She plays all of her roles in that series to excellence, to equal the leading man in the series!

  35. March 9, 2009, 4:30 am Rajput

    i been watchin Numbers for awhile now and never bothered to look beyond ur role till recentlly. dont know why i didnt and why i did but to my surprise i find u r half rajput. dont worry not gonna be typical desi an make desi remarks.lol just wanna say what u already know and thats “ur one hell of an actress, and beautiful would be an understatement so keep doin whatever u have been or havent been cuz people like seein u. at least i do. well, take care”

  36. May 23, 2009, 9:30 am Rick Nicely

    Navi, I Have seen you act in a few of your smaller parts like the O.C. but i have been a follower from day one of Numbers i just love the show and your part in it.
    What first drew me to you and your talent was of course your timeless beauty, but i have watched you grow and get better as an actress even in such a short period of time as you have been on Numbers your growth amazes me, what a great job you did in the season finally.
    P.S. I really have a dislike for bully’s or mean people and i wish i would have been around for you when these idiot’s were teasing you about your beautiful skin color, i just would have tried to make you understand how beautiful you truly are and given you a strong shoulder to cry on. I wish you nothing but the best in the future and will be looking for everything you do i am amazed in so many way’s !!!

  37. July 23, 2009, 9:49 am Gopal Rawat

    i got astonish to know that Navi belongs to Uttaranchal ( india), I would be more delighted to know village of her father, She is one of the perfect acctress in hollywood every body would like to see her act.

  38. September 26, 2009, 3:26 pm Norman Kings

    I saw Navi while watching one of the red carpet events on Fashion TV. I had neva heard of her though i’ve seen a few episodes of Numb3rs.

    Saved her name on ma phone to remind me to do a search on her. Of course coz the name’s Indian and I knew a rawat, she’d be from Uttaranchal(beautiful people).

    Navi, you possess looks that are one in a generation. You’re not human. You’re an angel.