M

eet Kavi Ladnier. Beautiful and petite, you probably recognize her from a stint on Heroes, but she’s sporting some Superwoman moves of her own as a full-time actress and a full-time mom.

While most desi kids get sucked into the doctor/engineer/computer programmer Bermuda Triangle, Ladnier does not run true to type—she knew at the tender age of five that she wanted to be an actor. “It’s the only thing I ever wanted to do,” she says, and done it she has.

Profound Power

Sendhil Ramamurthy might be tired of being asked what superpower he’d like to have, but no one has ever asked Kavi Ladnier that question.

While one might expect something standard like flying or superstrength, Ladnier prefers a more unique power. She wants to embody the famous quote by Mahatma Gandhi: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

Perceptions can be powerful, and Ladnier’s success has been fueled in no small part by the positive perceptions she had of the people and places around her and her own capabilities. Whatever change she wants in her life, Ladnier tries to be that change.

Though Ladnier has been acting for years in theater, TV and film, most first saw her in a guest role on the November 13 episode of the hit NBC show Heroes. She played Meera, ex-girlfriend of Mohinder Suresh, played by favorite Sendhil Ramamurthy. Originally from Kerala, India, Ladnier came to the U.S. at a young age, when her father decided to pursue his graduate studies in Michigan. After moving around quite a bit, Ladnier attended New York University and majored in drama and theater, one of the “best [places] to go for this acting thing,” as her father quips.

Spending 13 years in New York made Ladnier a New Yorker at heart, and she used the time to build up an impressive résumé. Most notably, she acted in Seven.11.2005, a series of seven eleven-minute plays all set in a convenience store in a post-September-11 setting.

But Ladnier’s doors to Hollywood were really opened through her involvement with the South-Asian-focused Disha Theatre Group. Disha co-founder Rizwan Manji introduced Ladnier to director Sarba Das at a SoHo art gallery. “There was an instant connection between the two of us,” says Ladnier. Little did she know that connection would prove valuable five years down the road.

While she was getting started in Los Angeles, Ladnier heard that Das was ready to make her directorial debut with Karma Calling, a “story of love and family in the age of outsourcing.” Ladnier landed the role of Radha, a girl who is arranged to be married to an immigrant (and heavily indebted) New Jersey family that keeps getting calls from outsourced creditors.

Karma Calling is slated to be released in 2007, but Ladnier’s been keeping busy with other projects as well. She also starred in the internationally acclaimed short film, Dry Clean Only, directed by J.P. Chan. Originally part of MTV Desi’s The 72 Hour Shootout, where directors are given a theme and 72 hours in which to write a script, cast actors, shoot, and edit the movie, Dry Clean Only failed to place in the MTV Desi festival. Nevertheless, it went on to gain critical acclaim at several film festivals, including being selected as a finalist out of 1,500 entries at the Louis Vuitton International Film Festival in Hawaii.

Kavi Ladnier

According to Ladnier, there is no better time for South Asian actors: The roles and stories are there, and the industry is realizing that the South Asian audience is important. And while Ladnier has auditioned for “ethnic” and “exotic” roles, “the beauty is that the roles really could’ve been about anybody.” That’s important, because Ladnier finds the humanity of the role more important than the South Asian-ness of it. “The focus is to act and tell the story of that human being rather than ‘getting the job.’ When you worry more about getting the job than actually acting and doing what you love, that’s when things become difficult.”

Every hero has her Achilles heel, and one would think Ladnier’s is her desire to be with her family. However, it’s just the opposite. Ladnier is a full-time mom to her three-year-old daughter Leela with husband Cooper Madison, a musician and composer. Many women struggle with balancing work and family, but Ladnier sees the two as complements. “I actually instinctively knew my career would take off after the birth of my daughter,” she beams. “I feel I’d be the best mother and role model to my daughter if I’m happy with what I’m doing and following my passions,” Ladnier reflects. Between auditioning, taking Leela to preschool and being an involved parent, Ladnier’s plate is quite full. Fortunately, she is the multitasking type: both mother and daughter just landed a national commercial with Chevy, combining work and family.

Ladnier’s outlook on life is one worthy of a superhero’s mentor. “Follow your heart, whatever it wants to do, but never do anything out of fear. Find things that embrace and enhance who you are as a person. Fulfill your passion, and you can have more than one passion, but do what makes you happy.”n

Rabia Razaq wishes she could teleport herself to exotic destinations. She lives in perpetually sunny Southern California.
Published on December 20, 2006.
Photography: Courtesy of Kavi Ladnier.
Comments are closed.
  1. May 8, 2007, 1:27 am K.C. Arunkumar

    Beautiful i like

  2. March 3, 2008, 12:24 pm Teresa

    I know her. She’s my step-sister-in-law