Former Miss New Jersey Emily Shah is still thankful for rubbing her time with Hollywood royalty.
The beauty queen who became an actress worked behind the scenes in the 2014 film ‘Jersey Boys’, directed by Clint Eastwood. It was then when she learned some valuable lessons from the 89-year-old, lessons they still estimate today.
Shah, 24, now plays the lead role in the film “Jungle Cry”, which recently made its international debut at the Cannes Film Festival.
Based on a true story, the film follows a team of rugby players who grow up in the slums of India and have written history after winning the Rugby Nations Cup 2007 in England.
The Chicago-born starlet spoke to Fox News about how it was really working with Eastwood, what drew her to the parade world, and why she wouldn’t mind playing a female Bond.
Fox News: You were previously an assistant in the “Jersey Boys” movie. What surprised you most about Clint Eastwood?
Emily Shah: Clint Eastwood was so modest and he was actually very funny and very charming, still to this day. And I remember that we were on the set in New Jersey and that he would always come to me. I was the youngest person who worked on the set. And usually it’s quite rare to see a woman in production. And that also at the age of 17, 18 years old. So he always came to me and just grabbed my brain and teased me about things.
And I remember we were shooting one of the scenes in Jersey at Frankie Valli’s home and he had come to me and it was 7 o’clock in the morning. I had a bag with cones and he had a few Altoids. And so he looked at my cones and I gave it to him a bit. And he said, “No, but do you want my Altoids?”
And I was like, “Is that your pickup line, Mr. Eastwood?” And he said, “Yes, how did you know?” So he has that seed where he is just charming and he is who he is. And one of the greatest things I have learned from him, especially as a director who works with actors, is that he never mentioned action beginning. And I asked him why. And I’ve always heard he never did this, but I never understood why or what his reasoning was. But he said that when he used to shoot the westerns and shout [she] action, the horses would go crazy. So he said, “If the horses go crazy, imagine what it does to a human brain.”
So he would have his iPad and he would walk around on the set. And while the actors were ready, they would continue to perform and the cameras would simply roll non-stop. And I thought that was such a great way to perform, especially as an actor. It gives you so much freedom to express your talents.
I remember having some emotional scenes on “Jungle Cry”. There were some very deep scenes, and I asked the director not to shout “action” and just to make the camera run. And I remember there was a day when I had to cry and one of the child actors had to cry with me, and it was pretty hard for him to do that. But I had to maintain that emotion for six hours, and I remember that it worked so well just because of that one technique I got from Mr. Eastwood learned.
Fox News: Looking back, what was it about the parade world that you pulled in?
Shah: I knew that the spectacle world was definitely a springboard to where I wanted to be, and it helped me in great ways and it gave me a platform that I couldn’t even imagine. But I mean, even with my public speaking skills and my self-confidence – I think that’s something that is so important to have as an artist – to have faith in yourself.
And indirectly, the world of spectacles has given me that. I could not be more thankful. I mean, besides everything else that I have gained from it, the lighting, the experience … the friendships I made through parade. For the past three months I have been a bridesmaid at two of my parade girls’ weddings. So it was really a great experience.
Fox News: did you officially start in 2014?
Shah: No, I actually did parades when I was a toddler … And then I did them for scholarships and eventually I won some scholarship money. So it was good for the university. But yes, I gave up a bit after doing that when I was about 5 or 6 [years old] … I concentrated on school. And when I was 14, I decided that I wanted a procession again. I loved being on the stage. I was a dancer then, did theater, so it was a different form of entertainment on stage. And so I went back to the parade and did a lot of teenage competitions.
… I thought “I like doing this” and it gives me a lot of confidence. And my speaking skills are great and it makes me more committed and focused on who I am and what I want to pursue. So I continued. And when I was 18, I could compete for Miss New Jersey USA. And immediately I won. So I was the youngest and I didn’t know what I was doing, but it worked.
Fox News: What are the misconceptions that people still have about them, and what is the reality?
Shah: I still hear today that people think it’s just parading around your beauty and it’s very facetious, and it’s very superficial and that’s someone’s perception from the outside. But if you have someone who knows who does parades or you do parades yourself, you know how much it can do to you and how much it can determine your focus level and dedication, because procession is like a sport.
It is like an athlete preparing for a competition or a scientist preparing for a test. So I think that in that respect, procession really helps women shape their future and it helps them create opportunities for themselves in every area. I mean, we have Miss New Jerseys who are biochemists, who work for the FBI, who are now dancers … It’s not just the entertainment industry. And I think people should realize that pomp is a springboard to a woman’s career and life.
Fox News: what can the public expect from “Jungle Cry”?
Shah: “Jungle Cry” is based on a true story. It is a sports film that brings an element of family, community, education and it is truly an inspiring story, just like most sports films. But I think the best thing about “Jungle Cry” is that anyone from any background of any race and gender can really have a relationship with it.
Fox News: you originally read the script and initially noticed that there was a lack of roles for women. How did that change?
Shah: When I first read ‘Jungle Cry’, I saw that it was such a male dominant story. And of course rugby is a male dominant sport. And I felt that the essence of a woman and the gentleness of a woman and the feminist in me just had to know that a story like this should be able to relate to other women. And so every sports team has a sports physio, and nine out of ten times it’s a female doctor. So I just thought it would be such an easy combination and combination to add a physical role and for her to be feminine.
And when we added the role of Roshni Thakkar, the name of my character, it just fitted so well with the story and with the children, and the element that the children brought into her life and the impact she had on the boys both life as the coach. So it’s really a mixed story and she’s the only American in the whole story. It is therefore a very diverse cast.
Fox News: You are the daughter of the famous Bollywood actor and director Prashant Shah. What was it like to grow up with someone like him?
Shah: My dad always took me to meetings and he made sure that I was on the set when I wasn’t in school, and he made sure that I was mainly involved in the production side and taught me everything he knew. So our table conversations, even during dinner, always had to do with film or with production or something that had to do with the entertainment industry. And so I was really brought up in this world, and the entertainment industry was embedded in me as a child.
And as I grew up, I kept going to meetings with him and would eventually create opportunities for myself and my father for himself. And so I believe that my father really opened doors for me, but it is I who did the hard work and pushed myself through those doors. I grew up in an Indian household, so my grandparents raised me. I speak two Indian languages. Gujarati was my first language. Then I learned English and then I learned Hindi. So I grew up watching Bollywood movies, listening to Bollywood music, dancing to Bollywood music and even taking Bollywood lessons. So it really was a part of who I am and it still is.
Fox News: You were bullied as a child. How did you deal with that?
Shah: When I was a kid, I used to have a birthmark on my face, so I was always bullied. People would call me Emoly or “Austin Powers”, the “moley, moley, mole” thing would constantly pop up. And I finally had to remove it because I have melanoma in my family and it was discovered with skin cancer. So that basically caused the bullying for me. However, the way I overcame that trauma and dealt with that kind of negativity as a child [was that] I had a very strong set of parents and grandparents and siblings who always kept me on a positive level.
And I think my environment certainly helped, and my upbringing helped. And I always remained true to my values and I remembered that if I was a good person, whatever I said or did, it didn’t matter. And whatever someone said or did, it didn’t affect me. So I think dealing with bullying is always difficult and difficult for children. I have a little cousin who is 8 years old and I always emphasize that she is being bullied, but as long as children have a good support system, I think they will be fine.
Fox News: It has always been said that Hollywood could do better when it comes to embracing diversity and having inclusiveness. Do you think it will get better?
Shah: I absolutely think it will get better. I mean, I watch TV and I watch movies and I see more people who look like me or the friends I grew up with and I grew up in New Jersey that is so diverse.
To not understand that growing up, I didn’t quite understand why a TV show only contained whites, or I just never understood that. But now that you see it, it is so much more open and broad for these opportunities and it just works. I mean, everybody loves it. And I think the only thing that Hollywood should absolutely focus on is that inclusiveness and not just be … If I were a production house, I want to hire actors from all over the world and with different backgrounds, not just Indian actors or not just white actors, just a broad cast. That would be my dream to do that.
Fox News: Tell us about your fascination for action movies.
Shah: I’d always watch action movies and I love action movies. I mean, the Bourne series is my favorite. The James Bond series is one of my favorites, and it would upset me as a little girl to never see women play that kind of role.
And when I was growing up, I always wanted to be a Bond girl, because I thought that was the only way to make action movies or to be part of such an iconic series. But once I grew up, Angelina Jolie came up with “Salt” and so many different actresses have done so many different action functions. One day my dream is to have a franchise series that is “Mission Impossible” but with a woman. And I would really like to play that. So yes, it’s a dream to be a Bond girl, but I think I’d rather be James Bond.