‘I see Myself in the Mirror as a Brown Girl’: India de Beaufort on Navigating her Mixed Heritage

India de Beaufort
India de Beaufort plays Olivia in the NBC comedy “Night Court. Photo by: Robert Trachtenberg/NBC/Warner Bros. Television.

The concept of a mixed identity is a complex topic full of nuanced experiences. Throughout her life, India de Beaufort has thought hard about her identity. She has come to the conclusion, “I have felt more of an awareness and a responsibility to represent the community as truthfully as I can.” Beaufort’s grandfather is of Indian and French descent and was born in Calcutta, India. She is a quarter South Asian and identifies as Anglo-Indian.

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To the world, she is the British actress who starred in David Schwimmer’s comedy “Run Fatboy Run” — a film that marks a pivotal moment in her career as an actor. Currently she can be seen playing the ambitious Assistant District Attorney Olivia in NBC’s “Night Court.”

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Beaufort at the NBCUniversal Winter Press Tour in Los Angeles, California. Our conversation touched on various aspects of her career; including how she first started out as a singer on a television show in England; her influences ranged from Britney Spears, Frank Sinatra, and Gloria Estefan.


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As I continued my conversation with Beaufort, I began to admire her commitment to being honest with herself. She is intuitive and conscientious about her cultural identity. She shared that she’s turned down acting roles in the past that she believed were meant for individuals who fully identify as South Asian.

I no longer audition for a role where both parents were Indian because I just feel weird that there’s an actor out there that should be playing that role, and I don’t think it’s me being I’m someone who’s a little bit more from a mixed background.

Beaufort has had many challenges throughout her acting career but has managed to stick to her core principles.

I have made choices to be more sensitive to the roles that I play in terms of my own diversity.

Beaufort attended the Lesly Kahn & Co. drama school in Los Angeles, early on, to gain first-hand experience and shape who she was as an actor. She shared how auditioning wasn’t always a walk in the park and how her mixed heritage impacted the roles she was offered, much like the struggle that most South Asians face in the mainstream.

Sometimes it’s been challenging because I spent the majority of my career sitting in a room with women of color. We weren’t given the opportunities that our Caucasian counterparts were given. We were often auditioning for the satellite character, the best friend, or the mistress, and rarely ever for the lead.

She recognized the fact that there has been wonderful growth in South Asian representation on screen, but also questioned the number of shows that exist with a South Asian actor/actress in the lead in comparison to those that predominantly feature white artists. Beaufort stated that she hopes to see a shift in how diversity is approached on screen.

I would love to see diversity take this shift where we are really starting to understand the significance of reflecting society as it is and paying more attention to the way we are portraying our community on screen.

Beaufort continues to look for casting without any specific ethnicity attached to it. She talked about the show “Veep” that was casting all ethnicities. The casting directors asked her if she would like to add a specific background to the character and how would she feel about them giving her character a South Asian identity. She felt challenged, but enjoyed the chance to play the role.


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Beaufort spoke about representing her grandfather in the best way she can but that she also understands the complexities of coming from a mixed background; there are internal struggles attached to having multiple ethnicities.

I will represent my grandfather as much as I can and if there’s a place to add in my diversity and represent a community that I feel proud to even have the smallest slice of.

I’m thrilled to be able to do that, but I also remain aware and sensitive to the fact that I have had a lot of privilege of having a Caucasian background at the same time. So it can be a challenge to try to take care of everybody and do the right thing when you’re not 100% one person or 100% another.

I’m learning as I go and hoping that I don’t make too many mistakes but if I do, I am willing to learn from them and try to do better.

Beaufort continued to talk through what television and media are lacking.

One area we’re severely lacking in television and film is that we are not telling that many stories of mixed people.

We don’t have to specifically make a project about one community or another community. Sometimes we can make projects where we don’t specify where these people come from.

They get to just exist as people in their own right.

It would be wonderful if we also started to carve out a place in television for people to just exist together without having to explain themselves and without tokenism and stereotypes.

Maybe, we are slowly working towards that while also making sure that we do tell stories of cultural relevance.

Talking more on diverse communities, Beaufort added that she has seen a vast difference in representation between England and Los Angeles.

My experience in England versus my experience in the United States is [very] different. I grew up in an area of London suburbs where there was quite a large diverse community and it was not uncommon for me to see a person who looked like me and it was not uncommon for me to get to share in cultural experiences that weren’t necessarily my own. Where as when I came out to LA, I didn’t feel that there was an immediate representation of different cultures as there was in London. This was a long time ago, but as time has gone by I have seen a little bit more of that.

Moving away from the deeply-reflective conversation on diversity and representation, Beaufort spoke about her recent stint as the smart and stylish Olivia in “Night Court.”

Olivia Moore is highly caffeinated, she is very ambitious and has her sights set on getting ahead and she doesn’t mind crushing a few people in her path to get there. We’re not that similar but there’s always a piece of you that bleeds into the character.

It’s kind of fun to get to play a little bit of a villainous role and say and do things you otherwise never would do.


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When talking about Olivia, we just can’t escape her chic sense of style which pretty much relates to Beaufort’s personal style; Beaufort is a huge lover of fashion and a fan of Vivienne Westwood.

She always inspired me in terms of the way she perceived aging and what that means for a woman. I think for her it meant a celebration of life as opposed to the way that our industry often takes it where all of a sudden there’s this concept that we lose our value. Vivienne Westwood; she only gained in terms of her brilliance and luminosity.

Beaufort has been part of a fair share of comedies, but what exactly would be her dream role; a genre that she wouldn’t want to say no to?

Dream role would be anything Sandra Bullock has ever done. I would also love to sing, dance, and act in a movie, all at the same time. That would be my dream role to be part of any kind of musical. “La La Land,” “Westside Story;” if they made a different version of that. If there was a part for me, I would love to get to do everything that I love all at once.

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As we wrapped up our conversation, Beaufort spoke about how she’s still learning and exploring her place and role in the community and that she hopes Brown Girl readers give her the benefit of doubt.  

I am learning; I’m respectfully trying to traverse my place in this community and it actually gives me a ton of anxiety sometimes because it’s really challenging trying to identify yourself in a world where we’re in a profession where I’ve been told so many times that my value is not based on my skillset but on the color of my skin. Coming into this industry earlier on, I felt like there was a period of time where they would say you’re ethnically ambiguous so that’s where we’re going to pigeonhole you and, then later on, pigeonhole you in this box or that box.

You might audition for something and be told she’s not white enough or Caucasian enough for this and you’ll audition for something else and you’re not brown enough for that.

I used to crack a joke, I’m just brown enough to count!

I am still struggling with my own cultural identity and trying to learn who I am and it’s really hard to be in an industry that is at times a box to check on your resume, especially when I don’t ever want to feel like an imposter because my skin isn’t brown enough.

The one thing I know is I’m not white because I see myself in the mirror as a brown girl. I am incredibly grateful to represent any community in anyway that I can that’s underrepresented, while also trying to traverse it respectfully and find my place in that community in the appropriate way.

Beaufort brought a new perspective to how many individuals who come from a mixed heritage feel. She was not only open and honest about trying to understand herself, but she has also continued to work on representing herself in the most real way. What I really enjoyed about our conversation was that she was able to be vulnerable. Many individuals may shy away from talking about these challenges, but Beaufort leaned into them. She brought insight from her nuanced perspectives. If I learned anything from it was that we should not have to quantify our ethnicities. Am I enough? The answer is yes.

Tune in to watch Beaufort play Olivia Moore on “Night Court” airing on NBC Tuesdays at 8/7c. It streams next day on Peacock.

By Arun S.

Arun fell in love with music at a young age by way of his middle school music teacher Mr. D. … Read more ›