Naveen Andrews finally feels like he’s in the right place, having conquered personal troubles to become a star on one of TV’s hottest shows.
NAVEEN ANDREWS has disarmed and then charmed television audiences by playing torturer-turned-peaceful-warrior Sayid Jarrah on the hit series Lost, which sees its complete fourth season released on DVD this month (Buena Vista, $60). Andrews’s intense transformation on-screen reflects how his own life has changed since he departed England for Hollywood 10 years ago.
“I never felt London was my home, for various reasons, and I do feel, if I’m not being too dramatic about it, that I did get a second chance in America, in particular in L.A.,” Andrews explains. “That’s partly to do with my proclivities. In England and the British Isles, it’s very easy to be an alcoholic. And to move to a place where you stick out like a sore thumb if you’re drinking in the morning is good if you want to stop.”
Indeed Andrews, who has been nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his role on Lost, received a strong wake-up call upon meeting legendary Sex Pistols guitarist and reformed alcoholic Steve Jones at a dinner party several years ago. “Up to that point, I’d heard about sobriety, but it just seemed like another planet, really, because when you’re in that state, you can’t imagine life without drink or drugs,” he says. “It’s your whole identity. And to meet somebody who had been such an influence on your character and to see that he’s sober had a huge effect. It made me think, ‘If he’s done it, then maybe I’ve got a chance.’ ” Andrews has now been clean for more than five years.
The star’s tumultuous 20s were rooted in his childhood. He says that his parents, who he once told British newspaper The Guardian were violent and divisive, “taught [him] what not to do.” But being a good parent to his own child has brought him some resolution. “Maybe the healing starts there,” he says.
Though his conservative parents showed trepidation at their son’s interest in acting when he was a youngster in the mid-1970s -- Indian actors did not have choice TV roles at the time -- Andrews attended London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, alongside classmates like Ewan McGregor. Since then, Andrews has appeared in films such as The English Patient and Grindhouse, and he now costars in one of the most talked-about television shows of the decade, Lost, the fifth season of which premieres in January .
Andrews’s portrayal of Lost’s Sayid, an Iraqi, has drawn acclaim from the Arab League. “From the beginning, what intrigued me was that this was a prime-time network TV show in Hollywood [with] an Iraqi in [the cast],” Andrews says. “I felt a sense of responsibility for the entire Arab world -- not just to Iraqis -- to make sure that what people saw was a human being in all his complexity. He’s not necessarily positive or negative; he’s just a human, somebody who’s fallible.”
Against numerous odds, Andrews has achieved both contentment in his personal life and a successful career. And as part of a groundbreaking multiracial cast, he’s been able to break down some barriers at the same time -- which, for Andrews, is reward in itself. “When I started out, my ambition was that I wanted anybody who wasn’t white to be able to watch the screen and say, ‘I can do that. I want to do that, and now I can,’ ” he says. “And if I achieve that, it’s great.”