Sway Bhatia in ‘The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers’
Sway Bhatia in ‘The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers’ Image Credit: Disney

Sway Bhatia comes from a rare batch of South Asian stars to have experienced both sides of the diversity and representation discussion.

The Indian-origin American teenager, who grew up in Dubai, recalls how being fed a diet of Bollywood when she was young influenced her career dreams. Bhatia also acknowledges that with her role in Disney+ series ‘The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers’, she herself plays an important role in inspiring other desi people in her generation and the next.

“When I was in Dubai, I was surrounded by representation, I was surrounded by people that looked like me,” Bhatia told Gulf News over Zoom. “I grew up on Bollywood movies and everything. So I think when I came to America, I was confused where all the Shah Rukh Khan posters went.”

Bhatia, real name Swayam Bhatia, plays spirited ice hockey player Sofi Hanson-Bhatt in ‘The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers’, based on the 1992 film. The 15-year-old has also starred in award-winning black comedy ‘Succession’ and Netflix series ‘Master of None’.

Sway Bhatia in Mighty Ducks-1617697997959
Sway Bhatia stars as an ice hockey player in the series. Image Credit: Disney

She says that when she started out her career, she realised she wasn’t going to see many people who look like her.

“I was pretty young so it took me a while to really understand what all of that meant. But now I realise that it’s in a way a strength — looking different — and being able to represent that for younger girls,” said Bhatia, who also loves to sing, dance, ice skate and box.

During our conversation, Bhatia displayed a confidence and clarity of thought that belied her youth, and she was firm about what she wanted to do in the future — which is basically everything. The actress opens about when she made Priyanka Chopra tear up and what kind of movie she wishes to direct one day.

Tell me about the new season of ‘The Mighty Ducks’ and how your character has evolved since the last season.

I think season two is very different from season one for sure. We’re in a different setting, we’re at a summer camp. I think Sofi has changed as well. I think she’s matured as a character. She went through a lot in season one and I think she’s taken all of her experiences and is using them in this new team and this new friend group that she’s recently become a part of. And I think what I love about her in season two is that she’s able to use the experiences that she went through to help others.

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers
A still from 'The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers'.

How do you feel about your character now? Do you feel like she’s grown up with you?

I definitely feel like I’ve grown up with her. I was 12 when I first booked the role, and now I’m 15. So I’ve sort of become a teenager through being her. And I’ve definitely learned a lot from playing the role of Sofi. There’s so many things and aspects to her character that I find myself relating to, and some other things where I’ve learned from her. I think she’s a very mature character and knows how to speak up for herself. And I think I’ve found my own identity as well through playing her.

You spoke to Gulf News last year. How has your career been since then?

I think there’s been a lot that’s happened since last year — obviously, season two being one of the big things. Also just becoming older. I’m now a sophomore in high school. But in the industry, I like to focus on original stuff right now, which I think is super important for me. I’ve always wanted to be a director. I was able to shadow a director this season on Episode 8 and 9. I worked with Jay Chandrasekhar and I think it was a dream come true getting to get a taste of what I’ve always dreamed of doing. And aside from that, I’ve been working on songwriting and singing and other music and other skills that I’ve had... And season four of ‘Succession’ is currently happening.

What kind of projects would you see yourself directing in the future?

There’s a few genres that I love. I’ve always dreamed of playing a Marvel role. And I think it would be insanely fun to be able to direct something like that. But I think something recently that I’ve gotten interested in is true stories. And bringing those kind of stories to life.

What has the reaction been to your character and your role?

I’ve been getting some really special messages, which are amazing. I love hearing from the fans and the viewers of the show. I think the main responses that I get a lot is that your character inspired me to play hockey or your character inspired me to be myself... and not hide my true identity. Those messages just mean everything to me. It’s one of the most important things about playing this character and being able to be a strong female role model, and especially a brown hockey player, which you don’t see often.

Having grown up in Dubai and being a desi person, do you feel like those things have helped you in your career?

I think, growing up, I was lucky enough to be part of the Bollywood industry and be a fan of that so I had role models in that realm... I guess I didn’t have as many role models [in the US] until Priyanka Chopra and Deepika Padukone came into the Hollywood industry.

I was able to go to a South Asian event while I was out in LA filming, and Priyanka Chopra was there. And she spoke about how we were celebrating the 10 South Asian nominees at the Oscars that year, which is such an incredible thing to celebrate. But I think what she was mainly talking about is that how we should normalise it. It shouldn’t be such a big deal when it happens next year. So she was saying next year would be 20 [nominees]. And then after that would be 30 and it would just keep growing. So I think that’s what I want to keep pushing.

Has there ever been a moment with a celebrity where you’ve been star-struck?

I think there have been actually a good handful of that... Priyanka Chopra being one of them. It was actually a full circle moment because I had performed with her in Dubai at the Meydan when I was three. I showed her the picture when I met her at the South Asian event and actually her eyes were watering and I was actually really shocked how Priyanka Chopra was getting teary eyed over my photo. It was a really full circle moment dancing in front of her when I was three and now being 14 at the time being on a Disney+ TV show. I was telling her how she was such a role model to me and I don’t think I would have come this far without her. So it was a really special conversation.

You you act, you play music, you play the drums, you ice skate, you do so many different things. How do you balance it all out?

I think it all comes through passion. I think when you have the passion it just comes effortlessly. It obviously takes a lot of hard work but when you have that passion driving it, it just makes it so much easier. My parents don’t force me to do any of this. In fact, I force them to let me do even more things. So I think that’s the most important thing for me. Acting definitely has taken over the most. But what’s so important about all the other skills is that I always say you never know what kind of role you’re gonna get. So when I was growing up doing ice skating, my other family members would always be confused on why I would train at the ice rink in the Dubai Mall... I had no idea it would come into play later as being an actor. I remember when I first got the audition, I was so confused how it all ended up coming around. And I went back to my old ice rink and I started skating again. It taught me how all these little things that I do, all the many different skills I have, could easily come into play as an acting role.

Is there any particular skill or hobby apart from acting that you really connect with?

It’s a hard question for sure... Aside from acting, I really have recently been connecting with songwriting. I just find my songwriting notebook to be my therapist, because I’m just able to write down all my emotions through music. I really connect with music. I just got my Apple Music Rewind for 2022 and I’ve already listened to 53,000 minutes. So yeah, music is like my second language and being able to talk about my life stories and my emotions through music is the best superpower anyone could have.

What’s in store for Sway Bhatia?

Many things, I guess. Like I said, I’m continuing to train; probably original music one day; the directing; writing; and new projects that I’m starting to work with and people that I’m talking with. I think that’s definitely where I see myself in the future... I’m looking at dream colleges and NYU is definitely where I want to go. But for the future, I’ll be in Dubai soon.

Don’t miss it!

‘The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers’ streams on Disney+.