Lilly Singh calls NBC sitcom ‘my favourite thing that I’ve ever done’
|Toronto Star 10 Jul 2018 at 09:35|
Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson is looking to start a YouTube channel. So who else would he ask for advice but Canada’s Lilly Singh ?
That was the premise of a 2016 YouTube skit that had the actor, the highest paid in the world at the time, requesting the input of the highest paid woman on YouTube.
Tony Wong talks about Lilly Singh and her upcoming shift to television.
It’s rich, of course, that one of the biggest brands in the world would require the counsel of Scarborough-born Singh, who created a media empire in a bedroom from her parent’s house.
Her advice: “Just be yourself.”
So far, that’s worked for Singh. Forbes estimated that Singh earned $10.5 million (U.S.) in 2017, making her the tenth-highest paid earner on the channel. Her work featuring skits aimed at a younger audience about issues such as bullying, gender and race have resonated with her 13.6 million subscribers.
The videos aren’t slick: Singh doesn’t have the benefit of a writers’ room filled with former Harvard Lampoon alumni. But the earnest, often cheesy videos have attracted celebrity guest stars that include Selena Gomez, Seth Rogen, James Franco and Priyanka Chopra.
Lilly Singh, a.k.a. Superwoman, hits Forbes 30-under-30 list
As a UNICEF goodwill ambassador, Lilly Singh visited a school in Bhopal, India where she met with students between 11 and 14 last year. (UNICEF/Brown)
In addition to her YouTube channel, the busy Singh has authored a book, is starring in a new NBC pilot sitcom Bright Futures, released a new lipstick, had a role as a vlogger in HBO’s Fahrenheit 451 and launched her own production company Unicorn Island Productions. She is also a UNICEF goodwill ambassador supporting Childline 1098, which addresses child abuse in India.
The Star caught up with Singh, 29, to ask about her new sitcom and the juggling act of being one of the world’s busiest media stars.
NBC cast you in their upcoming pilot sitcom Bright Futures with Emily Ratajkowski. It looks like you’re playing a doctor, which I think would make your mom and dad proud, but typecasting perhaps?
(Laughs) Honestly, it’s not typecasting. My character just really wants to be a doctor, she thinks doctors are cool, she’s not being forced by her parents. It’s a very diverse bunch of roommates, millennials who are looking to bright futures but are really getting their butts kicked.
The character was meant to be a man. It turned out to be really interesting, last-minute selection. It was really fun. Seriously, it’s my favourite thing that I’ve ever done. So I’m hoping it goes through. I’m really proud of this.
You’re a writer yourself. And on YouTube, you have complete control of your domain. Do you feel tempted when you’re in a sitcom like Bright Futures to tell them that your character should be written a certain way?
I feel like I’m really respectful of people’s creative vision because I have my own creative vision and I would like people to be respectful of that. I never want to walk into a project and say it should be like this. Although I might say what do you think about this. But I try not to get in the way because I know what that feels like.
You seem to be at a crossroads. You’re still doing your YouTube channel, but you’re also bridging into more mainstream media work with movies, sitcoms and pilots. How do you juggle those worlds?
I’d be lying if I said it was easy. I often feel that I have two full-time jobs.
My assistant just told me next month is completely booked up, which is pretty scary. I have to maintain my YouTube channel and my daily vlogs, still do the writing myself, then with pilots going through the whole audition process and making sure I’m on set. It’s really tough. But I have a really great team, scheduling and focus. I guess it’s about putting your head down.
I remember the first time I saw you at a book signing in Brampton, and there were all these kids outside Chapters in complete rapture. What is this connection you have with your fans?
I think a few reasons. When I first started in YouTube in 2010, I was the first person that looked the way I look, especially since I’m a woman. But as the years went on, there was a general level of relatability that traditional celebrities in media don’t really prioritize as much. They focus on their craft. I’m making videos in my bedroom and I think people think “Oh my gosh that’s me” because I’m talking about my flaws and that I’m not perfect. My fans value that.