‘Snowpiercer’ and ‘The Rental’ Star Sheila Vand Details How She Carved Her Own Path in Hollywood

     August 6, 2020

Hopefully you’ve seen one of the clips we’ve posted from this episode of Collider Ladies Night with Sheila Vand, like this one about coming to embrace her ethnicity on screen more, but just in case you haven’t, get ready for a conversation with a very powerful voice that this industry is lucky to have. Vand’s resume is already loaded with standout credits including A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night and Best Picture winner Argo, and now she’s having quite the 2020 with the release of The Rental and the big debut of Snowpiercer on TNT, but it wasn’t always an easy journey.

While chatting about her experience at school, Vand noted some challenges she faced and how they actually wound up motivating her:

“I think actually a lot of the rejection that I faced early on shaped me in a great way because in college, just like in middle school and high school, I felt a little overlooked, to be honest. I’m not sure if it’s because I was a Middle Eastern American actor. I’m not sure what it was, but I refused to believe it had to do with my merits or my work ethic because I work very hard. But being dismissed like that, what it did for me was that, first of all, it pushed me to make my own stuff. I realized very quickly that things were not gonna be handed to me, that the sort of normal audition rat race wasn’t working out for me so it was kind of just like, ‘Okay, well I have all this time on my hands; I’m gonna write my own thing.’”


Image via TNT

And that’s exactly what Vand did. It began with starting a theater company with a group of friends, then Vand poured everything she had into a very successful experimental performance, and now she’s tapping into that drive to create on Instagram with a project called “Medicinal Music” –  all while carving out a place for herself as a professional actor. 

“I think that that kind of rejection that I faced, feeling like I didn’t fit into any of these molds, pushed me to make my own mold. And now as I look back on this decade I’ve been doing it professionally, I see how much it’s actually served me to not take that regular path.”

For anyone who’s feared not fitting a mold or encountered any type of prejudice in pursuit of their goals, Vand’s experiences and how she’s grown from them are hugely moving and inspiring. You can catch her full episode of Collider Ladies Night in the video at the top of this article or listen to the conversation in podcast form below. We’ve also got a handy breakdown of the chat for you to help pinpoint where Vand discusses her time working with Robin Williams, her favorite 90s Nickelodeon shows, some Snowpiercer Season 2 teases, and more. 

Sheila Vand:

  • 01:15 – Vand was a big cartoon aficionado as a kid; in high school it was all about David Lynch and Quentin Tarantino movies.
  • 03:26 – Vand revisits her favorite 90s Nickelodeon shows.
  • 05:40 – Vand’s first real experience doing a play and the teacher who was really struck by her performance.
  • 07:57 – Why studying abroad made her realize that she had to be an actor.
  • 08:26 – On feeling overlooked in school and how that motivated her.
  • 12:17 – Vand talks about the experimental performance she poured everything she had into, Sneaky Nietzsche. Vand addresses the comparisons to Sleep No More.
  • 16:00 – Why she felt burnt out after Sneaky Nietzche.
  • 18:00 – Looking back on when her acting career started to take off right after the show.


    Image via TNT

  • 19:23 – What it was like making real money from acting for the first time.
  • 22:20 – Vand remembers working on Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo with Robin Williams.
  • 25:00 – Vand discusses finding the balance between being open to trying something on set and also protecting yourself as an actor.
  • 27:50 – Vand looks back on working on Argo with Ben Affleck.
  • 31:15 – Was A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night as much of a game changer for Vand as it appeared to be?
  • 35:34 – On coming to terms with playing her own race on screen; having character names changed to something ethnic after she was cast, including TNT’s Snowpiercer.
  • 43:12 – Vand looks back on participating in Camp Anytown, a camp that addressed prejudice.
  • 45:45 – Getting The Rental after Season 1 of Snowpiercer; why her character’s name and ethnicity in that was a major draw.
  • 48:55 – The Rental Spoilers! Vand addresses Mena’s fate.
  • 51:41 – Working with Dave Franco on his very first feature film as a director.
  • 53:38 – Vand looks back on all of the changes Snowpiercer went through when it was first getting off the ground.
  • 56:26 – Vand highlights some of the standout members of the Snowpiercer ensemble.
  • 01:00:28 – Snowpiercer Spoilers! Vand talks about Zarah’s growth and teases how the events of Season 1 will impact her decisions in Season 2.
  • 01:05:30 – Vand’s new project, “Medicinal Music,” a playlist that explores mental health issues.