Freida Pinto Wants to Change Who is “Allowed” to Fall in Love On Screen

The ‘Mr. Malcolm’s List’ actor chats about Black and Brown love, what’s on her relationship checklist, and how Hollywood has diversified since ‘Slumdog.’

Sadaf Ahsan

June 28, 2022

Freida Pinto Wants to Change Who is “Allowed” to Fall in Love On Screen

There are few romantic leads quite like Mr. Malcolm’s List’s Selina Dalton. She’s not one for parties, not one for fashion, and not one for playing games in the name of finding a husband. She’s kind but discerning, and hopeful but not wanting.

When an overly friendly man from town proposes — for the third time, and not without a threat — she has no problem confidently turning him down yet again. She only melts when her childhood friend Julia (Zawe Ashton) asks her to help win over the mysterious Mr. Malcolm (Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù), who has rejected her. Selina (Freida Pinto) isn’t quite as keen on him — at least not right away — as the rest of the women in town. But soon enough, sparks fly, and they’re impossible to resist.

It’s a lighter turn for Pinto and marks a rare rom-com for the star, who first made a splash in 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire at just 23 years old. Plucked from Mumbai, Pinto would earn a BAFTA nomination, and her film would win an astounding eight Oscars — propelling her and co-star Dev Patel into stardom. Prior to that, she had worked as a model and television host, all while taking acting classes on the side and aspiring to see herself on a “world platform” one day.

In the years following Slumdog, Pinto rarely saw actors who looked like her in the meaty, leading roles she was craving. Still, she found work that spoke to her, from the 2016 Hulu series The Path, about cults, to the 2017 Showtime series Guerrilla, which explored Britain’s Black power movement in the 1970s, to 2018’s sex trafficking drama Love Sonia, to 2020 rom-com Love Wedding Repeat.

In Mr. Malcolm’s List, which hits theaters on July 1, Pinto is adding yet another barrier-breaking title. The goal of the film, says Pinto, is very intentional: to change the landscape of the romance genre, and who is “allowed” to fall in love and be loved.

“In telling the story, who is to tell us that a Black man and a Brown woman can’t fall in love with each other, and that it has to be two white people, or it has to be one Brown woman and a white man, or something like that?” she told The Juggernaut. “Why can’t it be people of all colors, all races falling in love with each other? Because love is universal.”

We have edited the following interview for length and clarity.