By Rochelle Gomez
Edited by Minh Anh Vu
We all have that little voice inside of us that helps to give direction and push us to be better versions of who we are, even when we are afraid to truly admit it out loud.
Little Voice follows a diverse cast of creatively talented individuals who make a living through music in New York City. Leading the cast with strong musical performances is Brittany O’Grady, who stars as Bess Alice King, along with her musical writing partner and accompanist Colton Ryan, starring as Samuel. The show also features big powerhouse names attached to the franchise, such as J.J. Abrahams (Star Trek), Sara Bareilles (Waitress on Broadway), and previously mentioned Colton Ryan (Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway). The Little Voice Apple TV+ series highlights a diverse cast with heartfelt singer-songwriter music at its core. Not only do the list of big names add to the dynamic of the series, but they are supported by a stellar cast such as the quirky and full of life Phillip Johnson Richardson as Benny, and the uplifting musical fiend older brother on the autism spectrum Kevin Valdez as Louie. Each character helps support Bess on her musical journey, while also playing a pivotal role in exploring themselves within the bright and tough city that is New York.
Prisha, played by Shalini Bathina, is the best friend and all supporting sister-like roomie to Bess. The Indian-American actress also plays a musician who plays guitar in an all-female mariachi band. Her representation as a South East Asian character opens the door to the struggles related to finding our path to embracing our own little voice. We meet Prisha as a closeted LGBTQ+ character, while the format may not at all be that uncommon, it’s refreshing to see a new Asian portrayal of the pressures associated with the struggles to feel accepted with a different morally cultural compass.
Within the Asian community, it is quite common practice to have strong family ties. For example, we typically don’t move out until we get married, we fit as many family members in our house as much as we can. Birthdays, holidays and any other familial gathering can be an overwhelming amount of stress which involves rehearsing what to say, especially when it comes to family updates on our jobs, relationship statuses and living situations. Part of a conservative Indian-American family, Prisha is torn between pleasing her parents, who have a big influence on her life and are focused on finding her a suitable arranged marriage match, or being her true self with secret girlfriend Ananya played by Nadia Mohebban.
While it’s not pleasant to watch, as an Asian woman myself and as a viewer, you can empathize with her circumstances and the crossroads her character is put into. No one else can make the decision but herself. Asking the questions; Who am I as a person? Is this a person my family can be proud of?
The Little Voice TV show title, theme song and musical single is scattered throughout the series as a homage to this dilemma, and I think the show nailed it. I am eager to see more hauntingly beautiful melodic songs in Season 2. While finding your voice in all aspects of friendship, career, love and importantly yourself can be an incredibly difficult thing to do, we too need to find the line drawn where we decide whether what we want is the best for us or our family.
Shalini Bathina speaks about how her character Prisha showcases representation in her role as an Indian-American with TV Insider by commenting, “this is one of the first few fleshed-out characters written for the South Asian LGBTQ [community] specifically. To normalize that narrative for South Asian and South Asian LGBTQ [people] is so important. […] We haven’t even scratched the surface.”
She goes one to further say that, “it sheds the light on the topic for South Asian families, or people who might lean into a more conservative ideology, and plant some seeds for change. […] It needs to be addressed from the top down, and we have to have more writers and more people who can accurately represent it behind the scenes, not just onscreen. That creates more systemic change.”
This moral dilemma and quest for self-discovery represents a show that is headed in the right direction in being the catalyst for more representation and this is also key for those involved behind the scenes doing the extra leg work to research and allow these voices to be heard.
I think the portrayal of Prisha opens the door to many more stories that need to be told amongst the Indian-Western culture of arranged marriages, along with the LGBTQ+ community. While her character arc at the end of Season 1 didn’t end in leaving everyone close to being happy with her decision, she walks away with herself being happy, surrounded by the people that do accept her. Isn’t that the best we can do? Isn’t that all that anyone asks from us? In the end, all we can do is hope that the people who we find important, can learn to accept, love, and support us for who we are as a person.
You can now watch the full first series of Little Voice on Apple TV+ today.
Listen to the Little Voice Soundtrack from the series on Apple Music and Spotify.