Got this breakdown for a role recently from Beau Bonneau Casting out in San Francisco:
Ethnicity – Indian or Pakistani * If Pakistani, please also note your availability
They had another one regarding Middle Easterners.
I wanted to write back: Pakistanis, Indians and Bangladeshis are all the same ethnic makeup; we can’t even tell each other apart most of the time. Even some Indians/Pakistanis from some Middle Easterners. Only politics and religion have set them apart, though now there are cultural differences which have nothing whatsoever to do with casting. If by saying “Pakistani” you wanted someone Muslim or is fluent in Urdu then there are Indians who fit that bill as well.
And Americans who think I’m Mexican, Egyptian, Italian, and anything east of Italy most definitely can’t tell off the bat what I am. If I lied and said I was Pakistani, or Middle Eastern for that matter, they wouldn’t even have been able to tell by my name as a South Asian or person familiar with the region instantly could.
But I didn’t say anything. For some odd reason, casting directors here take offense. In the UK, they don’t. It’s a given that just as I would probably not be able to tell a Swiss French from a French person, or a Finn from a Swede, or even a Scot from an Englishman, neither could they tell an Afghani from a Persian from a Kashmiri or Punjabi.
I wonder why the specificity when the lead in Rome, obviously a Roman, was played by an Indian (British Indian Indira Varma); anyone brown can play a cab driver, terrorist, 7-11 owner, etc (yet, if “beautiful” man or woman is specified that most likely excludes anyone outside of the white and sometimes black circles? )