Sway Bhatia eases into her interview with TEENPLICITY with the practiced ease of a longtime professional. She is friendly, outgoing, and engaging, letting humor fill her voice as she recalls memories of her time filming and allowing a serious tone to takeover as she recognizes the responsibility on her shoulders that come with her roles.
Her acknowledgement of the weight that comes with her portrayals is accompanied by wisdom that some thrice her age has yet to obtain.
“It’s still an unreal feeling,” Sway says at the fact many people, especially young girls of color, now see her as representation of themselves in media. “I’m so honored that I get to represent somebody of my background on different TV shows, especially one [like] Succession where I’m in a cast that doesn’t look like me.” The young actress, now only 13, points out that she joined the show at 9 and felt that while representation on screen was becoming a topic of discussion, it wasn’t at the height it is now. “Getting to be seen as, so to say, a role model for young girls, especially young girls of color, is something I never imagined.”
She next acknowledges The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers, where her character brings new light to those often underrepresented, in roles they are rarely seen in. “Getting to be somebody of my background who’s a strong, athletic hockey player… I mean, you barely ever see a young Indian girl be a strong, athletic hockey player! So I’m absolutely thankful that I get to play somebody like her and represent my background, especially as a woman.”
The actress mentions how she recently wrote an article for The Wrap about representation and Vice President Kamala Harris. In the article, she details the isolation of often being the only Indian girl in her activities and pursuits, and how VP Harris has given her the courage to continue to push for more and not be discouraged.
“[Kamala Harris] is my role model right now and everything she does has inspired me and other young women of color. I hope I can be like a young Kamala myself to younger women, and I hope my characters Sophie/Sofi can inspire young women as well.”
She doesn’t want to have the pressure of hockey camps and college counselors, but she’s so good at it, she can’t help herself.
Sway mentions in her piece being welcomed into the Succession family, on-screen and off, despite their physical differences. Bringing up her character Sophie on the HBO series, TEENPLICITY notes it is one of two characters she plays with the same name but different spellings, getting a laugh out of her. “I feel like Sophie is my lucky name,” she jokes.
“I love playing Sophie on Succession. She is such a fun character to play,” the actress says. According to Sway, her joy of being part of the show comes not from the character description but from the people she gets to work with. “Getting to have Jeremy Strong, an Emmy winner, as my dad is everything you can ever imagine, Brian Cox who plays my grandfather, and just being on an award-winning show is such an amazing feeling. Seeing the success of the show,” she says, pausing as she takes a deep breath, as if still taking in the enormity of its popularity. “I get emails and messages all the time saying, ‘Sway, oh my god! I saw you on Succession! You were that little Indian girl!’”
Her amusement fills her voice as she recalls the messages she receives, adding after a small laugh, “I honestly stand out on that show because it’s great that I was brought into a family that didn’t look like me. I was grateful that I was given that opportunity.”
She grew up on that show, Sway says as she fondly thinks of her time on Succession’s three seasons thus far. “The stars of the show remind that to me and the guy who plays my brother all the time,” she says happily, “and they’re just so supportive of us.”
The young actress recalls a time on set recently when the cast had been talking about The Mighty Ducks. “Sarah Snook is like a Mighty Ducks stan!” Sway comments jovially. “She came on set, not even knowing I was going to be on set, and she wore a Mighty Ducks sweatshirt, which is really funny. They’re so supportive of my career.”
She brings up another time in which she was filming a scene that she wasn’t able to beforehand due to her schedule on The Mighty Ducks. “[The cast was] like, ‘I see you’ve been busy filming The Mighty Ducks!’” she imitates, her grin apparent in her voice as she recalls their words. “We talk about it every time we were on set. They have me share memories about Emilio [Estevez] because they love Emilio. The Mighty Ducks movie is their generation, so they’re super proud of me – I’m so grateful that I get to hang with them when I’m on set.” Sway continues gushing, “They just love talking all about The Mighty Ducks and I love being on [Succession]. Everything about it is absolutely amazing and I hope I can film more for season three, and hopefully we get a season four and more!”
Until then, Sway has no worries of losing contact with her castmates. “We stay in touch a lot through Instagram which is super helpful these days,” she says with a laugh.
“But I love going on set. The things I experience as being a part of a royal family is something I never thought I’d ever experience in my real life. So I’m thankful that I get to be on that show. I can’t wait for season three to come out.”
While both the cast and fans alike wait for the third season of the show to premiere, Sway is able to keep busy by shifting her focus to her ongoing series, Disney+’s The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers.
Picking up almost three decades after the original Disney film, the series follows a group of kids, most of whom lack talent and understanding of hockey, as they form their own team after the captain is cut from the Mighty Ducks.
Sway plays Sofi in the show, an experienced hockey player on the Mighty Ducks who is feeling pressure from both her team and from her parents to succeed, even as she struggles with an on-going knee issue. Though her friend Evan tries to convince her to join his new hockey team, she struggles to move away from the expectations already set out for her.
“Honestly, Sofi is such a cool character. Her whole name Sofi Hanson-Bhatt I find so powerful because the last name is in fact my grandmother’s maiden name, which I found really cool,” Sway reveals. The name was a happy coincidence, and somewhat a sign from fate. She shares how during the audition process and filming the pilot, her character’s original name was Sofi Hudson-Batra. Due to liabilities within the film industry regarding the usage of names and how it can infringe on the rights of real people, the character’s name changed to Sofi Hanson-Bhatt. “I told the creator, ‘You know, it’s my grandma’s maiden name.’ They’re like, ‘No way! That’s so cool!’” She laughs as she remembers thinking, “‘I hope they don’t have to change it again because it’s somebody’s real name!’ It got changed to [Hanson-Bhatt] when we came back, so [Sofi] had this new cool name and I was honestly super happy with the change.” It was just one more thing that made Sway fall in love with her character.
“She is just really fierce and spunky, she’s an athletic girl, and she’s super smart. But she does have this insecurity inside her and I’m so glad that Disney+ decided to portray this because nobody’s perfect,” she describes of Sofi.
The young actress continues, “I think it’s good that they highlight insecurities because everybody has them, even if they cover it really well. So she deals with a little bit of herself being afraid of her parents because they want her to be the best. They want her to win and everything. They want her to get A+’s and they want her to go to Harvard. So she has this pressure on her when she’s on this Mighty Ducks team, this rude, mean team. But she’s this nice girl there.”
Sofi was a really fun character to portray, according to Sway. “She has many layers to herself and she grows throughout the series. I’m excited for everybody to see who Sofi Hanson-Bhatt is.”
I had to think and really study what it’s like to feel this pressure and what it’s like to have this weight on you from your parents.
Over the ten-episode first season, Sway promises growth and many shocking moments within the show that audiences might not expect. “She has so much to her. Every episode there’s something new about her or something new happens to her, which I was so thankful that I got to portray somebody like that,” she says.
“I don’t want to say too much because there is lots that you’re going to see happening to her and you’re definitely going to see her come out more in the season,” she teases.
Discussing the first couple of episodes, Sway hints at the pressure her character’s parents have put on her, as initially seen in the pilot. “They really support her being on this Mighty Ducks team, she already has a college counselor at the age of 12, and she’s going to all these hockey camps during summer vacation – she is going through a lot of pressure from that,” she explains. Pointing out the knee issue shown in the first episode as well, she continues, “[Sofi’s] struggling with it a lot and as much as she has a passion for hockey, she doesn’t enjoy the Mighty Ducks way. So she wants to join this team with her friend Evan and she wants to do this for fun, and she wants to have fun with all of her friends. She doesn’t want to have the pressure of hockey camps and college counselors, but she’s so good at it, she can’t help herself.”
Portraying Sofi’s struggles with the expectations and pressures from her family was a new experience for the actress. When discussing the many pressures Hollywood often places on entertainers, especially young women, Sway shares that she’s never felt that pressure on her, especially not from her parents.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt that [pressure] at all, especially in the industry. I’ve always just had a passion for it,” she explains. “Honestly, this was a different feeling for me – I had to think and really study what it’s like to feel this pressure and what it’s like to have this weight on you from your parents. My parents have always been very supportive, my entire family has always been so supportive. And that’s definitely one of the challenges that I had playing this character, but she was definitely a hard character to portray and I’m so glad I got the opportunity to take this challenge. It was a fun one!”
Fun is also a word the actress would use to describe what it had been like to film the Disney+ series with the rest of the cast. Thinking back on the first episode, she laments the fact she didn’t get many scenes with the group of seven other kids. “We all got so close, so it was hard not getting scenes with them,” she says through her brief sadness.
Picking a favorite scene from the first episode, Sway is torn between two. The first is the scene in the cafeteria when Evan, trying to recruit players for his own hockey team, drops his lunch tray to get everyone’s attention. “I have this one look while the whole team is just laughing. I have to keep my laugh in,” she remembers as the amusement fills her voice. “That was a fun scene because it’s everybody’s there and this is before COVID, so no masks and so many people. It was a fun little lunch scene.”
The second scene she really enjoyed filming is one that comes at the end of the premiere episode, when there’s pyrotechnics and crazy lights as the different teams of the junior hockey league are being introduced.
“It was so chaotic,” she recalls happily. “Lots of people that are in hockey tell me, ‘Yeah, this stuff really happens.’” Sway mimics her astonishment as she shares her original thoughts that it was just dramatics for the series.
Though the actress still isn’t super involved with the sport of hockey, she has grown as a skater on the ice. Stunt doubles are used for the more physical scenes and actions but the actors do glide on the ice, especially when doing specific action shots or having conversations.
“When we arrived in February for filming of the pilot, we had two weeks of hockey training from NHL players which was definitely super helpful. After we had our COVID break for six months, we got back to Vancouver to start filming the rest of the season and after our two weeks of quarantine, we had another two weeks of practice with our coaches every day, working all day pretty much,” she says of the training that went into the role. She calls the training fun, saying, “We loved our coaches and we got really close through quarantining with lots and lots of facetiming. We had fun games to do on the ice.”
Pure joy overtakes Sway’s voice as she says, “We played things like Star Wars where the coaches throw pucks out on the ice and you have to jump and go over them and things like that. But I definitely miss training and being on the ice with everybody. We had many memories and special moments on there.”
Discussing the stunts of the series, some of which were showcased in the second episode of The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers which featured plenty of slams and falls on ice, Sway teases, “Stunt double-wise, there’s a lot of stunts that my character had to do because she’s such a strong hockey player.” She’s amused as she admits, “There’s a lot of tricks that I can’t really do in real life. But throughout the whole ten-episode series, we kept progressing and our skating got better because we were practicing while we were filming our scenes. So later on, I got to do more of my own stunts and it became really, really fun. You’re going to see that I kind of progress as a hockey player throughout the show.”
In addition to her wonderful coaches and loads of practice to help her become a better player, it also helps that Sway has a background in a variety of dances as well as figure skating.
“Tapping actually came in to help a lot,” she says of how her previous experiences helped her on ice. “Our hockey coach thought I was a tap dancer already; footwork is a big part [of] hockey. The hardest part for me was the puck and the puck control because when you’re dancing, there’s a lot of footwork. That came in to help with my salsa and ballroom training, especially tap training. So that definitely came into play.” She pauses for a moment. “Figure skating probably paid off the most,” she adds.
“I’ve been a figure skater for a while growing up in Dubai. I practiced lots there and when I booked the job, I couldn’t wait to get back on the ice.” Sway jokes as she confesses, “I lost a few of my tricks but that’s okay, I got right back into it in a different way with some different blades for my hockey skates. It was really cool to get back on the ice and I hope I can get back on the ice again.”
[I hope to] give back as much as I can and use the platform that I’m creating right now to try to help make the world a better place.
With so much hockey talk, TEENPLICITY had to ask what team in the NHL she supports. It’s with a laugh that she reveals, “I don’t really follow hockey, but I know I am a [New York] Rangers fan all the way. My uncle is a big sports guy so any team he follows, I follow. But I definitely know I’m a Ranger [fan].”
Though her current focus is split between The Mighty Ducks and Succession, Sway isn’t limiting herself to what she might accomplish next.
“There’s so many things I’d love to be in,” she says with a laugh when discussing dream roles. “I am a big Stranger Things fan and I’d love to be any character there is – anything, literally anything to be on that show. And I’d also love to be a Marvel superhero. Marvel is something I’m definitely into a lot right now these days, especially with Disney+ putting a lot of Marvel stuff out.”
The actress takes a moment to gush, saying, “WandaVision has been my favorite show right now. I love womanpower and to think that they’re introducing new women superheroes and women superheroes of color – Ms. Marvel who is a girl from the Middle East and a young girl – I love it. I’m so thankful for that.”
For when she lands her dream role, Sway knows exactly who she’d love to star opposite her. There’s zero hesitation in her answer when she says, “Noah Schnapp!! He is my dream person to work with. Everything he has done in Stranger Things has inspired me to become a better actor. The things that he did in that show are absolutely unreal.”
She emphasizes that Noah Schnapp is her dream co-star but also adds one more of the many people she’d love to work with. “I probably want to work with Elizabeth Olsen. Honestly, I love the work she did as Wanda and her little finger movements are so cool. I love the way she portrayed Wanda in WandaVision and the studying that she’s done to play her and play those sitcom characters,” she says. “She was very inspiring as that character in WandaVision, so I think it’d be really cool to work with her.”
Until that moment comes when she’s able to work with either of those respected actors, Sway has an idea of what else she wants to accomplish over the next five years.
When presented with the question of what she’d like to do, she pauses for a moment as she takes in what that means. “Wow,” she begins, mulling over the question. “I definitely want to go ahead with my acting career, hopefully be in a Marvel [movie or series] or Stranger Things,” she says with a laugh. “I guess you could say, besides acting, I hope that I can give back as much as I can give back to the community. I recently did something with Lollipop Theater where I read books to children in the hospital and I had so much fun doing it. It really just warms my heart.”
She adds, “In about five years I will be going to college, which is still crazy to think. My dream college is Columbia University and I either want to study directing and writing and being on the other side of the camera, or I’d even want to study computer science because I’ve always been interested in technology and I’ve been a big math geek for a while, which a lot of people don’t expect in me.”
Sway says she’d also like to continue to pursue her other hobbies like singing. “I’ve been writing lots of songs during quarantine, so I’ve had the time to do lots of songwriting, lots of original work. I just want to put more stuff out there.”
Most importantly to Sway, though, is using her reach over the next couple of years for a greater cause. “Like I mentioned before, [I hope to] give back as much as I can and use the platform that I’m creating right now to try to help make the world a better place.”
The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers is available to stream on Disney+ now, with new episodes debuting every Friday!