Ever since we laid eyes on this week’s woman to watch back in the day on The O.C., 24 and The House of Sand and Fog, we’ve known this gorgeous actress was truly something special on camera. Following a six-season stint on CBS’ hit mathematical drama Numb3ers as sexy FBI consultant Amita Ramanujan, our newest Femme on Fire, the stunning Navi Rawat, is ready for her horror debut in next month’s screamfest The Collection, the follow-up to 2009’s hit from the team behind the Saw franchise.
Rawat used this opportunity to hide out with us at Playboy.com to chat about her new film, the power of Ellen Ripley and what it means to be a naughty teacher.
Playboy.com: Let’s talk about The Collection. Is this a direct sequel?
Rawat: It is; it picks up directly where The Collector drops off. The first film leaves off where the lead character Arkin, played by Josh Stewart, finally thinks he’s gotten away from the Collector but at the end of the movie he traps him again. It was made for a sequel!
Playboy.com: Tell us about your character, Lisa.
Rawat: I play Arkin’s wife — in the first movie we’re kind of estranged; after the ordeal he went through, being trapped in the house with the collector and tortured, I soften a bit and want to see him as he’s the father of my child and I almost lost him to this horrible situation. It’s very short lived, because the collector is still after him and he doesn’t want to put me or his daughter in jeopardy.
Playboy.com: Are you a horror film fan?
Rawat: I love horror films! I’m a huge, huge, huge horror buff. The producers of [The Collection] I’ve worked with before so I felt really comfortable doing it. I worked them on my film Feast.
Playboy.com: What are your top horror films? Do you have a preference for psychological horror versus torture and blood?
Rawat: I tend to like psychological horror films more. My top three would probably be The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby and Silence of the Lambs. They’re all pretty freaky in my opinion. But I loved The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, [both original and remake]. I’m a sucker for horror; I went to see Cabin in the Woods when it first came out. If it looks scary I’m in!
Playboy.com: Did you like Joss Whedon’s twist with Cabin?
Rawat: I thought it was brilliant. It was so smart and unexpected. Horror films can get a little cheesy, but the twist made it so interesting. But I think in this day and age something like [Cabin in the Woods] could conceivably happen, where they are setting up this crazy experiment. What I loved the most about the movie was the end was every one of your worst nightmares in live action. I didn’t sleep so well that night, needless to say. [laughs]
Playboy.com: And of course, Sigourney Weaver turning up…
Rawat: Yes! Whenever Ripley shows up, it’s all good. [laughs] I’m a huge Alien fan; I was away in Atlanta shooting a project and had work the next day but I went to a midnight showing of Prometheus. I’m that hardcore. [Alien] along with Terminator really were the founding fathers of having strong women action heroes as opposed to the guy comes in and saves the day. They established the butt-kicking woman who can go in there and take care of herself.
Playboy.com: What horror films can keep you up at night?
Rawat: When I was younger The Exorcist could do that; I probably watched it way too young. The Freddy Krueger movies I’m horrified of to this day. The concept alone, of going to sleep, it’s fundamentally scary!
Playboy.com: What was it like filming The O.C.?
Rawat: The character on the show, Theresa Diaz, was very different from me in real life. I was born in Southern California but not Orange County. I didn’t really relate to the character that much; she was from the wrong side of the tracks — I was fortunate that my parents were really generous with me, provided for my education. I didn’t have to struggle like she did. What I did relate to is that Theresa as a character didn’t fit in, and that’s something I experienced in my own life. I didn’t realize the whole “Orange County” thing, and this is embarrassing, until The Real Housewives of Orange County! [laughs]
Playboy.com: Between Numb3rs and Music High, what’s the best part of going back to school?
Rawat: I played a teacher in Music High — a sexy, naughty…inappropriate teacher. You hear about it in the news these days. [laughs] I can’t even think of what kids are doing now!
Playboy.com: Lightning Round:
Favorite City: Paris.
Drink: This is really boring, but it’s probably water. My husband says I consume it like a camel. Smartwater in particular, I’m addicted to it.
Food: Japanese…and when I’m being bad, pizza.
Shot: Tequila — I don’t think it bloats you or puts on weight.
Guilty Pleasure: Watching the Real Housewives on Bravo. [laughs]
Embarrassing Moment: I was at a wrap party and it had been raining outside, and I was getting into the bus to go back to the hotel and I ate it. I slipped out into the mud and ate it in front of everybody. Here’s the kicker: I started to cry like a five year old. I’m a bit of a klutz.
Dream Ride: Mercedes McLaren. I’m a car girl.
Playboy.com: What projects do you have coming up?
Rawat: I completed a film called The Playback Singer which will go around to the festivals. I’ll also be doing pilot season this year.
Playboy.com: What was your first Playboy?
Rawat: Marilyn Monroe was the first I looked at.