The future of character acting has a new, well, face.
At the Imperial Palace on the Las Vegas Strip, two sisters, macabrely made-up, pose for photographs. The pint-sized pair is set apart from the crowd of mostly middle-aged professionals who don Elvis suits in every hue and blond wigs à la Marilyn, and unlike their plucky predecessors, they’re easy to miss.
Hillary and Hannah Hindi star in The Hillywood Show, a zany, slapstick series of webisodes that feature Johnny Depp characters who are transported through different cult classics after being given a time-traveling DeLorean.
The Hillywood Show was originally a one-woman show, starring Hillary alone. The diminutive 18-year-old actress would play all of the characters herself—including Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands (whom she played on ABC’s Next Best Thing). She cracked the jokes while Hannah, her sister, directed. Eventually Hannah joined as co-star. The show is a series of clever, laugh-out-loud skits combined with sweeping musical numbers that break all the rules. Fans ask desperately, “How did you do this?” and laud their creative genius.
The Hindi sisters were born four years apart, but could easily pass for twins. They have a telepathic understanding of each other that borders on the freaky. They finish each other’s sentences, and their creative process is a bit, well, unorthodox. They live at home with their parents, and create late at night while sitting on Hannah’s bed.
“It happens in our very own office we like to call my room,” Hannah, 22, says. “On my bed.” The sisters are tiny, standing at only five feet tall. “We look up at the ceiling and just go crazy. We start joking. We never take it seriously. We’ll just pull from this and from that, and go from the wildest of an idea to the worst of an idea.” Their mother says she knows her daughters are working on the next episode by the sounds of giggling coming from Hannah’s room.
They don’t come from a rich family, or a family of actors. Their father is a cop; mom stays at home. They don’t know where they got their talent, but attribute much of it to distant genetics. They have dancers in the family. The rest, it seems, is an enigma wrapped in a mystery.
“We don’t write the scripts; we’ve never written a script, ever. We just remember,” Hannah says. “The strange thing is, we talk about it, and somehow we’re so close that when we’re on set, we don’t even discuss how we’re shooting it. I’ll say, ‘Okay, ready, go!’ I won’t have to tell her what I want—we shoot it, and it’s exactly what we picture—we envision the same things.”
Despite being home-schooled and having no formal training in theater, at just 13, Hillary won an acting contest sponsored by AOL and was flown to New Zealand to interview the cast of Lord of the Rings, including her favorite director, Peter Jackson.
“Hillary means hilarious,” her mom says. “When she was born we asked the Lord to honor that. And he did.”
The Hillywood Show has sponsors who don’t give them money but lend them locations and props. The Bootlegger on Las Vegas Boulevard becomes a creepy London back alley; the Star Trek Experience becomes the Millennium Falcon; Lake Mead becomes the sea.
The extras bring their own costumes and work on their own time. The theme song was donated by a band they discovered on the Internet. Grandma doubles as wardrobe consultant. Dad makes all the phone calls, using his cop credentials. Each episode is a two-month process from start to finish.
They have a network of over 30,000 fans who adore them. The Hindis, who were born and raised in Las Vegas and live in Henderson, hope that they can parlay that into network syndication.
For now, Hillary and Hannah support their show by working at separate jobs. Hillary is a webmaster for a MySpace page, and Hannah teaches dance at the Dance Zone in Henderson. Their parents can’t afford film school for both girls, so they did the next best thing: They bought them an expensive Panasonic AG-DVX100B camera. “It’ll burn a hole in your pocket,” Hillary says. “Don’t drop the baby.”
In different episodes the Hindis’ characters fight with light sabers, lip-synch to musical numbers and even get married, when Sweeney Todd and Mrs. Lovett visit Mon Bel Ami wedding chapel off of Las Vegas Boulevard. Jack Sparrow, ever the antagonist, steals the first kiss from the groom. In the latest episode, Sparrow, with gold teeth and fur coat, enacts a rap-video fantasy aside a car with juiced-up hydraulics.
Jack’s sidekick is Will, played by Hannah. The plot revolves around their quest to get back to Port Royal, their home in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. But Doc Brown and Marty McFly accidentally transport them to different movies with the help of the Back to the Future DeLorean. So far, they’ve interacted with (and butted heads with) characters from Sweeney Todd, Star Wars, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and the cross-dressing Ed Wood, resulting in a classic Victor/Victoria moment.
The characters, completely out of place in modern society, discover the thrill of Pepsi and caffeine, hit the Strip and “commandeer” a black stretch limo that they call the Black Pearl, driven by Hunter S. Thompson’s Raoul Duke character, and have chase scenes with police officers while the “Bad Boys” theme from Cops plays in the background.
They even make bloopers for every episode. It’s a glimpse into the positivity, the humor and the trust that comes naturally to them. And for now, it’s a family affair. The Hindis, with their parents, shoot for hours at a time during the day and night, and even though they’re exhausted, the family members come home, kick off their shoes and watch the raw footage immediately.
“The first episode was made because I had become a finalist with the AOL ‘Be a Red Star’ contest,” Hillary says. “They were looking for teens who had an idea for a show.” In keeping with the enigma that is the Hindi sisters, Hillary tells of a strange vision she had the night before the contest was announced. “I was laying in bed thinking, ‘Maybe they should have a contest for a new webisode.’”
When she awoke the next morning, she was flabbergasted to find that e-mail in her inbox.
She followed her instinct and talked to her sister Hannah about a show idea. “I like Johnny Depp, I admire him, and he’s my favorite actor. I wasn’t in love with him, I just so happened to have costumes from a birthday party of Edward Scissorhands and Jack Sparrow. And we talked about doing Mort Rainey and Willy Wonka. We sent in our tape, and AOL contacted me and said, ‘You’re a finalist.’”
(Hillary was devastated when they lost—in Episode 2, they lampoon the winners as deer-hunting, mullet-wearing boys from Greencastle, Indiana. Hillary jokes, “Show us your jealous faces!”)
Even though they didn’t win, they decided to press on. “From there I got e-mails saying, ‘Even though you didn’t win, continue your show.’ My mom said, ‘God gave you this vision before it happened, just go and do it and have fun.’ So we started off, and now we’re on Episode 12.”
The next episode of The Hillywood Show premieres later this month at thehillywoodshow.com.