"There's also an element of me that I want it to bother me because I want to know I care and I want to know that I'm still human," Blue tells PEOPLE
The mispronunciation of Sarayu Blue's name is something she has dealt with for years, but it doesn't mean she can brush the pain from that aside.
"Of course, it does get to me. I'm very human, all of us," the actress, 48, tells PEOPLE exclusively. "I think I would love to pretend it doesn't, but I am a sensitive soul."
This repeat occurrence has allowed Blue, whose first name is pronounced Sar-rye-u, to better relate to her character Hillary Starr on Prime Video's new limited series, Expats, due to a similar feeling they've both endured.
"I think the thing that gets to me most, and that's one of the things I do love about Hilary, is we have that authenticity. We actually have a story about that particular type of situation because it is so specific and because of that so universal," she explains. "I had a few people who really were really cruel about my nose for a long time, and it really did hurt. I had friends say, 'Don't let it bother you. Don't let it bother you.'"
"I get it. Theoretically, that is true. But there's also an element of me that I want it to bother me because I want to know I care and I want to know that I'm still human," she continues. "And then, I want to let it go. I want to release it. And then, I want to come back and be ready to fight more. And what I love about being at the point in my career that I am and living the wonderfully, incredibly happy life I get to live is that I feel good enough about myself that it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks about me."
Overall, Blue's "hope" is that "we see more and more representation that helps shift that perspective."
Blue's new series Expats, based on author Janice Y. K. Lee's 2016 novel The Expatriates, follows the complicated personal and professional lives of a tight-knit group of expatriates living in Hong Kong.
"I think what's so exciting about getting to do a role like Hilary is it's an opportunity to really just sink my teeth into something," she says of the project. "So, it just feels really incredible."
But before she landed her exciting new role opposite Nicole Kidman amid a "really interesting" point in her life, Blue felt as if her career was in a bit of a rut following the cancellation of her short-lived NBC sitcom, I Feel Bad.
"I Feel Bad didn't quite go anywhere, and I think my heart was really broken. I think I felt I went through a real grieving process that felt so magnificent to me, so huge to get to be this dimensional, flawed, petty, ridiculous woman as a South Asian woman," she explains. "I think when that ended, and it really took me a long time to get over it."
The Never Have I Ever alum continues, "I've always said, 'Acting is my first love.' It's almost like that first boyfriend or whatever. So, it has a place in my heart. And so, when something like that doesn't work out that I love so much, it really hurts. I go through a heartbreak. And I tell you that because what I realized was after I finished grieving, I didn't really know if I had the ability to really fight again, to believe that it was possible again."
When the opportunity to star in the Prime Video drama appeared, Blue recalls telling series creator Lulu Wang that she "didn't think this was possible for me to get to be in this world, to get to play on this level" and it was "bigger than I could have dreamed."
"So, when I think about where I am in my career, I don't even know. I'm at a pinnacle moment, truly, for me, for all my dreams, what's to come," she adds. "I dream of the ability to keep going, to have ethe option to keep going, to get to keep playing human beings, to have dimension, to have roles. I wish that for everyone. I really wish it for people who particularly don't get these opportunities regularly."
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The first two episodes of Expats are now streaming on Prime Video, with new episodes arriving every Friday through Feb. 23.
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