Worked With:

Mariska Hargitay

Shenae Grimes

Danny Glover

Noah Ringer

Alfre Woodard

Harrison Ford

Aaron Eckhart

Drake Bell

Miley Cyrus

Summer Bishil Biography

Home > Actresses > B > Bishil, Summer > Biography

Birth Name: Summer Bishil
Born: 07/17/1988
Birth Place: Pasadena, California, USA

Summer Bishil was born on July 17, 1988 in Pasadena, CA to an American mother and a father of East Indian ancestry. The mixed family lived in Pasadena until she was three when they suddenly moved to Saudi Arabia and then to the Kingdom of Bahrain, where she attended the U.S. Department of Defense School. While overseas, Bishil only spoke English and was not even aware of her heritage until she hit her teen years. The family lived in Bahrain until Sept. 11, 2001, when the tragic terrorist attacks on U.S. soil prompted the family to return to the United States. They moved to a Mormon community in San Diego where she briefly attended regular public school, but because of the irrational tension surrounding the country in post-9/11, her schoolmates did not roll out the welcome mat. She was called a "whore" on the first day of school and suffered panic attacks for an entire year. The family ultimately moved to Arcadia, where her mom home-schooled the sensitive teen.

Assimilating into American culture proved easier for Bishil when she began auditioning for movie and television roles. Harboring acting dreams since she was five, she watched American movies all day as a child growing up in Saudi Arabia. At 14, she took her first acting class and nine months later, had a signed contract. Her first role was on the short-lived show "Just for Kids" (Nickelodeon, 2005), followed by guest appearances on other kiddie fares such as "Hannah Montana" (Disney, 2006- ) and "Drake and Josh" (Nickelodeon, 2004-07), and on the daytime soap "Days of Our Lives" (NBC, 1965- ). She also appeared in the Disney Channel Original Movie, "Return to Halloweentown" (2006).

But it was the lead role in Alan Ball's "Towelhead" that gave Bishil her first real career break. Ball, writer of the Academy Award-winning film "American Beauty" (1999) and creator of the critically-acclaimed hit series "Six Feet Under" (HBO, 2001-05) and "True Blood" (HBO, 2008- ), discovered Bishil in 2006 during an extensive casting search that stretched from Detroit to London. The movie almost never made it to the big screen, due to the film's controversial themes of rape and 'tween sex. Every studio passed on it, so Ball was forced to raise money privately to shoot the movie. After its completion, Warner Independent picked it up when it was still titled "Nothing is Private." Ball eventually went with the less politically correct, "Towelhead" - the title of the Alicia Erian novel on which it was based, but a term Muslim leaders insisted was a racial slur.

In the movie, Bishil portrayed Jasira, a 13-year-old Lebanese-American girl who lives with her conservative Lebanese father Rifat (Peter McDissi) in a Houston suburb during the first Gulf war. The film explored Jasira's struggle with her father's strict rules, the racist classmates she must contend with - to say nothing of a burgeoning sexual curiosity with her next-door-neighbor Mr. Vuoso (Aaron Eckhart), a 35-year-old Army reservist. The film also starred Toni Collette and Matt Letscher as the peace-loving, hippie couple who lives next door and who look out for Jasira. Bishil brought an unexpected and impressive nuance to the challenging role where she had to perform a range of sexual scenes on camera; one violent scene in particular exhausted her so severely, that the actress spent hours crying in her dressing room after filming. Despite a perhaps difficult filming, Bishil's work was singled out once the movie was picked up for limited distribution in theaters, leading to offers for future work for this rising star. The role also led to an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead.