I Rarely Saw People Like Me in Lead Roles, Says Ambika Mod

Who is Ambika Mod?

Ambika Bhakti Mod, born in 1996, is a British actress, comedian, and writer recognized primarily for portraying Shruti Acharya in the BBC drama “This is Going to Hurt.”

Personal Life

Mod was raised in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire. She comes from a family of Indian immigrants; her mother migrated to the UK as a child, while her father arrived in his twenties. Mod received her education at Dame Alice Owen’s School and later earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Studies from St Mary’s College, Durham. During her time at Durham, Mod delved into acting and sketch comedy through the university’s Revue. She showcased her talent at the 2015 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and held the position of President for the troupe in 2017. Additionally, she engages in improvised comedy performances at The Free Association in London.

Lead Roles

At the age of 13, Ambika Mod encountered “One Day,” the acclaimed novel by David Nicholls. Reflecting on her past, Mod acknowledges that her younger self could never have envisioned her portrayal of the lead character, Emma Morley, in the latest television adaptation of the book. Expressing her astonishment, the actress shares with BBC News, “It’s still surreal to me.”

Currently 29 years old, Mod was born in Hatfield to parents who immigrated from India. During her upbringing, she noticed the scarcity of individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds assuming lead roles in Western productions. “Even into my early 20s, it remained a rarity in TV and film,” she reminisces.

Mod’s observation holds truth. Frequently, Black, Asian, and other ethnic minority actors have been relegated to roles as best friends or supporting characters, rather than being cast in central roles. Mod highlights a shift in recent years. “But,” she emphasizes, “there is still a significant distance to cover.”

Mod assumes a cherished lead role previously portrayed by Anne Hathaway in the 2011 film adaptation of One Day.

In the new Netflix series, she stars alongside 27-year-old Leo Woodall, who portrays Dexter Mayhew.

Mod explains that both roles were cast “regardless of ethnicity,” noting, “I believe [that decision] was particularly fitting for Emma. It adds another layer to her character and identity, echoing themes from the book, which I think are further enriched by my portrayal in the series.”

Acknowledging the significance of a non-white individual portraying the role, the actress expresses, “I anticipate it will broaden perspectives. It holds significance for many, particularly young women of color, specifically young South Asian women.”

“One Day” unfolds as a decades-spanning love narrative, spanning 14 episodes in the TV series. It chronicles the relationship between Emma and Dexter, revisited annually on the same date over two decades.

Both Mod and Woodall are seasoned performers. Mod, originally from stand-up comedy, gained recognition through the BBC’s “This Is Going To Hurt,” portraying Shruti, an overwhelmed junior doctor.

Woodall, on the other hand, portrayed Essex lad Jack in “The White Lotus,” purportedly the nephew of Quentin, enacted by Tom Hollander.

Nonetheless, “One Day” holds potential for transformative impact on both emerging actors, especially if it garners the acclaim of recent book-to-TV adaptations like “Normal People” and “Bridgerton.”

Having delved into the book during auditions, Woodall confesses feeling “daunted” tackling such a beloved character. Dexter, effortlessly charming and hailing from privilege, confronts later-life challenges explored in the TV series.

“Dexter is complex to approach, facing significant trials, and I knew those moments were pivotal for me to capture,” Woodall reflects. “But I was also genuinely thrilled, especially upon learning Ambika was involved.”

Upon securing the role, Mod delved into crafting a backstory for Emma, considering her origins, education, and other details to render her character “more authentic.” “For every character I portray, I craft a backstory,” she shares. “Understanding their origins is crucial.”

Anticipating the series launch, The Guardian’s Phil Harrison notes: “It’s not a conventional love story: their connection unfolds unexpectedly, with their mutual hesitance hinting at continual slips through each other’s grasp.

“There’s a poignant air of nostalgia about fading youth, with Mod and Woodall delivering highly likable performances.”

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