Samantha Akkineni is the newest entrant in the cast of Amazon Prime Video's The Family Man Season 2. In a conversation with Anupama Chopra, she — along with directors Raj & DK — talks about what made the role stand out for her, and how she had to do a lot of homework to get into the skin of the character.
Anupama Chopra (AC): Samantha, you are the new entry in Season 2, and I feel so intrigued by your character. What about her really intrigued you? What about this woman really got you to say yes to this.
Samantha Akkineni (SA): When the director calls me to narrate a script, I can almost always judge what I'm going to be offered. But this came as a complete surprise. In the last two years or so, I have made a conscious decision to not sign anything unless I know that two to three days before shoot, I'm going to not be able to sleep. I should have sleepless nights; I should be so scared [about whether] I'm going to be able to pull this off or not. And at this point of time, such a character, I knew that – not just three nights, I'm not going to be sleeping for a while. Especially when it's loosely inspired from real events. It was the challenge that I was looking for. I hope I did justice to it.
AC: So did you find that you had to prepare any differently for this one or what was the specific challenge?
SA: It definitely was not something that I could just go to shoot unprepared for. I did do a lot of homework. I watched as much online content as I could get on the matter. I was also offered real-life footage that I took too seriously and delved too deep into!" (laughs) "I would argue with people who had a different point of view on the situation. And that's completely unlike myself. [Usually,] as soon as the director says 'cut', I snap out of it and I'm completely normal and joking around, but there was this one scene…
Raj (RN): She went to some kind of a dark zone. Suman [Kumar], who wrote with us, found this really nice documentary that she said she [Samantha] should watch. I started watching it and said, 'This is disturbing, be careful.' Later, we realized she shut herself [up] for three days and watched it over and over. She said, 'I'm in a dark zone right now.' We said, 'Oh my god, what did you do?' And she replied, 'I can't get over these images!' So on the second day of shooting – it was an intense sequence – she finished it, and we were sitting outside, it was the last shot of that sequence; she came and sat down, watching this shot. And she asked, 'Is it good?' I said, 'Got it, it's great, done.' And she started crying. (Samantha laughs)
DK: She basically broke down. After 2-3 days of this bottled-up intensity…
RN: Then she ran off into the van. And then a half-hour later, she comes back and says, 'What's going on, guys?' (Everyone laughs)
DK: No, but that's pretty impressive though, howmuch she just got into the character. It was living, breathing, eating, sleeping that character, until the scene was done.
RN: It took a toll on her. We could see it, really. But I think the performance came out brilliantly.
AC: Could you talk a little bit about this casting? I think it's amazing how you mix actors from across the country. How do you do it? How do you decide who's the right person?
RN: We rediscovered with great enthusiasm that when we make an OTT series, it's just not Hindi, I can go across India – like the whole of India is for takes. And if we have a series that can support actors, like Samantha is speaking in Tamil for most of the series, Neeraj Madhav is speaking in Malayalam. We just kept them the way they were. We have a great mix of people, and then we were picking someone like Samantha, who's not known for these kinds of roles, and hoping that she would accept it. We were supremely excited that she jumped on, that too over a phone call! It was very simple. I told DK, 'See the conviction in her and the enthusiasm with which she's saying yes to this and all requirements for the role.'
DK: It was a little scary! (Everyone laughs)
RN: It was like, 'Really? Does she know the story? Let's send her the scenes first.'
SA: Oh yeah, I remember you called me once much later, explained a particular scene to me and said, 'You're ok with this?'
RN: Yeah, [when I asked her] are you ok with scenes like this, she kept saying yes to everything. And it wasn't just saying it. She could see the conviction. See, I also believe many actors are capable of many, many things. It's just that you put them in a good character and I think 90% of them are up for the challenge. That's the beauty of actors.