Ambika Mod on the 2022 BAFTA Breakthroughs: ‘I did stuff on This Is Going To Hurt that I never thought I’d do’
BAFTA Breakthrough talent Ambika Mod explains what she learned on This Is Going To Hurt, discusses some of her creative influences, and reveals a little about her role in Netflix’s One Day
BAFTA Breakthrough is the arts charity’s flagship talent initiative, providing a springboard to creatives working in film, games, and TV. Participants receive unique professional development support from BAFTA, from coaching and mentoring to networking opportunities with BAFTA’s global membership of key industry figures.
NationalWorld’s Alex Moreland spoke to a selection of this year’s BAFTA Breakthrough talents, including actors Ambika Mod (This Is Going to Hurt) and Leon Harrop (Ralph & Katie), writer Jack Rooke (Big Boys), cinematographer Diana Olifirova (Heartstopper), and director Runyararo Mapfumo (Sex Education).
Below, Ambika Mod explains how she felt on learning she’d been selected for the 2022 BAFTA Breakthrough initiative, discusses what she learned on This Is Going To Hurt, and details some of her creative influences. Mod also reveals a little about what to expect from One Day, the upcoming David Nicholl adaptation she’s starring in at Netflix.
How did you feel when you found out you’d been selected for this BAFTA Breakthrough list?
Yeah, really bizarre. I got an email when I was out, and – we were told we weren’t allowed to tell anyone – I was with friends, and I just sort of sat there quietly. And I was like, this is pretty cool. But yeah, it’s been a bit of a journey, letting it sink in. I’m not sure it will completely, until maybe it’s announced. But it’s such a massive honour – I’ve been aware of the initiative for a few years, and to be part of it now doesn’t feel quite real. It’s a real pinch me moment.
Is it validating at all, would you say?
Oh, my gosh, completely validating, completely. I mean, it’s acknowledgement that I’m on the right path, and I’m doing work that other people like and respect, and it’s massively humbling and a massive honour that people want to invest in me and my career and help me grow and learn. I’m really, really grateful for that.
What you were saying there, about being on the right path – if you look back on your career so far, have there ever been any moments where things have clicked for you, and you’ve felt that sense of ‘yeah, this is it, things are going right’?
Well, not really, to be honest. It feels like… it’s not been slow by any means, but I started doing live comedy when I was 18/19, and then things just happened for me gradually. Everything that I achieved was very deliberate: I deliberately had to go out and find an agent, I deliberately had to go out and find my first TV job, I deliberately had to do Edinburgh Fringe for several years in a row, I deliberately had to do x, y, and z.
So, it doesn’t feel like there’s like ‘a moment’ where everything just clicked. I suppose getting This Is Going To Hurt was completely unexpected, that really just came out of nowhere – we never ever thought that I would get it, when I first got the audition. I thought that was a real gift from the universe, in a way, but it was obviously [after] years of getting to the right place at the right time kind of thing.
Is there anything you feel like you’ve learned on This Is Going To Hurt that you’ll take with you on future projects? Has it changed the way you think about your career at all?
Oh my God, everything. I always say that that show really cracked me open in a lot of ways – because, I mean, just the people I got to work with, the cast and crew, are so incredible. Also, I think the process of playing that character, and portraying that particular storyline, I feel like it changed my brain in a way, because the amount of research and work poured into it was relentless. I was so adamant about getting it... not even getting it right, because everyone’s experience is different, but getting it as grounded as possible and avoiding a sensationalized depiction, I learned so much on that set.
It’s given me massive confidence – as a person, not just as an actor – like, it really filled me up and made me so much more confident in myself and my abilities in life, day to day. I did stuff on This Is Going To Hurt that I never ever thought I’d do as a comedian, juggling a storyline of that weight and that responsibility.
Do you think – just picking up on what you were saying a second ago about how deliberately and methodically you’ve always approached things – do you think that This Is Going To Hurt has maybe left you more equipped or prepared to overcome certain obstacles you might have encountered previously?
Yeah, no, totally. It’s also very different now, because I think, as a result of This Is Going To Hurt, doors are open for me, that wouldn’t have been open before. I’m able to be in rooms and talk to people that I wouldn’t have necessarily been able to talk to before and collaborate with.
There’s definitely a sense of impostor syndrome, all the time. I don’t think that’s ever gonna go away. But I remember reading a thing that said that impostor syndrome just means that you’re doing things that are scaring you, that are challenging you, that you’re stepping out of your comfort zone. If you never had impostor syndrome, that meant that you’re playing it safe. So, I guess I’m taking that as a feeling that I’m going in the right direction – but I’m just going to try to keep on working as hard as I can, and doing the best job that I can, and being as good at my job as much as I can, and being as reliable and good to work with, so people want to work with me again. That’s just what’s on my mind at the moment.
Is there anything you can tell us about what you’re working on at the moment? Or, if not specific projects, just general aspirations for the future?
I’m filming a series at the moment called One Day for Netflix. We’re like halfway through filming that now, which has been a whole other challenge – and so different from This Is Going to Hurt, and from Shruti – but I’m having a really great time. I’m a massive fan of the book, so this job is honestly like a dream come true.
Aspirations for the future… You know, because I come from a live comedy background, and I’m so used to like writing and directing and producing and doing everything myself, whilst my focus is on acting in the next few years, I definitely want to direct. I definitely want to produce. I definitely want to develop a show from the early stages. That stuff is all I think waiting for me at some point when I feel like I’ve learned as much as I can through acting, but I still feel very green to the industry. It’s still very new, very fresh, so I’m going to learn as much as I can in the next few years and then hopefully look at all that stuff.
I was really pleased when I heard you’d been cast in One Day, I was quite fond of that book as well.
Oh, thank you very much!
What would you say are your big creative influences?
I grew up watching American sitcoms – like, the multi camera in front of a live audience, that’s what I grew up on – and then obviously, as I got a bit older, it was more mockumentaries and things like that. So those are the kinds of actors I grew up wanting to emulate, because I just thought they were geniuses, these really skilled comedic actors, like Steve Carell and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. From a really young age, I think it was comedic actors that I looked up to and watched quite religiously.
But that’s really evolved as I’ve gotten older, especially in the last few years. I’m starting to look up to different people. For example, I really look up to Margot Robbie, I think she’s someone who’s really defied expectation. She got a big break as the beautiful blonde bombshell, but you know, she’s proved herself to be an incredible character actress, as well as an incredible producer, and she’s made some really great stuff with her production company at such a young age. Those are the kind of things I would like to do in my career as well.
This year’s BAFTA UK Breakthrough talent selection include director Alex Thomas (Yorkshire Cop: Police, Racism and Me), dialogue editor Alyx Jones (Elden Ring), actor Ambika Mod (This is Going to Hurt), director Chloë Fairweather (Dying to Divorce), cinematographer Diana Olifirova (Heartstopper), lead designer Emily Brown (Alba: a Wildlife Adventure), writer/executive producer Jack Rooke (Big Boys), composer Jamal Green (TOEM), producer Joanna Boateng (Uprising), actor Leon Harrop (Ralph & Katie), and writer/director Marley Morrison (Sweetheart).
They’re joined by principal technical artist Morag Taylor (Total War: Warhammer 3), actor Nell Barlow (Sweetheart), writer, executive producer, and actor Nicôle Lecky (MOOD), director Paul Sng (Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché), actor Rose Ayling-Ellis (Eastenders), director Runyararo Mapfumo (Sex Education), director Sophie Cunningham (Look Away), director Theo Williams (Terms & Conditions: Deeper than Drill), and co-founders, creative director, and artistic director Zachary Soares & Luciana Nascimento (Moonglow Bay).
The US cohort, meanwhile, includes director Alex Pritz (The Territory), actor Amrit Kaur (The Sex Lives of College Girls), actor Brandon Perea (NOPE), cinematographer Charlotte Hornsby (MASTER), director Clare Knight (Back to the Outback), cinematographer Daphne Qin Wu (The Angry Black Girl and Her Monster), director/writer Ellie Foumbi (Our Father, the Devil), games programmer Megan Fox (SkateBIRD), producer Melissa Adeyemo (Eyimofe), director Rebeca Huntt (Beba), composer Robert Ouyang Rusli (Test Pattern), and director So Yun Um (Liquor Store Dreams).