INTERVIEW: Akshay Kumar Talks ‘Pandora’ Season Two, Relating to Jett, Social Isolation, and More
Recognizable worldwide, Akshay Kumar has taken the world by storm, most recently in the CW sci-fi series Pandora.
Best known for his work on Homeland, Star Wars: Episode VIII, and his current role on the hit CW show Pandora, Kumar has managed to master both theatre and television and may soon break out further. Pandora currently airs on Syfy/NowTV in the UK and on Amazon Prime internationally. Following a young woman who finds hope at Earth’s Space Training Academy, Pandora is a thrilling sci-fi series set in 2199.
Akshay Kumar spoke with us about his love for performing, his role as Jett, how he spent social isolation, his passion for writing, and more.
GLITTER: What first inspired you to enter the entertainment industry?
AKSHAY: Performing Shakespeare on stage for the first time – that’s when it dawned on me. I think I was 15 or so. We were performing Much Ado About Nothing as part of a Shakespeare Schools Festival at a local theatre. I played Don John, a very charming and manipulative villain (who was also played by Keanu Reeves in the film adaptation). I remember feeling really isolated because I was playing the bad guy, and none of the other characters liked him/me. I remember taking that personally! But it wasn’t until we performed in front of people that I realized that the audience really liked him/me – they cheered, they laughed, they booed – it was exhilarating! The combination of the joy I felt being on stage and the confirmation from the audience that they were with me inspired me to take that first step into the industry.
GLITTER: What is the main difference that you’ve noticed between on-camera and theatre performances?
AKSHAY: Quite simply, on camera, you have the luxury of screwing up because you know you can just cut, reset, and go again. Don’t get me wrong; screen acting is extremely difficult, subtle, and internal work. It’s just you, the other person, and the camera. It requires so much honesty and focus. But on stage, there is no “cut and reset.” You have to be so, so prepared in your work. You have to know your lines, your blocking, the story, and your character’s journey inside-out and upside-down. There are no tea breaks, no glancing down at your lines, no funny bloopers. You’re there, in front of a bunch of strangers bearing all of your ugly bits to them. You have to know your sh*t! But at the same time, paradoxically, you have to be open and adaptable enough to deal with any potential mishaps that may (and will) occur on stage! Because you can’t stop. The show must, quite literally, go on. So you have to roll with the punches and try to make the most of every moment.
GLITTER: How does this influence any of your creative techniques?
AKSHAY: It’s just about knowing what medium you’re in. They both have their own specific techniques – a rule book, almost – that you have to follow in order for the audience to buy into the story you’re trying to tell. So as long as you know and understand the required techniques, you can make character choices accordingly. It also gives you more license to play and experiment too, if you know what the parameters are.
GLITTER: What was a favorite scene to film in this past second season of Pandora?
AKSHAY: There’s a fight scene in Episode 6, where Jett and Ralen (played by Ben Radcliffe) are handcuffed together and are being escorted to an enemy spaceship, when suddenly we bust out into this pretty effective but also slap-stick fight sequence. I have to admit, Ralen did most of the “fighting” and Jett was basically getting thrown about or used as a human shield. That was a lot of fun. Very much in the Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker style of action-comedy.
GLITTER: What attracted you to the project?
AKSHAY: I’ve always wanted to be in a sci-fi project, with blue screens, aliens, and spaceships. And Pandora ticked all of those boxes! I also just really liked just how unlikeable Jett was in Season 1 (and part of Season 2). I saw it as a challenge to see if I could give this guy a heart and soul underneath all this bravado that audiences could sympathize with…I hope it worked!
GLITTER: How do you relate to your character, Jett?
AKSHAY: We both think we’re way cooler and more charming than we actually are.
GLITTER: If you could give Jett any one piece of advice, what would it be?
AKSHAY: “Dude, you’re not that cool or charming…but you have a good heart. I’ll give you that.”
GLITTER: From Star Wars: Episode VIII, to Homeland, and now Pandora, you’ve covered quite a lot of diverse genres. What has been your favorite so far?
AKSHAY: I’m not sure if I can pick a favorite! All genres have their perks and limitations and require a slight shift in my approach to a role. But in terms of imagination, it has to be sci-if. Hands down. Imagination is an essential part of the sci-fi genre. So if you’re too neurotic or think you’re too cool to pretend you’re running away from giant monsters, you’re gonna fall flat on your butt. You have to play! There’s no other choice.
GLITTER: If you could pick one dream role or genre to go into next, what would it be?
AKSHAY: I’ve been reading interviews with Tom Holland for his new movie, Cherry, and his character is just fascinating. I’d love the opportunity to take on a role and subject matter like that – something that requires you to get your hands dirty. Like, real dirty.
GLITTER: What was a day in social isolation like for you?
AKSHAY: Hmm. It’s actually pretty boring when I stop and think about it! I try to get out of bed between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. Have about a liter of water, followed by a cup of tea (essential) while watching whatever show I’m currently bingeing, or line-learning for auditions. I’ll usually get breakfast out of the way by 9/9:30, and then work out between 10 a.m. and noon…and then all the routine and structure falls apart! After lunch, I basically try to find activities that require all of my focus – writing, reading, walks, redecorating. Literally anything! Oh, and I eat. I eat A LOT.
GLITTER: The last show you binged and loved?
AKSHAY: Call My Agent – ironically, my agent recommended this show to me. I thought she was trying to tell me something, but it turns out it’s just an incredible show! I think I finished all four seasons in, like, ten days…?
GLITTER: Top five favorite films?
AKSHAY: Forrest Gump, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Dark Knight, 3 Idiots, & Parasite.
GLITTER: What is something you learned about yourself during quarantine?
AKSHAY: That I don’t deal with weekends very well. I know. “What’s wrong with him?!” I think it’s because of this career – actors have to spend a lot of their career creating their own routines to stay motivated and pro-active, etc. And that’s easier to do on weekdays when you know the rest of the world is working, too. But while the rest of the world is looking forward to the weekend, I’m sitting there on Friday night praying for Monday. Honestly, I don’t know what to do with myself on weekends. It’s nuts, I know. I’m working on it.
GLITTER: What is your favorite thing about getting to bring a character to life on screen?
AKSHAY: That first take of your first scene on your first day on set. When all that prep work comes into focus, and you know your next words will release this make-believe person into the world. It’s a lot of pressure, and any number of things could go wrong. But it’s an incredible feeling when you finally say that first line. It’s like Dr. Frankenstein and his monster. In my head, I’m like, “HE’S ALIIIIVE!” And then I have to refocus, breathe and deliver the rest of my lines.
GLITTER: Are there any other aspects of the entertainment industry you hope to break into in the future?
AKSHAY: Writing is probably at the top of the list. I’ve been writing this series for a few months, and I’m really excited to get it finished and start pitching it. It’s gonna take a while, but I’m aiming for the end of the year. I’ve been watching screenwriting masterclasses with Aaron Sorkin and Shonda Rhimes, so I’m learning a lot as I work on my own project.
GLITTER: If you had to describe your personality with only one television quote, which would you pick and why?
AKSHAY: “Well, you may feel like a poet, but you sound like an idiot” (Mark Addy in A Knight’s Tale). I should really get this tattooed on me. Somewhere. I think a lot of what I say sounds really deep, intelligent, and poetic when I say it, but more often than not, I hear it back and just think, “Duuuuude, what the heck was that?!” It happens a lot when I talk about acting, funnily enough. So yeah, I think this quote fits pretty well.
GLITTER: Have you ever gotten emotional over booking a role?
AKSHAY: There’s always some degree of crying whenever I book a role. You’d think after ten years in this game that I’d handle good news with a bit more maturity and grace, but nope. I still cry—every time.
GLITTER: Any funny audition stories you can share?
AKSHAY: Just one. It’s funny but also really terrible. I had a callback for this show, and in the scene, the other actor goes up to this imaginary character and beats the crap out of him. My character is meant to jump in and break up the fight. To his credit, my scene partner went off camera and started punching the floor, grunting and swearing, etc. I respect his commitment. So naturally, I got up to “break up the fight,” as per the script. I go in to bear hug my scene partner and heave…I must’ve got the physics all wrong because I ended up taking us both through the wall behind us, and partly into the next room…Yeah, I didn’t get that job. But on the plus side, they always remember me as “the wall guy” whenever I audition for them now.
GLITTER: Who is someone you look up to and hope to work with in the future?
AKSHAY: I admire everything Riz Ahmed is doing, and has been doing, over the years. I’ve always felt like British South Asian actors haven’t made enough noise when it comes to demanding diversity in the industry. We’ve never had a roster of ultra-successful actors that look like us that are able to speak for us. Except for Riz. Riz is fearless like that, and I have so much respect for his work ethic and his passion. I’d be honored to be a part of anything he’s working on.
GLITTER: Glitter has a celebrity #SelfLoveCampaign. What does self-love mean to you?
AKSHAY: To me, self-love is about acknowledging every dimension, aspect, and imperfection that makes up the collage of who you are: the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. For the first time in my life, I’m happy in my own skin. But it’s not because I think I’m awesome or I’ve finally achieved perfection. It’s kinda the opposite. I’ve finally started acknowledging all the not-so-lovely parts of me. And I’m okay with those parts. I’m learning to love them. So now, whenever I think I need to change a habit or a thought-pattern, I can start working towards amending it without judging myself first. That’s what self-love is to me.
GLITTER: Do you have any new projects coming up that you can share
AKSHAY: Right now, I’m pretty focused on the project I’m writing, but I have my eye on a few roles coming up in the near future. So we’ll see what comes of it 🙂
GLITTER: What are the best social media platforms for fans to follow
AKSHAY: On Instagram, I am: @akshaykumar.uk