Amara Karan – the doe-eyed starlet who got her big break as Jason Schwartzman's lover in The Darjeeling Limited – talks to Wonderland about quitting the City for Shakespeare, and how the stars are aligning for Asian actors.
What are you up to right now, Amara?
I'm actually in Stratford-Upon-Avon doing a play called Much Ado About Nothing with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I played Jessica in The Merchant of Venice and Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew, which I did in 2008 and 2009, so I’m not a stranger to the company. It’s been lovely to be back. It’s set in modern day Delhi.
You got your big break in Wes Anderson's film The Darjeeling Limited. What was he like?
He was very charming and very hard working and intense. I find it hard to believe I’ve worked with him. That was my first role after leaving drama school. I was really in the deep end there – it was a steep learning curve but in a way, that’s the best way to learn – you just have to be thrown into it. Even when we were filming, I just knew we were making an amazing film.
Did you always want to be an actor? I know you worked in the City before quitting.
When I had to leave Oxford I felt like, “Right, I don’t know anything, I don’t have anybody in the world of film. I’ve got a good degree and I should make the most of it and earn lots of money in the City if I can.” So I gave it a shot – I enjoyed what it was, but I just knew that I had to fulfil my fantasy, my dream of being an actor. Because ultimately you spend your whole life working, right? So you should do something you love. It was one of the scariest decisions of my life.
Some people say there aren't enough Asian roles in showbiz – how do you feel about it?
There are Asian roles out there, but then obviously you only want to play really great Asian roles. There are also roles these days which aren't race-specific. I’ve recently really enjoyed making the most of my heritage and playing race-specific roles – it’s lovely to explore your own identity. My role in All In Good Time [as Anglo-Indian newly-wed Vina] is spectacular. I was just like, “This is a gift!” I do think there is a huge market internationally for films with Indian characters. There’s a hugely literate echelon of society in India who are very economically powerful and I think we’re seeing more and more projects like [All in Good Time] because of that demographic.
Do you think being Asian has helped or hindered your career?
I don’t think about it at all. Ultimately you have to be very good at what you’re doing, and you have to be able to serve each individual project that you’re working on. But it’s just allowed me to be part of really interesting projects and it’s meant that you know, I’ve been noticed where I may not have been noticed. It’s a growing trend in television to be honest, but the States is always one step ahead of these things. There are really great exciting roles are ethnically diverse, you know so, it’s exciting times actually for the likes of me.
All In Good Time is out now on DVD.
Words: Zing Tsjeng