First we sat down with Erin Darke, now we get to chat with Ami Sheth about her role on the comedic drama Dietland. Dietland follows the story of a magazine ghost writer named Plum Kettle as she contends with society’s views and treatment of women, a terrorist organization called Jennifer, and her own attempts at romance.
Ami plays Sana, a young woman staying at Calliope House to recover from an incident that left her with acid scars on her face.
Katie Cardwell: Dietland is a pretty intense show and does not pull punches when it comes to heavy issues. What drew you to the show and the role of Sana?
Ami Sheth: “Dietland” is like nothing I’ve ever seen on television. The show is so witty, brutally honest and darkly funny. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be part of such an amazing female driven show.
As far as playing Sana, I was initially drawn to Sana’s strength and compassion. Despite everything she has been through as an acid attack survivor, she has dedicated her life to helping other women. I really fell in love with this character. She is so nuanced and multidimensional. The Dietland writers are so phenomenal. The role also requires hours of prosthetic work, which is something I’ve never done and was excited to take on.
What are your thoughts on Dietland’s fearless approach to tackling issues so many women deal with – particularly in light of the #MeToo movement?
AS: Dietland has touched so many people because The show takes on so many important issues that women have to deal with. Sometimes it does it in a seriously gut wrenching way and sometimes the absurdity just makes you laugh. That’s one of the things I love most about the show. Just like the “Me too” movement, The empowerment comes from talking about these issues and women standing together.
One of the most striking things about Sana’s character is how often we see her engaged in art – particularly making collages of smaller images to create one big one, her’s – was that built into the script from the beginning or did you have any influence on the character’s interest in coping through art?
AS: Sana “the artist” was the creation of the Dietland writing team. In the Sarai Walker novel that the series was based on, she’s written as a social worker. I loved that they decided to give her a visual medium as a way to deal with her scars and the terrible thing that happened to her. It translates so beautifully. Her art is a her way of processing. It was a lot of fun for me to learn about the different mediums Sana uses especially learning to spray paint!
In Plum Kettle’s world of chaos, Sana almost seems like a calming anchor in a lot of scenes. What do you think motivates her?
AS: I think Sana sees a kindred spirit in Plum and vice versa. They are both “outcasts” according to society’s beauty norms. Plum is starting this journey of self awareness and self awaking and Sana has been on this path most of her life. She serves as a guide and friend through some very tough times.
The scene with the “porn room” art installation was a hard one for me to watch and I imagine I’m not alone – but I want to give you major props for the emotional depth you brought in such an understated way. What was it like reading the script and preparing for that and how was filming the scene itself?
AS: I didn’t get to see the Pornhub room until we started filming! It was initially very jarring as you can imagine but I was able to spend a lot of time there through different takes and I realized that this is a place Sana goes freely. Why? What peace could she find there? It dawned on me that this is just another place for Sana’s meditation. Her ability to see things in unconventional ways comes from how introspective she is.
What has been your favorite part of being on Dietland so far?
AS: My favorite part of working on Dietland has been working with so many amazing female directors and actors! I haven’t worked with many female Directors in my career. The Dietland set was such a supportive and nurturing environment to work. I think I really was able to grow as a person and actor working with these kick ass ladies.
Finally, I like to end on a light note: what shows are you keeping up with in your spare time? Any favorites?
AS: Ha! My fave show right now is Handmaids Tale so not sure I’d say that’s a “lighter note” to end on. I tend to gravitate towards shows that make me feel and make Think. Unless I’m in the mood to just veg out. Then I love Competition shows like Top Chef and Project Runway.
We had a great time talking with Ami Sheth. You can see her on AMC’s Dietland every Monday 9/8c.