Belleboss Series – Ann Samuel

THE THIRTEENTH INSTALLATION OF THE BELLEBOSS SERIES

I hoped that with this series, I would find a way to appreciate the incredible South Asian women of our generation, who are breaking boundaries and paving new paths for themselves. Moreover, I would like you to take a little bit of your time to realize how incredible the women around you are.

Especially if you are a woman! I know that at least one woman’s story in my #BelleBoss series will inspire you to follow your dreams, your vision and most importantly your heart. Even if that means breaking a few rules and many societal prejudices along the way.

1) Could you give us a little intro to those readers who don’t know you and tell us why you wanted to be an actress?

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My name is Ann Samuel. I was born in Saudi Arabia and I left India when I was around seven years old. Now I live in London and I study at the University of Kent where I study Comparative Literature and Drama as a joint honours degree. I’m currently in the third year. Why did I do a joint degree? I didn’t know whether I wanted a degree, in fact, I was the person who was ready to leave at fresher’s week. My safety zone is comparative literature and I do it for me and for my family. I do love literature, I wouldn’t do something that I wouldn’t want to do. So, I am doing a degree for myself and for parents.

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As for why I wanted to be an actress, I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason bad or good.

As a kid, every movie I saw I would want to know more about it. For example, if it was about a war-I would look at how to join the army, if it was about gymnastics, then the next day I would want to be a gymnast. Everything in these movies would inspire me and I was one of those kids who would want a new career every day. One day it hit me …that all these people that I dreamed about were all actors and if I became an actor then, in the end, I could become everything I wanted to be!

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2)  Do you want to be an actress in India or in the UK?

I have always wanted to act in India because those were the movies I watched when I was growing up. I would love to go back to India and work with all the people that I watched growing up. I am quite fluent in Malayalam and I can speak to my family ( like my grandmother ) in this language.  I am learning Tamil right now and all the acting jobs I do, the cast speaks to me in Tamil. Of course, sometimes I would be like ‘Babe, I don’t know what you mean?’. But I know this is the best way to learn and to achieve my endgame of acting in India.

3) So when you decided to be an actress, did you want to go straight to the industry or study it?

I believed that as an actor I would keep learning. Actors keep training forever, it is about pushing your body in all manners. I wanted to push myself to work. Some actors are born actors but go to school for the craft.

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I believe that acting was something I would have to strive for. Therefore, I wanted to study and learn from this experience. I do learn to act on the job. So I don’t feel like running straight into the industry but I do believe in not turning down every opportunity that I get. You have to always keep your schedule full.

4) Who inspires you?

I have met a couple of famous people in my short lifetime. However, people who inspired me the most are Priyanka Chopra and Kevin Hart. You can see every “behind the scenes” about their movies – about how hard they work.They are nice people, everyone’s review of them is that they are nice.

They are the kind of people that when you leave the set, you think “oh I love her/him.

I feel like kindness is your end game. If you are kind then you can be my friend.

Even though they are so busy, they still have good attitudes. The other person I would love to meet Jackie Chan,.I would cry my heart out! I love Rush Hour and he is so funny. My heart would come out of my body if I met Jackie Chan.

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5) What is the hardest thing about acting that people do not realise?

What I realised about acting is that it’s about discipline. Acting can be really fun and it is amazing craft. I love it. But if you are not disciplined to recreate the same scene every single night, then you can’t make it. It is extremely tiring and exhausting when you simply consider the drama practices.

People do not realise that our bodies are in our tool. Makeup artists have their brushes but our tool is our bodies and faces. As an actor, one thing that can be draining is that it is physically draining. Rehearsals are long and even mentally it can be a strain on you.

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6) How did your parents react to you wanting to become an actress? How have their feelings changed since then?

I remember sitting my parents down at our dining table and I remember how emotional it was for me. I told them to act, and they looked at each other and I could tell they were wondering if I was absolutely serious to me and quite obviously they were worried about their child. They even thought that I would be putting myself in danger of going down this path. This was when I was around 14-15.

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So, it went from ‘this is crazy!’ to me getting my first ever acting job. It was a Malayalam movie named English: An Autumn in London directed by Shyamaprasad. That was my first ever movie.

It was insane; I used to film until midnight and I remember the very first day, when it came to my scene I forgot my lines and they had to start from the top again. I remember thinking oh, no I have made all these important people start from the beginning. But everyone was really understanding-  they told me that they were all once in my position.

The turning point for me was when my family actually watched the entire movie. My parents were incredibly happy to see my screen credit – Child 2 Ann Samuel. My character did not even have a name- just ‘Child 2’. But that screen credit made my parents happy and proud of me.

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As a minority kid, I knew it would be hard going into the acting industry. What I had to do was prove myself. You do feel a certain pressure but when you have your families support it feels like a blessing.

Even if your family reject the idea at first, you have to try and prove yourself.

 One of my most vivid memories was when there was this casting on tv and my mum was like ” you are applying for the job.”

She even said if you get the job- then take the gap year! I never talked about it with my father but one day when both of us were on the train, my father told me that if I get the job then I have a place to stay for 6 months in India, which he had already arranged.

That meant so much to me. My family all work as a team.

It is good because we all earn the trust. However, I feel that we have to earn it. It is not about turning around and simply saying you don’t support me!

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7) Did you meet resistance from the larger community?

A large number of people, when I was trying to decide on degrees or jobs, would ask me again and again, if acting is that all I wanted to study. But the way I see it is when I walk into the lecture room and every single person has the same mindset and dream, all you have to think about is that you have to work harder than every person in that. There are loads of jobs and you shouldn’t have to look at being the main actresses every single time. I was told that every single little role is important. Whether it is big or small.

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8) Do you feel being a minority puts you at a disadvantage as an actress?

 In the UK, any aspiring actress should know that such problems do exist. and sometimes people only see colour and you have to work around it.

Sometimes my name has been switched to another brown girl or a middle eastern girl and when it happens so many times you do have to start to think about it. But, we have to come out of the bubble of “Asianess”. It is an underlying battle, not the main point. For instance, if you go a play at university do not simply give up before even trying! That is not the attitude to have, and unfortunately, I have seen this happen too many times.

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9) Why did you decide to vlog?

I used to be a compulsive Snap Chatter and I always knew I wanted to start especially when so many people thought I would be good at it. On New Year’s Eve last year, I researched about the cameras and spent my month’s rent on the camera. On New Year’s Day I realised I don’t know how to edit but by January 2nd, I decided to learn to vlog and on January 3rd I decided to start vlogging. I am at 10k subscribers and I’m so thankful each time I blog. Every time I am about to post a blog I do get nervous, capturing the day. It is a bit scary but it is worth it.

10) How do you think you will balance work life and personal life.

Personally, for me, I’m not thinking too far ahead about kids and marriages. But I always think about the career and the success stories.

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We women may be treated like the second class but we work just as hard as men. Sometimes my friends would ask me whether I am sure I want to do some acting job and whether it would affect my reputation.

 But I believe I would find someone who would respect what I do.

Anyone can say anything.  I know who I am and my family knows who I am and that is the main thing. Some people can’t handle this job. Even I have realised that over the year, I have grown.  After a summer of working,  I realise the way people treat you will change. If people do not have your best interest at heart, then you have to accept that and go on your own path.

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11) What is the best advice you have received?

One has been ‘If it doesn’t bother you in five years, then it doesn’t matter’, The other advice I received is “do not be afraid”. There have been particular times where the I have let fear get the better of me. I have let this happened two times in my life, and this is what has hurt me the most.

12) How does culture influence you?

I think my culture has made me who I am. If it is the first thing that people see. I love reading Indian literature and after the post-colonialism area.

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I see so many Indians trying to blend  Western and Indian identities together. It is not a trend but a part of who we are.  I love my Indian photoshoots and I wanted something which screams Malayalee from the top of the head. Whatever I do, I always try to make sure that I appreciate the Indian culture.

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13) What would you like to do after the degree?

I one hundred percent want to improve my craft. I want to get an intensive acting course or like Masters. It is not like school because you have to get through the auditions. I am 20 years old right now. To me, age is not a limiting factor. JK Rowling only hit success after a certain age as did Oprah. Some people get it when they are two and some people when they are fifty. So, I look at it with excitement. It is such a beautiful industry and it is all about small steps at a time.

14 ) What would your advice be to aspiring actors/ actresses?

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My advice is exactly, what I am doing. To study acting. Do it to a degree, a joint degree.More importantly, you need to work on it and not give it up.

If I didn’t walk into the room despite the hundred other people, I would never have gotten through the first few auditions.

I still remember the assistant telling me that they had written down my name and later telling me that I had gotten the role as “Child 2”. That being said,  I also feel it is so important to network and ask for opportunities. DO NOT be shy about it. I will walk into any event and be super nervous.

But in my head, I will be like ‘Ann, you got this’.

Finally, you need to try and enjoy the little successes. Those mean everything to me. Savor the moment because they are one little step to your ultimate success. 

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That is a wrap for this wonderful interview. Stay tuned for more Belleboss Interviews … 

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