You stepped into the world of lights-camera-action very early. Do you think it shaped your childhood differently?
It sure did, in more ways than one. As a kid from a middle-class background, I experienced the world very differently. I understood the value of work and how liberating it was to be independent and work ‘with’ your family, not ‘for’ them. All the credit goes to both my parents who would drop me to the sets, go to work and come back to be with me until I finished my shoot schedule for that day. No matter the time, they would return to work the following day, inspiring me to work just as hard.
I found my purpose and the clarity of what I wanted to do in life, that I wanted to be an actor. This firm foundation led me to never take anything or anyone for granted or let all the fame and flounce get to my head. They continue to keep me grounded even today. So yes, starting work early shaped and changed me, undoubtedly for my own good.
Your characters had all colours from pink to grey. How did they impact you?
Jennifer lives life in colour; what can I say? On a serious note, as an actor, it’s helped me evolve and kept work exciting too. Also, without any formal training in acting, that’s how I learnt and tried to hone my craft. The best thing for an actor is to experience; experience guides you to emote better, and emoting is what acting is all about.
It always had to be one up from what I’d done, and I mean it in terms of what I can bring to or do with the next character I am to play. I give my all to good scripts and characters; there are no two ways about it! Acting is therapeutic, and I love that a better version of Jennifer emerges as a person and a performer with each character I play. So I hope that trajectory continues. I am up for any challenge; it is what truly drives me.
How did you prepare for Maya Mehrotra/Jaisingh’s portrayal? You even went bald for the portrayal?
The first season took a bit more understanding of the character. Preparation included watching films with similar storylines and studying other actors who portrayed similar traits and personality shifts as Maya. I took aspects from here and there to piece her together, to spell out and establish her firmly in season one. The latter season was easier because I knew Maya now and so her traits too were easier to slip into.
Your real debut in Bollywood didn’t see the light of big screens. How did you handle that?
I was definitely bummed that it didn’t make a big screen release, but then it saw a release on one of the best OTT platforms. Although it didn’t receive the response I had expected, it sat alright with me. You learn from your failures, pick yourselves up and come out stronger and better in whatever’s lined up next.
Do you think our screens still dogmatise antagonist portals?
We’ve always had the quintessential hero-heroine-villain formula in our films. Television followed suit within a closer, domestic sort of setting. Of course, there were rare spurts when a hero took on a villainous role to everyone’s surprise: like Mr Amitabh Bachchan in ‘Deewar’ or Shah Rukh Khan in ‘Darr’ or ‘Anjaam’, John Abraham, Hrithik Roshan or Aamir Khan in series of ‘Dhoom’ etc. These shifts in roles from good to bad for these phenomenal actors may or may not have always been received favourably by the audiences. It’s a risk one takes that paves the way for others to gamble in the game. We have OTT to thank for changing the game for us and setting a different tone and perspective of play. While there’s immense growth and change in how we write and see antagonist characters today, I still feel we have only just scratched the surface. I trust it can only get better from here on.
‘Code M’ stays focused and away from melodrama. How did it happen?
‘Code M’ was such a refreshing change. For me, stepping from television onto OTT has been a milestone in itself. The show didn’t require melodrama, it had a set storyline with a clear direction of episodes in both seasons. When you have that kind of a solid road map charted out for you, you tend to stay on course.
Do you think past relationships sculpt us?
Most certainly, they do! But we mustn’t let our past relationships affect our present or future. Word of advice: Take mental notes of the life lessons from what didn’t work and make better for it as you journey ahead. You can’t compare relationships because that capacitively ruins things. Life teaches us enough to consider any red flags along the way.
A true romantic, you seem. What is your current stance on love?
Love alone doesn’t cut it if you need to go through life together with all its ups and downs. Just knowing that there is one person to come back to as your constant and confidante, who’s invested for the same reasons as you, for the long run, to walk with you and have your back through everything. You don’t have to want the same things from life, just aligning the basics lays a good enough foundation.
Your social media profile reflects your philanthropic side. Tell us more about it.
That I don’t do enough! I love spending time with animals and I jump at every opportunity I get for something that may help them. If not us, then who? I see it as our responsibility to contribute and help in whatever capacity we can.
A dream worth living: Jennifer Winget’s life.
Travel to you is: Oxygen
Three things you cannot live without: My dogs, my food and my friends.
Three things you can live without: My phone, the heat and fancy clothes.
Currently reading: What On Earth Am I Here For?
Your favourite food: Dal, rice and fried fish.
When you are not acting: You’ll find me lazing around at home, watching Netflix.
Love and relationships are: Precious!! The reason for everyone’s happiness.
A message for WA readers: This is a very old magazine and I’ve seen it. A lot of my friends have shot for it, so I’m excited to finally be on the cover and thrilled to hear your response to it.