Praneet Akilla fulfills his dream

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Born in Mumbai and raised in Calgary, the South Asian actor plays Phillip Mishra in the new Netflix sci-fi series ‘October Faction’. The rising star talks to CanIndia News about his first big break.

October Faction follows the adventures of a retired monster hunter and his family. Based on the successful IDW comic of the same name by Steve Niles and Damien Worm, the show is ‘Men In Black’ meets ‘Riverdale’ with dark family secrets and simmering high school angst all colliding against the struggle between monsters and humans. Praneet plays Phillip Mishra an attractive, intense teenager and the undoubted alpha at his small town high school. In an interview with CanIndia, the South Asia actor traces his journey from a role in his middle-school musical to a chemical engineering degree and the Netflix project. Here are excerpts of the interview.

When did you discover your love for acting?
I discovered I loved acting at an early age. While other kids played video games or played outside, I would watch movies, write stories, and pretend I was the action hero of my own movie. Even in movie theatres, I would get distracted and be in awe of performances and the impact they had on the people around me. I wouldn’t even watch for entertainment’s sake. I fell in love with impacting people through performance. I did several musical theatre shows and plays in my high school years as a result with the encouragement of supportive drama teachers.

What led you to get a degree in chemical engineering?
Growing up in a South Asian household – the arts were never looked at as a viable career path. Especially with immigrant parents, the notion of stability and security that comes with a career in engineering or medicine were drilled into me from a young age. When it came time to decide on what I wanted to study in university- I didn’t really see any actors of color succeeding in the North American film/television industry. So, I told myself I needed to pursue a stable degree (I was good at math and science still) – even though throughout my degree I was torn about it. After I graduated, I worked as an engineer for a year and then quit my job to take a leap of faith. It paid off!

How did you come upon the Netflix project?
I got an audition from my agents. When I read the script, I noticed it was incredibly well developed and well written. I was auditioning for was a South Asian character but his ethnicity had nothing to do with the storyline, so that was refreshing. Two auditions and two call-backs with the producers/studio happened and then I got offered the role of Phillip Mishra.

What was your experience working on ‘October Faction’?
Working on this show was very much my first big break, so it was new for me to work on such a big set, shooting 10 episodes with a major studio like Netflix. The cast and crew were tremendously kind, accepting me with open arms. JC Mackenzie, the lead actor of the show, took me under his wing. I learned so much by watching how he interacted with others on set and his performance. The showrunner Damian Kindler also showed me the ropes. The experience of smooth and seamless and I think we created a special show. On the outside it’s a fun action/horror fantasy show about Monster hunters. On the inside though, the show has a ton of social commentary about important issues we face today like sexual assault and discrimination/prejudice.

What’s next?
I will be performing in a play called ‘Cipher’ at a major theater company in Canada called the Arts Club. It’s a thriller and I play the main character in it. I’m also going to be starring in the first ever, all South Asian-cast production of the Indian epic “Mahabharata” at the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake. I’ll also be shooting a comedy called “Freya” soon, with the release date being sometime next year. You can follow me on Instagram & Twitter: @p_akilla for the latest news on all my adventures! -CINEWS

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