The Wisdom of Akshay Kumar
Written by Vaughn Stewart
Photographer: David Reiss
Styling: Ella Gaskell
Grooming: Charley McEwen
Akshay, when did you first know that you wanted to be an actor?
I think I was around 14 when acting started to really come in to focus in my life. I’d been going to a Saturday stage school for a couple years, but the acting class just didn’t make any sense to me at the time. It wasn’t until studying and performing Shakespeare in high school did my imagination start to run wild. And once I started to get to grips with the language and the imagery, I fell in love with acting.
Did you know in your heart that you had a strong talent for acting or did people around you express how talented you were?
It was probably a combination of the two. You know you enjoy something straight away because you don’t ever want to stop doing it. Especially when you’re a kid. But you don’t really know if you’re “good” at it unless someone tells you that you are (hopefully that someone knows what they’re talking about!). So, I guess it was the confirmation from my parents and drama teachers that gave me the confidence to pursue what I enjoy.
What was your first role and how did it feel when you got the call saying you got it?
My first “official” role was in a film for Universal called ‘Legacy’, which was like a teen-party-movie. I played the tech-whizz of the gang. Everyone needs a tech-whizz friend, right? I was in Brighton – the L.A of England in my opinion – celebrating my friend’s 21st birthday when I got the call…and I cried. And cried. And laughed. Then cried some more. In front of all these friends of my friend that I had literally just met! They must’ve thought someone had died or something. I swear I couldn’t string a sentence together for like 10 minutes because I was just so overwhelmed. It was insane! And finally, once I’d calmed down, we celebrated by getting drunk and jumping into the sea. ‘Twas a day to remember.
“…who doesn’t want to be in a Taika Waititi movie?!”
Tell us about Jett in the CW’s Pandora.
Ah, Jett. He’s the guy you just love to hate. I don’t know how else to describe him. This season is all about redemption for him. He’s trying to make up for some very controversial mistakes he’s made in the past, and he wants to show the world that he can play for the good guys. He’s a big goofball, really. A funny, irritating, charming and loyal goofball…who does his own stunts 😉
Devs is a very intense series. What was it like working on the show?
Devs was a lot of fun. I’m pretty sure I spent most of my time on set just in awe of such talent. I didn’t have many lines, which was actually a blessing because it meant I could just observe these pros do their thing. The likes of Nick Offerman, Stephen McKinley Stewart, Alison Pill – it’s hard not to just stop and stare! (Much to their annoyance, I’m sure).
How did you prepare for you character, Ray?
The main thing was to just try to get to grips with the ideas in the script. Alex Garland is a frikkin’ genius and his ideas are out of this world. Literally, in some cases. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was talking about, so I spent a few weeks dusting off my old Physics textbooks and reading books about time and our perception of it. Naturally, I read Stephen Hawking’s ‘A Brief History of Time’ and also Carlo Rovelli’s ‘The Order of Time.’ Highly recommend both if you haven’t read them already.
“I’m most definitely a goof. Ask my parents!”
What character that you’ve played mostly resembles who you are?
I hate to admit it, but I think it would have to be Jett. He’s a goof, and I’m most definitely a goof. Ask my parents!
Any other projects that you are currently working on?
I’m actually writing a fantasy/psychological thriller series right now, which I hope to start pitching towards the end of the year. It’s one of those projects that morphs and evolves a little more every time I sit down to write, so it’s really exciting but also difficult to summarize! Hopefully I can tell you more soon!
Give me one actor, one actress and one director that you would love to work with?
Viggo Mortensen, Cate Blanchett and Taika Waititi. But to be honest I’d actually be too terrified to stand opposite either of them in a scene. Just put me in a corner of the set where I can watch them work and I’ll die a happy bunny. And, come on, who doesn’t want to be in a Taika Waititi movie?!
Any tips for aspiring actors?
Your job is to be good at your job. It sounds obvious, but what I mean is that your priority is, and should always be, the work. The truth. The character. The story. Prioritize at getting really good at your job before you start worrying about how to get more followers on social media. Let your work do the talking. All that other stuff will eventually find you.
How has your family and close friends embraced your success?
Whole-heartedly, I am happy to say! I wouldn’t have made it this far without the support of my family and friends, so my success is very much theirs too. I have incredibly liberal parents who have never discouraged me from pursuing this “unstable” career, and I’ll always love them for that.
How are you dealing with COVID-19? How has it changed your life?
Pretty well, I think. It’s forced me to spend time with myself and really pay attention to my own behavior: How I react to things, good habits, bad habits, my relationship with my family and with my career. It’s also been a great excuse to indulge in new hobbies and projects. I decided to paint every room in my house just because I could. I started writing a TV series that I adore just because I could. It’s changed my life for the better, in a lot of ways. Feels kinda controversial to say that, but it’s true!
“I see this as a time for the human race to come together.”
What do you feel about all the changes that are going on around the world? What has had the biggest impact on you?
I try to look at his whole pandemic as a message from Mother Earth. She’s sent us a clear warning: for all our intelligence, innovation and ambition, we are on her turf. And she must be respected. We cannot go on abusing these finite resources the way we do. We cannot go on destroying sacred and vital parts of our planet to further selfish ambitions. I see this as a time for the human race to come together to start working with each other, not against each other. We all share this planet. And we all have to work harder to maintain it. Apologies if this is all a little preachy!
Who are your favorite clothing designers?
The classics, I guess. Tom Ford is incredible. And I’d love the chance to rock a Tom Ford tux one day.
Our magazine is called Cool America. What do you find cool about America?
America’s sense of ambition knows no bounds. I really respect that. In America, nothing seems impossible. You guys are the kings and queens of not taking no for an answer!
What makes you cool?
Uhm…Probably the fact I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself.