INTERVIEW: Praneet Akilla On His First Major Role In Netflix’s OCTOBER FACTION
Praneet Akilla proves that it is never too late to pursue what you are truly passionate about as he joined the cast of Netflix’s OCTOBER FACTION. He is a rising young actor who loves science fiction, and you can watch him on screen and on the stage. Learn more about him in our interview below!
Hi Praneet, please tell us about yourself and your journey into acting. Where did it all start and what inspires you to be so passionate about being a part of the entertainment industry?
I’m an actor, singer, and filmmaker based in Vancouver/Toronto. I fell in love with storytelling and acting at an early age, watching movies, plays, and musicals. I would then re-enact them in my bedroom, in front of the bathroom mirror, pretending I was the action hero of my own movie. While others spent their free time playing outside or playing video games, I would study behind the scenes videos of how movies and tv shows were made. I loved the idea that with my words and actions, I could tell stories, and make people feel, cry, laugh. Growing up, I would act in many school musicals/plays, but in a South Asian household there is a stigma against the arts being a viable career option. I was good at math and science so I went and studied Chemical Engineering at McGill University in Montreal. When I graduated, I took a leap of faith. I quit my engineering job, went straight into auditioning for acting jobs for film/tv/stage and haven’t looked back.
OCTOBER FACTION is such a great show to binge on Netflix! How do you feel about being a part of this series and can you tell us about your character, Phillip Mishra?
October Faction is a fantasy/horror Netflix Original series based on the graphic novels by Steve Niles and Damien Worm. It follows the adventures of a retired monster-hunter and his family moving back to their patriarch’s town to find out their idyllic surroundings aren’t quite what they seem. Pretty soon they have to deal with werewolves, warlocks, vampires and all kinds of other monsters that are hidden in plain sight. I describe it as a Men in Black meets Supernatural. On the outside it’s incredibly fun, got lots of action and creepy horror elements. However the writers of the show have created incredibly well developed characters and a storyline with poignant social commentary on many of the issues we deal with in the world today– sexual assault, LGBTQ rights, racial bias/profiling, power dynamics, human rights and on and on. I think people will love it.
Playing Phillip Mishra is my first big break, playing a major recurring role on a Netflix Original Series. From being a chemical engineer to this, [it] feels surreal and hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this show. Phillip Mishra is the alpha and star athlete in the high school the Allen Family kids attend. He’s also the son of a prominent towns-person. He carries a heavy burden of high expectations from both his family and the society around him. On the surface he very much tries to hide this stress and compensates by pushing his male bravado out to assert his dominance. Through the series however, after meeting Geoff Allen, tensions arise and the rest I can’t give away because spoilers!
How did you feel when you found out you were going to be a part of a franchise that is based on a popular comic book series? What were you most excited about?
I was so incredibly excited and I remember crying on the phone to my parents saying I finally got a major part on a TV show. This was something I was working towards for a long time! To top that, I am a huge sci-fi/fantasy/horror comic book geek, so the fact that I got a role on a genre show was even more thrilling. I was mainly excited that I would get to be part of a story that took place in these worlds.
What is it like working with the rest of the cast in OCTOBER FACTION? Do you have any memorable moments that has happened behind the scenes that you can share with us?
It was incredible. This was my first sort of break, I guess. I haven’t had a role this big before as a major recurring character on a show. I was sort of nervous coming in, but then the cast and crew were so supportive… such incredible, talented actors and everyone showed up on set ready to work, ready to have fun, ready to play. I can’t say enough good things about my costar Gabriel Darku who I worked with a lot throughout the whole show. We got to know each other and became really good friends and so did the rest of the cast. Having that sort of camaraderie off-set really helps the performance onset as well. I just think the whole experience was tremendous and hopefully the audience will see that when they watch the show.
If you were to come face to face with a monster, which one would you want to see come to life?
A werewolf. I don’t know why but I always found them to be badass and mysterious. To add to that, they transform based on the natural phenomena of moonlight. No chemicals, no injections, no secret laboratory. This is going to sound weird but I would love to be friends with one.
You have done theatre from the start and you are getting back on stage for CIPHER at the Arts Club in Vancouver and MAHABHARATA at the 2020 Shaw Theatre Festival. Can you tell us about these upcoming shows? What do you love about theatre?
Cipher is a play that is being performed at a major theatre company in Vancouver, Canada called The Arts Club. I very much describe it as “hipster noir meets conspiracy thriller”. It’s a cold case murder mystery and I play a student who teams up with a toxicology professor to solve the case. The creative team is one of the best in Canadian theatre and it’s going to be innovative and exhilarating. If people want to check it out, here is a link for tickets. We opened on February 12th, 2020 in Vancouver.
Mahabharata is the longest story ever written or told in the world. It’s a Lord of the Rings-esque fantasy epic from Indian, Hindu mythology BUT on stage! This project is a huge milestone, because it’s the first time in North America that this story is being told on stage with an international-all south asian cast. It is being performed at Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Shaw Theatre Festival from August 15th to September 19th. Here is a link to tickets for those interested. I will be performing multiple characters in it and the cast and crew are absolutely spectacular.
Live theater is exhilarating, because you have the audience in the palm of your hands and as the actor you control the narrative with your words and actions. Every night you also get to try something different because you get ANOTHER chance to perform the same story all over again. That’s what I love most about it.
Do you have a dream project you want to work on one day? What do you hope to do as an actor or filmmaker in the future?
I want to be the lead of a science fiction or fantasy movie, something like the upcoming Dune with my favorite director Denis Villeneuve or an epic series similar to Lord of the Rings. In the future, I hope to leverage my acting work into directing/producing opportunities. With so many OTT Platforms, I want to tell stories about the immigrant experience and specifically, the South Indian immigrant experience when moving to a new country. I have a wild family and tons of incredible stories passed onto me from generation to generation– I think the audience would get a kick out of watching them on the big screen. Outside of this, I really hope to work with amazing up and coming directors like David Lowery (Ghost Story) and Trey Edward Shults (Waves).
For our final question, if you could wake up one day with one super power, which would it be and why?
The superpower of being able to read minds. Telekinesis I guess? I just think people hide so much beneath their surface and most problems in our lives are based on a lack of communication. I feel like if I could read people’s minds I’d be more sensitive to their needs and know what they’re going through to start a conversation. Mainly it would be to help people– but I can also see why it can be a burden.