With confidence and poise, Ami Sheth brings her character Sana to life in the new drama series DIETLAND. The show offers a look into the world of fashion as seen through the eyes of an employee whose job it is to respond to correspondence sent by young women seeking guidance on everything from clothing and accessories to personal issues that they are going through. It is a rare look into the body image issues surrounding fashion and the emotional toll it has for those working in it and those who revere it as the ideal image of what women should aspire to. For Ami, getting to portray a character who has suffered physically, mentally and emotionally and yet has found a way to project her own happiness and acceptance of her own body was a rare and appealing opportunity. In an exclusive interview, Ami talks about the joy she found in bringing her character Sana to life and a few key lessons she has learned as a working actress in Hollywood.
What was the initial appeal for you about portraying Sana and working on AMC’s DIETLAND?
AMI: Initially I was drawn to Sana’s self awareness and strength. Sana is an acid attack survivor and spends her life making art and helping other women. The role requires hours of prosthetics, which is also something I have never done before. It was a challenge I was excited to take on; playing a woman who is so extremely beautiful in such an unconventional way. I fell in love with everything she is.
How would you describe who Sana is in the series?
AMI: Sana is an artist and acolyte of Verena Baptist (Robin Weigert) who lives in the feminist collective “Calliope House.” She becomes a close friend and confidant for Plum (Joy Nash) through Plum’s journey of self acceptance.
What do you most admire about her?
AMI: I admire that Sana has gone through such a horrendous ordeal but is so strong and self aware despite it. She lives in Calliope House and has dedicated her life to helping other women; women who themselves have had atrocious things happen.
What is it like working alongside the talented ensemble on DIETLAND?
AMI: Most of my scenes on Dietland are with the other members of Calliope House or Joy Nash. I can honestly say I have never worked with more amazing, warm and giving actors. Joy is such a gifted actor and beautiful human being. The experience of working with all women directors was also new for me. The set was such a supportive environment. I feel so blessed to be a part of it.
How would you describe the dynamic between Sana and Plum?
AMI: Sana and Plum are both outcasts in society. They both don’t fit into society’s beauty ideals. Throughout Dietland, Sana helps Plum realize she isn’t meant to fit in, but instead she can be herself on her own terms. Sana also learns a lot about herself through her friendship with Plum.
Any favorite scenes that you can share from working on the show?
AMI: My favorite scenes occur in episodes 106, 107 and 108 and all take place with Plum in Sana’s bedroom/art studio. I love their unlikely friendship. I love when Sana reveals what happened to her face and Plum shares what has happened to her before coming to Calliope House. The scenes are so honest and raw. Also the scene when I get to use spray paint and make graffiti art was a lot of fun!
What challenges did you face working on the show and how did you overcome them?
AMI: The prosthetic work on my face was definitely the greatest challenge. Spending hours in the FX chair and keeping the prosthetics on 12-14 hours on shooting days was terrible for my skin so I ended up getting facials every 3-4 weeks to get the glue out of my pores. Also I couldn’t hear out of my left ear or see much out of my left eye, which made acting more challenging. It was all worth it though! Jeremy Selenfriend, who did my life cast and created my prosthetics, is a true artist.
Has DIETLAND left an impression on you in your life? If so, in what way?
AMI: The show makes your realize all the different struggles women go through. You can’t know what anyone is going through, but it’s always important to support and help one another. Women need to stand together, not tear each other down! We are a sisterhood.
Then as an actor, what has been the one thing you haven taken away from the experience of working on DIETLAND?
AMI: Working on this show has been one of the greatest professional experiences I have ever had. I have become much more confident in my life and work in general. The empowerment of the show is infectious.
What is your proudest achievement working on DIETLAND?
AMI: I am so proud to be a part of this groundbreaking show. I hope to continue to use its message of female empowerment and instill these values in my two-year-old daughter.
What has surprised you most about your career so far?
AMI: I honestly never thought I could make a career in acting. When I grew up, there was never anyone who looked like me on TV or in movies. Acting has always been an enormous creative release and passion. I feel so fortunate to be able to do what I love. I hope the opportunities for minority actors continue to flourish.
At this stage of your career, what do you think you have learned from the roles and projects you have worked on?
AMI: I’ve learned that the best projects to be a part of are the ones that challenge you. You are never done learning and growing as an actor and as a person. Keep demanding more of yourself.
What did you enjoy most about working on “Most Beautiful Island”?
AMI: Ana Asensio was wonderful to work with. I love how raw and emotional the film and my role as Benedita was. It kept you constantly guessing.
What did you learn from working on that film?
AMI: Ana had a vision and was unwilling to compromise on it. It’s always wonderful working with a director that knows what they want but gives you freedom to bring your best work to screen.
What about “Blindspot”? Did you enjoy working on that show?
AMI: Working on “Blindspot” is always a great experience. The cast has been together for so long that they are truly a family. Each time I go to set they welcome me with open arms.
Has there been any great advice you have gotten about working as an actor?
AMI: That the less you “act” the better. Also to bring yourself to the role. Bring what makes you an individual. That is what makes the role yours, not the other way around.
What advice would you offer to other upcoming and aspiring actors?
AMI: It’s a tough industry filled with a lot of rejection. Know your worth, and believe in yourself.
At a time when women’s voices are rising to be heard and respected around the country and world, what do you recommend your fans do to lend support in that endeavor?
AMI: Get involved with organizations that support women. Call your legislators. March. Write letters. Volunteer. Educate. There is a way for everyone to help in some way. And that goes for men as well as women.
From your view point, what lessons can be gleaned from the “Me Too” era?
AMI: Women are no longer remaining silent in the face of sexual violence and exploitation. There are a lot of reasons this is happening now. One of the most important reasons, in my opinion, is there is a platform for empowerment through empathy. The lesson here is that women are finally standing together and saying enough is enough. There is definite strength in numbers.
Do you have any other upcoming projects that you can share that fans should keep an eye out for?
AMI: Nothing I can share at the moment, but stay tuned!
To see meet Sana when her path intersects with Plum’s journey this season and the effect that has, be sure to tune in for all new episodes of DIETLAND on Mondays at 10:00 p.m. on AMC. To get more information about the show and for sneak peaks, be sure to follow the show on Twitter @DietlandAMC. Then to see what amazing adventures Ami does as her career grows, be sure to follow her on Twitter @AmiSheth.
DIETLAND official trailer:
DIETLAND “Kickass Women Kicking Ass” trailer:
DIETLAND “Meet Plum, Kitty, Julia, Leeta & Verena Behind the Scenes”: