Ami Sheth, who plays Sana on AMC’s Dietland, talks about Sana and Plum’s friendship and the importance of sisterhood.
Q: What did you think when you read about Sana’s backstory? Did anything immediately resonate?
A: When I was first given the sides and the audition material, I didn’t really know much about who she was as a character. All it said was that Sana has a scar on her face. Now, we see it’s so much more than that. I was really excited because I’ve never done any kind of prosthetic work. It was really exciting to take on this character who not only is a different person than me, but physically looks different than the way I look. She’s gone through so many horrible things in her life, but she’s decided to give back to other women. I thought she was so strong and like this great calming force on the show. She’s really like this zen character and this clarity and simple goodness. I thought she was so cool and I couldn’t wait to take her on.
Q: What was the makeup process like? Was it challenging to act with the prosthetic on your face?
A: It was so challenging and kind of claustrophobic. They cover your entire face with this mold and there’s a 15-minute period where you can’t see or hear. That was freaky. They use that to make a mold of your face and the prosthetic is built off of that. Starting out, it would take almost two hours every day and they make a new one each time. It was pretty intense. I also have to wear a wig because my hairline is supposed to be uneven and I don’t have hair on half of my face. I wasn’t able to hear out of my left ear because it’s covered and I don’t technically have one, so it’s all covered up by the prosthetic. I also wore a contact in my left eye, so I couldn’t see very well. So, it was pretty challenging! I would have to move to figure out where things were and the placement. I feel like it made me very centered and present because I really did have to focus on whoever I was speaking to and the task at hand and what was happening around me. I think it adds to her quietness and her strength.
Q: How do you imagine Sana uses art to heal from all she’s been through?
A: It was very cool for me because I got to learn about art, how to spray paint and how to do all these amazing things from real artists. We have all female directors and each one has come to me and posed questions that have made me think about who Sana is. It’s interesting because all of her art is focused around her face. For someone who doesn’t care about what the outside world thinks, there’s still a lot of turmoil there because she keeps going back to her face and what it looked like before.
Q: How would you describe the friendship between Sana and Plum?
A: I love their friendship. It’s just so pure. It’s two people who see themselves as outcasts, especially when it comes to the beauty standards of the world. They use each other to learn about themselves. They really care about each other and help each other process. Through this journey of Plum getting to know who she is, it’s great that Sana’s this amazing bouncing board for her but she also puts her in check sometimes. Sana has been through some terrible things and has no problem sharing and opening up to Plum, and it makes Plum open up and share also.
Q: In Episode 8, Plum violates the privacy of Calliope house. Did that affect their friendship at all?
A: I think it does – and it broke Sana’s heart when Plum decides that she’s leaving. The whole thing escalated and no one intended for that to happen. It was more like, “Let’s talk to her and have her see our point of view” and through a heated exchange with Verena, it just comes out that maybe she should leave. It really breaks Sana’s heart and she even calls her after she leaves.
Q: Did Plum’s leaving encourage Sana to question some of Verena’s methods?
A: That whole exchange was very powerful. I think Sana feels very protective of all of the women in the house. When Verena decides Plum should just go, they get into that argument… because her bubble has just been burst. She’s always thought of Calliope House as this wonderful place where we help women, but she starts to see there are some restrictions to that openness and love. The argument really comes from taking these people in who are broken and giving them a safety net and then just pulling it away.
Q: In Episode 9, Plum confides in Sana about being raped. What’s it like for Sana to share such a vulnerable moment with her?
A: During the filming of it, we had to keep taking a step back because it was such a heart-wrenching and genuine scene. So many tears! So much hugging! We all have those situations where someone you love has been wronged and you feel helpless… It was a very hard but beautiful scene.
Q: What kind of impression has the show left on you?
A: Every day was super supportive and nurturing, though we deal with some really tough topics. These are some seriously genuine emotions coming out of us. The directors gave us space to feel and play. Being on set can be stressful, but we were really like a family. I have a 2-year-old daughter myself and it really opened my eyes and gave me perspective. You never know what’s going on in someone’s life. As women, we have to be more supportive of each other. Being a part of this show really opened my eyes to the fact that we need to be a sisterhood.
Read an interview with Erin Darke, who plays Leeta.
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