Amy Jackson’s acting career, over the years, has been nothing short of a fairytale. A former Miss Teen World, originally from Liverpool, UK, making her acting foray in Indian films where she hobnobbed with the likes of Rajinikanth, Shankar, Vijay, Vikram, Dhanush, Akshay Kumar, Gautham Menon, and Ram Charan to name a few, in itself sounds like a movie script.
And right now, with her upcoming sci-fi film 2.0 slated for release, it feels like a classic case of being in the right place at the right time. The actor plays a humanoid in the film, directed by Shankar, which also stars Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar. Incidentally, she had previously collaborated with Shankar for I (2015), and by her own admission, she is bowled over by his “dedication towards his craft.”
“Shankar is a visionary, who is ahead of his time. The effort he takes preparing before and during the making of his iconic filmmaking plays a major part in his overwhelming success. He never stops learning. Such is his humility,” Amy Jackson says, adding, “He knows exactly what he wants in any one shot and that’s down to the way he prepares in advance of every frame he is about to direct. The most important lesson that I’ve learnt working with him in I and 2.0 is the importance of preparing for everything that’s expected from me.”
To play a humanoid in 2.0, Amy Jackson reveals that she watched quite a lot of sci-fi films and documentaries related to Artificial Intelligence (AI).
“Among all the films that I watched as part of my preparation, one film that stood out was Ghost in the Shell where Scarlett Johansson, played a cyborg supersoldier. 2.0 also sheds light on A.I, so watching several documentaries on the topic helped me understand its importance in today’s world. One of the challenging aspects of playing the role was that although I played a humanoid who has a lot of ‘human-like features’, I was still limited due to the fact that feelings and emotions had to be portrayed in a certain way,” Amy reveals.
In 2015, the actor flew to Los Angeles to meet costume designer Mary E. Vogt, who designed her look in the film.
“They did whole body scans, moulds, and took tonnes of measurements to ensure that my suit was perfect. Although it was a very thick material, it was flexible which was important because I had a lot of wire work with the stunt team. Three years later, the same company made my superhero suit for Supergirl!”
In Endhiran, Shankar came up with an idea to imbibe a romantic track between Chitti (Rajinikanth’s avatar as a robot) and Aishwarya Rai, and being a master storyteller, he made everyone believe in its plausibility. However, in 2.0, the romantic track in the film is between Rajinikanth’s Chitti and Amy Jackson’s Nila. There’s even a song - Endhira Logathu Sundariye - which talks about two robots falling in love with each other.
Amy has fond memories of shooting with Rajinikanth in a ‘snow scene’, although she doesn’t divulge enough details about what exactly happens in that scene.
“It’s my favourite scene with Rajinikanth,” she says. “Everyone knows that he is sweet and humble, and he’s also a complete professional in everything he does. It’s little wonder that he’s regarded as a movie legend. He was a delight to work with. In fact, he never gets flustered and that makes for a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere on the sets.”
It’s been eight years since she made her debut in Tamil cinema, and soon, she went on to act in Hindi, Telugu, and also Kannada films.
“I was actually in my late teens when I was parachuted into Chennai and everything - and I do mean everything - was a blur! I’d just been crowned Miss Teen World in Dallas, Texas and two weeks later, here I was sitting in my trailer being prepared to go on set somewhere in south India for my debut film (Madarasapattinam)! I’ve been so fortunate to have been in the company of so many people who’ve helped me feel wanted and this had the effect of giving me the confidence to express my personality and make me feel so comfortable in my new surroundings,” the actor says. “My feet haven’t touched the ground since, though living out of a suitcase, while exciting to begin with has been testing as the years have flashed by. I don’t honestly know where the time has gone.”
Apart from the uber-glamorous roles that she often plays, Amy has been cast as a Tamil ponnu in quite a few films, a choice which hasn’t gone down well with a section of the audience. No matter how hard filmmakers tried to Indian-ise her, it just didn’t work. In the West, an actor belonging to particular race playing a character from some other race invites a lot of criticism; however, that hasn’t stopped filmmakers in India from offering her such roles over the years.
Ask her if she doesn’t find it problematic when she plays a south Indian woman, she avers, “The storyline is vital to my decision-making process. Moreover, I’ve to also figure out whether I can truly identify with the character I’m being asked to play. I recall being ‘the wife of a selfish and aggressive husband’ in Thanga Magan, produced by Dhanush, and I saw the film in a theatre in Chennai. In one of the scenes from the film, my husband hits me when I accuse him of deceiving his brother. And when I hit him back, there was a delighted response from the audience. I couldn’t help being so pleased with their reaction. Yes, I have had a few upsetting posts on social media related to me playing Indian characters, but with more than five million hits on my Instagram pages the vast majority of my fans have been welcoming and friendly.”
Meanwhile, Amy Jackson has already made a conscious attempt to find her footing in mainstream cinema and TV industry in the US with an American TV series, Supergirl.
“My appearance in Supergirl, filmed for Netflix in Vancouver, was, primarily, for an American audience. It was an immense challenge to be part of a successful TV series. So, more than the favourable reaction I got for my role as Saturn Girl, what left me thrilled was that I had chosen to cross the Atlantic. In all these years, one thing being an actor has taught me is that I am only as good as my next film. India has given me so much and I hope it will continue to do so. I do so hope that people will enjoy 2.0 as much as I enjoyed being part of such a ground-breaking project,” Amy Jackson signs off.