With awards season upon us, ELLE puts the new screen radicals in fashion’s established and next-gen rebel designers – a celebration of the talents pushing their worlds to a bolder place.
From a young age, Anya Chalotra realised that performing was a way that she could ‘change the moods of my family members’. Like any kid who stumbles on a foolproof way to influence their parents, she kept doing it, attending Guildhall School of Music and Drama school when she was 19. As a British-Indian youth, Bollywood influenced her, too: ‘I watched a lot of it growing up. I think that was a way for my dad to show me his culture.’
After graduating, she picked up parts in TV shows The ABC Murders and Wanderlust, but when she landed a leading role in the Netflix show The Witcher, she felt radically underprepared. ‘She was someone that was outside of myself that I initially couldn’t reach,’ says Chalotra of her character, Yennefer.
It’s a big, gruelling part: a struggling young woman with a curved spine and facial paralysis, who discovers she has magic powers. Not only does Yennefer hold the show, she faces a huge physical transformation.
‘Three weeks in, I called my mentor [actor Niamh Cusack] and said, “I can’t do this, can you help me?” I’m dyslexic and I found working with cameras difficult. I was so used to being free from that on stage.’ Cusack advised Chalotra to ‘forget about everything and play the moment’ and something shifted. ‘I learned to trust my instincts,’ she says. The Witcher became an instant hit. Watched by 76 million households, it was at the time Netflix’s most-viewed first season of television. Now, with two seasons under her belt, Chalotra is revelling in her newfound confidence.
‘I learned to feel comfortable with being uncomfortable. Acting changed the way I saw myself.’