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SA actress Ayushi Chhabra: From career rock bottom to starring in Netflix’s ‘Resident Evil’

South African raised actress Ayushi Chhabra had reached what she says was her rock bottom in her life. Her career was uncertain when the Covid-19 pandemic started and she had to move back home after making some inroads in Los Angeles (LA) in her acting career.

However, this would all change when Chhabra was cast in Netflix’s Resident Evil, which started streaming in July. The actress told us all about being part of a big-budget adaptation series.

Q&A with South African actress Ayushi Chhabra:

Question: When the role of Dr Amrita Singh in Netflix’s Resident Evil came, you experienced rock bottom in your life, tell us a bit more about this and how this role has changed aspects of your career?

Answer: That’s right. I had just moved back to SA from LA. After living on my own for seven years, I found myself in my parents’ home at the age of 30, with a very uncertain future. When Resident Evil happened, it came as a ray of hope. It jolted life back into my acting career. I cannot express the level of gratitude I felt to be able to work on set again.

We shot this series during the peak of the pandemic – at a time when many people were losing jobs so for me to be able to work, and on top of that, do something that I love, was a big blessing. Because of this experience and this credit on my resume, I was able to go back to LA and continue my journey as a working actor.

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Q: Were you a fan of the zombie franchise Resident Evil when Milla Jovovich led the movies?

A: I had heard of the franchise, but I hadn’t watched any movies or played any of the games. I am the biggest fan of the show that we shot and that has sparked my interest in the franchise, and I will watch the movies now.

Q: Netflix’s Resident Evil series takes place 14 years after the deadly virus broke out. Playing the character of a scientist responsible for finding a cure, was there any type of research you did in preparation for this role?

A: Ironically, we shot this show at a time when we were fighting a virus in reality so the fear, the urgency, the need to protect one’s family – those instincts came naturally while playing Amrita. In addition to that, to accurately portray the role of a scientist, I went through lab training and learned how to use lab tools. I researched scientific and medical jargon, I learned how to fight zombies in my stunts workshops.

I also had to get prosthetics at some point so that was an interesting experience too.

Q: The toughest and best parts acting Dr Amrita Singh?

A: The toughest was learning the stunts to fight a zombie. I am not so well versed with stunts and action sequences, so it was my first time doing that. I am so hooked now! I would love to learn more. And, the best part about playing Dr Amrita Singh was that she is a family girl like me. She cares deeply about her loved ones, she wants to protect them at all costs and that is her driving force in life, much like me.

Q: Behind the scenes, how was it like shooting a Netflix production?

A: It is very well organised, thoroughly researched and there is great attention to detail. The series was shot in Cape Town, and the home base crew we worked with was Moonlighting Films (a South African production house) and they were phenomenal. From accommodation, meals, rehearsals, and workshops to the actual shoot day – the coordination was excellent. As a South African, I am so proud of this crew for handling an international production with such flair. I haven’t seen such smooth execution even in LA.

Q: Since the series release of Netflix Resident Evil, what type of feedback have you received?

A: The series was number one on Netflix in the US, and in the UK the week it was released. I have been overwhelmed with positive feedback. Whether someone is a die hard fans of the franchise or new to it, everyone can easily follow and relate to the storyline. It’s got the scares, the special effects, the unpredictability factor but also, a never seen before human element to the franchise.

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Q: Is it important to you to showcase Indian actors, languages and diversity in the mainstream entertainment industry?

A: Absolutely. I think this series did an excellent job of having such a diverse cast. I am Indian-born, South African raised. The actor who played my husband is South African. The actor who played Ella Balinska’s husband is a Pakistani Canadian. Ella herself is from the UK And we absolutely need more shows like this that have such a diverse casting. The more we see that on screen, the more audiences will get used to it and that will open more opportunities for actors of colour.

Q: Are there any future roles we can expect from you?

A: My feature film Love Me Stupid will release fall of this year on streaming platforms. In addition to that, I am back in hustle mode, auditioning for more Sci-Fi roles. Let’s see what the cards have in store.

Q: Five things people need to know about you?

A: 

  1. My family comes above anything. I will sacrifice anything for them.
  2. I am a hopeless romantic. Like utterly hopeless haha.
  3. I am terrified of reptiles.
  4. I am a new but committed vegan. One day I would like to open a wellness temple with affordable and accessible classes for yoga, meditation, dance, art, and therapy – where anyone can come to find ways to heal, recover, find their joy and peace and leave feeling lighter and happier.

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