Antonia Desplat & Elektra Kilbey Interview: Shantaram

Antonia Desplat and Elektra Kilbey star in Shantaram, AppleTV+’s latest original series based on the novel of the same name by Gregory David Roberts. Created by Steve Lightfoot and Eric Warren Singer, Shantaram follows Lin (Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam), a man who heads to 1980s Bombay seeking some sort of redemption and a different life than the one of crime he led before.

Desplat and Kilbey star Carla and Lisa, respectively, two women that Lin comes to meet in Bombay. They and others that Lin meet will shape the course of his journey in Bombay and, ultimately, his life. Shantaram will have a 12-episode first season on AppleTV+, with new episodes premiering Wednesdays.

Screen Rant caught up with Desplat and Kilbey before the premiere of Shantaram to discuss their approaches to their characters, how the source material affected their performances, and what the tumultuous production was like.

Desplat & Kilbey on Shantaram

Screen Rant: Antonia, what attracted you to the character of Carla and the story of Shantaram overall?

Antonia Desplat: Well, I decided when I got the audition, I sort of dived really quickly into the book and really fell in love with [it] and the character. And the more I was going through the book, the more I was going, she’s got big hands, she’s got this…maybe I could actually play this role. And, as a foreigner, you don’t get such exciting roles coming every day. And I also don’t often go, I can play that. And I think I can play that character.

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I am very attracted by the fact that she has so many layers, and she’s so complex. And she absolutely does not wear her heart on her sleeve. So there’s so much going on internally that she just refuses to showcase to the world. So there’s this constant push and pull between the inner world and the outer world, which I think is fascinating, because for a performer, it’s very satisfying. So it’s a dream role. And I’m very, very grateful to get to play her.

Elektra, when you approach an adaptation like this, you have this source material on hand, do you dive into it, or do you prefer to stick to the script? What’s your process like there?

Elektra Kilbey: For me, it’s been a bit different than, for example, Antonia who plays Carla, or Prabu. Lisa isn’t necessarily the most discussed character or described character in the book, may perhaps in the second book. And my character in the adaptation on TV is an amalgamation of Ulla and Lisa. So of course, I’ve gotten descriptions and feelings about where they were from the book. But I’ve gone more on what I’ve had on the page in the script. And then with all of these pieces puzzle together, my version of Lisa Carter.

I know, the shoot was tumultuous, full of fits and starts and location changes. How does that affect your performance? Do you feel it helps because you get to live with the character a little more, or was it more difficult?

Antonia Desplat: For me, the process was so quick. I sort of got the audition then two days later, I was flown to Mumbai to chemistry read with Charlie. And then two weeks later [I] got the role and I had to fly out the following week. It’s such a huge take-on, and I think I was petrified, and I don’t think I had time to digest what was happening. And so having the hiatus was probably a good thing because that information sat with me. I could digest it and actually build on it. And I dived into the book throughout the whole of the pandemic [and] just kept reading it over and over again. And I think, looking back at it, I came back to shooting Shantaram in a way more relaxed and prepared way than just a crazy roller coaster, both emotional and physical, because you just have to pack and go. So I was kind of grateful for that.

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Elektra Kilbey: I agree with Antonia. Getting some time to digest the character and perhaps recalibrate a little bit and adjust things that weren’t really feeling like they were working or that I didn’t feel like were gluing with me was an amazing opportunity.I came back so much more relaxed and in myself, and we grew up a little bit during that time too. Just bring[ing] more wisdom to it and more life experience to it. So I was grateful for that.

About Shantaram

Elektra Kilbey in Shantaram

Based on the internationally best-selling novel by Gregory David Roberts, “Shantaram” follows a fugitive named Lin Ford (Charlie Hunnam) looking to get lost in vibrant and chaotic 1980s Bombay. Alone in an unfamiliar city, Lin struggles to avoid the trouble he’s running from in this new place. After falling for an enigmatic and intriguing woman named Karla, Lin must choose between freedom or love and the complications that come with it.

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New episodes of Shantaram premiere Fridays on AppleTV+.

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