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Ambika Mod

One Day: Everything you need to know about star Ambika Mod

Second time she’s broken all of our hearts

It’s Valentine’s season, so what better way to celebrate/commiserate than with Netflix’s latest soul-crushing offering, One Day. The adaptation of David Nicholls’ novel follows the lives of Edinburgh grads Emma and Dexter, each episode visiting them on the same date as they weave in and out of each other’s lives over the next 20 years.

The show’s two leads – Ambika Mod and Leo Woodall – are poised to become big stars, as their performances have been critically acclaimed. Ambika plays Emma Morley, an English and History grad who wants to pursue a career as an author, yet finds this harder than expected post-uni. This is Ambika’s first lead role and pretty much the entire Internet agrees: she’s the stand out.

So here’s everything you need to know about breakout star Ambika Mod, now that One Day has hit our screens:

So, where is Ambika from?

Ambika is from Potters Bar in Hertfordshire, and is the daughter of Indian immigrants. She has said that she grew up “shy and introverted” with a love for American sitcoms. She attended a theatre school in St Albans where she excelled, yet she initially wanted to pursue stand-up comedy rather than acting.

And where did Ambika go to uni in real life?

Ambika went to Durham Uni and was in St Mary’s College, studying English like her on-screen counterpart. While at uni she was part of the Durham Revue, previously home to the likes of Ed Gamble and Nish Kumar, doing improv and sketch comedy and taking shows to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the summer. She was also the troupe’s president in 2017!

How come Ambika decided to become an actress?

After appearing in a string of short films, Ambika got her big break with the hit BBC black comedy This Is Going to Hurt (2022). Based on Adam Kay’s memoir, the series follows a group of doctors working in an NHS labour ward and stars Ben Whishaw (aka Paddington Bear). Ambika played junior doctor Shruti Acharya, whose heartbreaking storyline captured audiences and opened our eyes to the reality of life on NHS wards. No spoilers, but if you watch this you will need tissues, I still haven’t recovered.

What first drew her to the role of Emma in One Day?

Ambika Mod

Credit: Netflix

Despite being praised for her performance as Shruti and winning awards at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards and Royal Television Society Programme Awards, Ambika has said that she felt lost after the success of This Is Going to Hurt. She was mostly being offered supporting roles, and told CNN she felt like she “was being put in her lane as a brown woman”, with most of the roles being “South Asian women in professional jobs, assisting the plot”.

Surprisingly, she initially turned down her One Day audition, thinking that she didn’t stand a chance. For context, in the book Emma is written as a white woman, and was played by Anne Hathaway (with a very dubious accent) in the 2011 film adaptation, and sadly South Asian actresses are extremely underrepresented as these kinds of romantic leads. Ambika told Woman’s Hour that “you don’t see a lot of brown women on screen being the romantic lead”, but eventually agreed to audition. Lucky for everyone, she won the role simply by being the best fit for the character, and has stated that her connection with Emma grew as production went on.

Her casting is a great step for small-screen representation, following in the footsteps of Simone Ashley’s Bridgerton casting and Mindy Kaling’s series Never Have I Ever. Finally, Hollywood appears to be becoming more inclusive when it comes to love stories like this one, giving underrepresented communities the opportunity to shine as romantic leads rather than being sidelined.

And what can we expect to see Ambika in next?

Ambika is currently filming a show for Disney+ called Playdate, which stars Holliday Grainger and is based on the 2020 novel by Alex Dahl. Nobody knows exactly when this will hit our screens but it looks set to be a perfect thriller.

Where can I watch One Day?

One Day is currently streaming exclusively on Netflix! There’s 14 episodes, so it’s the perfect rollercoaster rom-com to binge. Warning: it’s sad.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

• From Edinburgh Uni to Greece: All of the stunning real-life filming locations of One Day

• Who was Justin Eely? The story behind One Day’s mystery dedication

• The Cranberries to Blur: Every song on the vibey decade-spanning One Day soundtrack