October Faction is streaming right now on Netflix and features actor Praneet Akilla in a breakout role.. The series follows monster hunters Fred (J.C. MacKenzie) and Deloris Allen (Tamara Taylor) who hide their identities as members of a covert syndicate while their teenage kids, Geoff (Gabriel Darku) and Viv (Aurora Burghart), are forced to live in a town trapped in the past. October Faction is based on the comics by Steve Niles and Damien Worm.
 
Akilla plays Phillip Mishra, a star athlete who attends the same school as the Allen kids. Phillip is the son of a prominent person in town and comes across as having an alpha personality but actually carries a heavy load on his shoulders as far as the expectations of his family and the town. 

 

 
Before landing this major role in October Faction, Akilla fell in love with storytelling through Bollywood films and musical theater but that didn’t stop him from going to school for chemical engineering. However, he decided to leave school and purse acting full time. We’re certainly happy he did. 
 
We chatted with Praneet about how he fell in love with storytelling, representation, where he sees himself in the future and the gratitude he feels right now. 
 
 
 
 
Audrey Kearns: Hi There Praneet! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us! 
 
Praneet Akilla:  Thank you so much for taking the time to interview me 🙂 appreciate this! 
 
What was your first acting experience? 
 
Probably some short films when I was making them with my friends in elementary school. We did a parody of Star Wars that we thought was really funny, but is probably cringeworthy looking at them now. The first acting experience where I thought to myself…”wow I’m actually good at this and I could see myself doing this for the rest of my life” was when I played Aladdin in my school musical in Grade 9. My first major professional acting experience was being the lead actor shooting the feature film “Jewel Fools” which screened at the Calgary International Film Festival. 
 
When did you know that you were in love with theatre? And why did you fall in love with it? 
 
Watching Bollywood movies when I was a kid made me fall in love with how you could tell stories with music. I wasn’t aware of North American musical theatre as we know it till I moved to Canada and started seeing school musicals/plays. It was absolutely exhilarating. There is nothing like live theatre. Performing on stage in front of 700-800 people a night with the ability to hold them in the palm of your hands gives you such a rush. Also the ability to redo scenes every night and try something different is something you don’t get to do on a film set. Ultimately I loved the bombastic nature of theatre that allowed the audience to feel anything/everything they felt to the fullest. The music in conjunction with storytelling made me cry my eyes out every time. I knew that I was in love with art form ever since. 
 
I read that you went to college pursuing a chemical engineering degree and then decided to pursue acting full time. How did your family take that news? Did you have support at home? I ask because the same thing happened to me. The compromise in my strict family was that I had to get two degrees, one in theatre and one in political science. Although, now that I think of it, that was kinda win for them. (haha!) 
 
It’s definitely a win for them haha! They got what they wanted. To be fair also, in my situation, I didn’t fully believe that the arts could be a stable career choice either. Maybe it was due to the lack of POC representation on the screen at the time or just a lack of belief in myself. I was raised with the mentality that you had to be stable and settled. This mostly meant monetary success and for an immigrant household that was everything. I was always acting, watching and making movies since I was a kid. I also did it throughout junior high school to university. My parents knew that it was my hobby and that I was passionate about it. So I guess even though I made the decision to quit chemical engineering and pursue the arts full-time, we all had collected enough data to know that I wasn’t delusional. That I was actually good at this acting thing. They eventually warmed up to it and are now incredibly supportive! 
 
How does your family feel now that you are supporting yourself as an actor? 
 
Very proud. Too proud in fact. Now every time they see a movie or TV show I’m not in, they’ll ask why I wasn’t cast in it. I keep telling them it doesn’t work like that haha. One step at a time! 
 
Working in theatre and working on screen are quite different. Do you love one over the other? What is it about each that you cherish? 
 
I don’t have a preference, but for sure Film and Television is my first love. That’s how I started to fall in love with acting and storytelling. I love the range of film and television because of its ability to tell stories with a tight narrative that can literally transport you to another dimension or world. I love the intimacy of the camera and the feeling of really internalizing the emotions of the characters. Now all that being said- there is nothing like live theatre. Performing on stage in front of 700-800 people a night with the ability to hold them in the palm of your hands is exhilarating. Also the ability to redo scenes every night and try something different is something you don’t get to do on a film set. 
 
Tell us about October Faction and the role you are playing, Phillip Mishra. 
 
October Faction is a fantasy/horror Netflix Original series based on the graphic novels by Steve Niles & Damien Worm. It follows the adventures of a retired monster-hunter and his family moving back to their patriarch’s town to find out their idyllic surroundings aren’t quite what they seem. Pretty soon they have to deal with werewolves, warlocks, vampires and all kinds of other monsters that are hidden in plain sight. 
 
I describe it as a Men in Black meets Supernatural. On the outside it’s incredibly fun, got lots of action and creepy horror elements. However the writers of the show have created incredibly well developed characters and a storyline with poignant social commentary on many of the issues we deal with in the world today- sexual assault, LGBTQ relationships, racial bias/profiling, power dynamics, human rights and on and on. I think people will love it. 
 
Playing Phillip Mishra is my first big break, playing a major recurring role on a Netflix Original Series. From being a chemical engineer to this feels surreal and hasn’t sunk in yet. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this show. 
 
Phillip Mishra is the alpha and star athlete in the high school the Allen Family kids attend. He’s also the son of a prominent townsperson. He carries a heavy burden of high expectations from both his family and the society around him. On the surface he very much tries to hide this stress and compensates by pushing his male bravado out to assert his dominance. Through the series however, after meeting Geoff Allen, tensions arise and the rest I can’t give away because (SPOILERS!!) 
 
What kind of research did you do for the series? Did you dive into the comic books that the series is based on? 
 
I wasn’t familiar with the comics before signing onto the show. For my auditions though, I borrowed them and read through some of the volumes. They’re beautifully illustrated by Damien Worm and written by Steve Niles. The tone was hyper stylized and the writing was really witty. I couldn’t wait to get started. I mainly tried to figure out the tone and themes of the content. I obviously didn’t put too much stock into the interpersonal relationships between characters or the characters themselves because I knew it wasn’t going to be a by the book adaptation. I mainly focused on what I could do as an actor to not be performing in my own show stylistically speaking. I had to adjust to the tone we were going for. On top of that, I focused on the thematic elements of institutionalized racism, privilege, family, love etc. just to make sure I could keep track of some of these things throughout my character arc. 
 
Were you excited to do a “genre” show? One with supernatural elements and monsters!?! 
 
I was so incredibly excited and I remember crying on the phone to my parents saying I finally got a major part on a TV show. This was something I was working towards for a long time! To top that, I am a huge sci fi/fantasy/horror comic book geek- so the fact that I got a role on a genre show was even more thrilling. I was mainly excited that I would get to be part of a story that took place in these worlds. Growing up a Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter fan, you couldn’t ask for more. Thankfully the show isn’t just a show about “monsters.” It has incredibly clever writing and well developed characters. That’s first and foremost why I fell in love with October Faction. 
 
gabriel darku and praneet akilla in October Faction
 
 
 Although you are no stranger to acting, October Faction is being billed as your breakout role and your first major series on the television screen. How were your nerves going into it? 
 
I haven’t had a role this big before as a major recurring character on a show. I was sort of nervous coming in, but I had prepared a lot for this moment so I was more excited for the challenge. Then the cast and crew were so supportive. Such incredible, talented actors and everyone showed up on set ready to work, ready to have fun, ready to play. I can’t say enough good things about my costar Gabriel Darku, who I worked with a lot throughout the whole show. We got to know each other and became really good friends and so did the rest of the cast. Having that sort of camaraderie offset really helps the performance onset as well. I just think the whole experience was tremendous and hopefully the audience will see that when they watch the show. 
 
Were you able to have fun? 
 
All. The. Time. I can’t say enough good things about my costar Gabriel Darku, whom I worked with a lot throughout the whole show. We got to know each other and became really good friends and so did the rest of the cast. Having that sort of camaraderie offset really helps the performance onset as well. I just think the whole experience was tremendous and hopefully the audience will see that when they watch the show. 
 
 
What is something positive you learned from working on the set of October Faction that surprised you? 
 
I would job shadow on days when I wasn’t filming because I am interested in ultimately becoming a director or showrunner a few years from now. I sat with the writers as they watched playback and had to do quick re-writes to accommodate unforeseen logistical issues. I was there with Damian Kindler, our incredible show-runner and director, while he was framing shots and scheduling his day. All of these experiences made me realize how much work goes into filming a scene that- in the final cut-only amounts to two seconds of screen time. Going forward, it opened my eyes in regards to how carefully you need to execute both in pre-production and on set. 
 
What’s up next for you? What projects can you tell us about? 
 
My next projects are all on the stage. There are a few film/TV projects coming up that I can’t quite talk about yet! 
 
Cipher is a play that is being performed at a major theatre company in Vancouver, Canada called The Arts Club. I very much describe it as “hipster noir meets conspiracy thriller”. It’s a cold case murder mystery and I play a student who teams up with a toxicology professor to solve the case. The creative team is one of the best in Canadian theatre and it’s going to be innovative and exhilarating. If people want to check it out, here is a link for tickets. We opened on Feb.12th, 2020 in Vancouver. 
 
Mahabharata is the longest story ever written or told in the world. It’s a Lord of the Rings-esque fantasy epic from Indian, Hindu mythology BUT on stage! This project is a huge milestone because it’s the first time in North America that this story is being told on stage with an international-all south asian cast.  It is being performed at Niagara-on-the- Lake’s Shaw Theatre Festival from August 15th to September 19th. Here is a link to tickets for those interested. I will be performing multiple characters in it and the cast & crew are absolutely spectacular. 
 
Thanks, Praneet! We look forward to seeing more of you on the screen! 
 
Thank you so much, I can’t wait to see what’s in store 🙂
 
 
 
Check out October Faction currently streaming on Netflix!
 
 
 
 
This article was originally published 3/10/20
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

Audrey Kearns