One of the most beloved romance books of all time has returned to the screen. Netflix's miniseries adaptation of David Nicholls' 2009 novel One Day (previously turned into a film starring Anne Hathaway in 2011 ) tells the decades-long love story of Emma Morley (Ambika Mod) and Dexter Mayhew (The White Lotus standout Leo Woodall) over 14 episodes. This new serialized version gives the original book's plot plenty of time to breathe, taking viewers through the ups and downs of the will-they-won't-they drama. One Day taps a cast of rising actors to bring this romance to life, and Mod is stellar as Emma, an aspiring writer struggling to find her place in an apathetic world.
The 29-year-old actress, comedian, and writer is still relatively unknown, despite having an excellent breakout turn in the 2022 miniseries This Is Going to Hurt. As shown in One Day, Mod's a natural star who is sure to reach impressive heights in her acting career. Read on to learn more about the actor, including why she almost turned down the role in One Day.
She started out as a stage actress, performing twice in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Mod was born in Hertfordshire, England to Indian immigrant parents, and got her start in acting and comedy at school. She did live sketch comedy at Durham University and went on to perform at the famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival twice, with a show called “Cirque du Silly” in 2015, and with “Children of the Quorn” in 2019. After graduating with a degree in English, she performed stand-up comedy and appeared in small TV roles in shows like The Mash Report. She also worked day jobs in the stock department of John Lewis, and served as a PA in the finance department at magazine publisher Condé Nast.
Eventually, she landed her award-winning role as junior doctor Shruti Acharya on the AMC dark comedy-drama This Is Going to Hurt. Next up, she's set to appear alongside Jim Sturgess (who coincidentally starred opposite Hathaway in the 2011 One Day film) in the Disney+ thriller “Playdate,” about a woman whose young daughter is kidnapped at a sleepover.
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She's a huge fan of the original 'One Day' book... but almost turned down her role in the adaptation.
Mod's leading lady turn as the latest actress to bring Emma Morley to life almost didn't happen. The actress told The Guardian that she actually turned down the chance to audition at first, partly because of the pressure to embody the main character in one of her favorite books—which she first read when she was just 13.
“I was an idiot,” she told the outlet. “This Is Going to Hurt had just come out, and I was feeling very overwhelmed. I think it was a combination of that and really loving the book, and thinking: I can’t do this, I shouldn’t do this, I’m not Emma.”
She eventually realized that she had made a mistake and sent in a taped audition. As she went through the audition and eventual filming process, she rose to the occasion. “I was just ready for the challenge, I wanted to push myself. This was by far the best opportunity [following This Is Going to Hurt] and I just love the character and the book. I feel I’ve manifested my 13-year-old dream, so it felt quite magical.”
She has spoken about the importance of playing Emma as an actress of color.
In a BBC interview, Mod said that both the roles of Emma and Dexter were cast "regardless of ethnicity," and that this opened up a "whole other dimension" for the character.
"I think [that decision] definitely was right for Emma, she added. "I think it just opens up a whole other dimension to her character and her identity that is prevalent in the book and I think it becomes even more enhanced by my casting in the series."
"I hope it will open people's minds a little bit," she continued. "I'm aware how significant it will be to a lot of people, especially young women of color, young South Asian women in particular."