Text by Pierre de Villiers
When Norwegian actress Amrita Acharia’s character, Irri, was killed off in the second season of Game of Thrones last year, the show’s famously obsessive fans were not happy. “Amrita made Irri real and that’s why we freaking care,” wrote one on fan site WinterIsComing.net. Another raged, “I actually gasped ‘Nooooo’ when she died. Stupid, just stupid!”
Irri’s death scene was cut – in the show she’s found dead on the floor – but when the scene of her getting strangled was uploaded on YouTube, almost two million people watched it. The geeks were doubly dismayed because Irri’s character survives longer in George RR Martin’s books, going on to have a lesbian affair. “I couldn’t believe that so many people cared,” says Acharia. “I still get letters from fans requesting an autograph with [Irri’s famous saying] ‘It is known’. It is kind of cool to have my own tagline.”
Acharia’s reputation has come a long way. She spent most of her teens in Tromsø, having grown up in England, Nepal and Ukraine (her father is Nepalese, her mother Ukrainian), before heading off to study acting at London’s Academy of Live and Recorded Arts. She’d had a bit-part in 2011’s The Devil’s Double, about Saddam Hussein’s son Uday, when she got a call about some fantasy TV show based on a book series. “I had no idea it would be anything like as massive as it turned out to be… It was hard to take in sometimes.”
Acharia – who speaks four languages – can’t be fanboy catnip forever, though, even if she appeared in AskMen.com’s 2013 list of the world’s most desirable women. This month she stars in Jeg er din (I Am Yours), a harrowing Norwegian film about Mina, a Norwegian-Pakistani single mum in Oslo who has been estranged from her family. She falls for Swedish filmmaker Jesper (Skyfall’s Ola Rapace) and moves to his home country with her son. When it becomes clear Jesper is not ready for a family, Mina’s life spirals into self-destruction.
“The film explores the consequences of this alienation, but deals with universal challenges I’m sure many people can relate to,” says Acharia. “It peels back a lot of taboos surrounding being a single mother, sexual promiscuity, unstable careers and what we feel is perhaps expected of us from the communities around us.”
Acharia’s experience in Norway, though, was very different to Mina’s. “We were brought up liberally with lots of support and integration was a given for us – we knew where we were from, but when we moved we were keen to learn the language and adapt. Jeg er din is about what can happen when this isn’t the case and when immigrants get split between two worlds.”
Were she not so used to moving, Acharia might feel split between many worlds. She still calls Norway home (“It’s one of the only places I can really relax,” she says), but spends most of her time between London and LA, where she’s recently been filming Camouflage, in which she plays a Middle Eastern FBI agent.
After Camouflage, she’ll join another US-based Norwegian, director Tommy Wirkola, for zombie comedy Dead Snow 2. It’s a far cry from immigrant single mothers and complex FBI agents, but Acharia admits, “I don’t have a concrete career plan. I’ll ride this wave as long as it will hold me up and hope to do projects that leave a mark.” Whether she gets to have another tagline, only time will tell.
Jeg er din is released in Norway on 16 August