Amudha on raising her star daughter, Samsara

May/14/2022 / by Pratika Yashaswi

As Samsara Yett’s character greets Kristen Bell’s for the first time in the satirical production, “The Woman in the House Across the Street From the Girl in the Window,” she puts on a big, beautiful, disarming smile, one that effectively camouflages her real intentions. As the story continues, she plays the sweet little girl next door until she finally reveals herself in the last episode to be the who in the whodunnit. And then comes a fight scene. It’s impressive when you learn that Samsara is all of 9, playing a double role and then a cold-blooded killer of grown adults.

“The Woman…” is a satire that mocks the often formulaic and clichéd tropes in several popular bestselling crime thrillers, so it’s not immediately funny unless one has seen others with the tropes it includes — not really children’s reading. Yet, Samsara’s delivery was spot on, and her acting prowess drew praise from costars and crew alike.

But Samsara’s largely unfazed by it. 

“When you’re a kid actor, you don’t know what you’re doing, and you don’t always understand the story,” she says. “When I act, I try to be natural. I act like I’m just talking, and pretend there are no cameras around. My job is to do what the character would do. Someday, I’ll watch the shows and get it.”

Samsara and Kristen Bell

Underneath it all, she’s a pretty ordinary kid, though. Born to biracial parents (She’s has Tamil and Eastern European Jewish roots) living in New Jersey, she loves school, writing songs and stories, singing, playing the ukulele, and drawing.

Like any other young girl, she makes TikTok videos with her friends, and loves her cat.

But behind every child artist is a devoted set of parents watching over her budding career as they ensure a grounded upbringing. And Samsara’s mother, Amudha Rajendran, is a champion of both. We managed to get both Samsara and her mother to spare a little time to share their experiences of stardom and motherhood in the tinselled life of a child actress.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a South Indian born in Puducherry and brought up in Queens. I’m a liberal. I used to work in many different fields: teaching, fundraising, editing, and writing. Now I try to help Samsara in her life as an artist who is just beginning!

What goes into raising a biracial kid?

I try to make sure my daughter understands her place in the world. Samsara is taught about both cultures. She has strong Dravidian roots. My mom comes from a village called Papi Setti Palli near Chittoor in AP, and it’s Samsara’s favorite place on Earth. She loves her extended family. And we will see that she goes to India and learns about her identity throughout her life. Her dad makes sure she is participating in Jewish culture. Not all mixed kids feel understood or accepted, but my child loves her life.

How did Samsara’s first-ever modeling or acting assignment come about?

She was a beautiful baby. People would always suggest she model or act. We waited until she was verbal enough to have an opinion. When Samsara was three and a half, we thought she was old enough to start modeling. Samsara has a great modeling portfolio. She was so professional: punctual and able to listen and follow directions. When she was 5, she started doing commercials as well. Around age 7, she started auditioning for film/TV jobs. Samsara has had four jobs so far. She is job-hunting now, so hopefully, there will be work.

Samsara’s performance has received many compliments from people she’s worked with. What’s it like raising a child so visible to the public eye?

If you don’t make anything of it, life just goes on. No one in our lives focuses on Samsara’s work life. We only talk about it through the lens of labor. Samsara is a kid who works. She does a great job balancing work with everything else. Her life is safe and ordinary.

Some special things happen, and they remind you that life is unusual in some ways. I have a public IG account for Samsara. It’s been a wonderful thing in our lives! So many people reach out to tell us about their mixed kids! They see their kids in Samsara. Also, so many girls around the world don’t have social media access. They have to sneak onto IG. They always reach out and tell us how much they love Samsara’s freedom-filled life. They really identify with her and wish her well. I always encourage them to find freedom, even if it means disrupting whatever cultural framework impedes them. You can love your culture without being hostage to rules limiting your potential or joy.

Are you happy with the roles Samsara’s been given so far?

Amudha: The acting world is very white. Sometimes there is diversity in the cast. But crews are very white still. I think things are improving. There is more work for nonwhite actors. And more demand for equality and representation. We all deserve to see ourselves on the stage. Samsara is mixed. This allows her to audition for some Caucasian roles in addition to South Asian roles. But these days, people want a specific look or origin. So Samsara is often not white enough, or brown enough! So her best hope may be jobs that have no ethnic qualifications — they’re called open ethnicity jobs. I think Samsara is Indian enough. I’m hoping for Indian roles!

There are some amazing books out there now, books with strong heroines that are full of the wonder of South Asian culture. I hope they make those books into movies, so Samsara can audition! My goal is to make sure her characters have agency and a story. I don’t want her just to be a passive young relative.

What are some things about parenting a young child actress that people often get wrong?

It doesn’t matter how your kid lives. Kids should be decent, ethical humans. I want to raise a Mahatma. People think working kids are entitled or vapid, but they’re often the opposite. Life is more complex; there’s more to juggle. And you can’t be awful and excel. You need patience, endurance, and humility.

How do you and your partner share responsibilities in parenting and managing Samsara’s career and life?

Samsara’s dad helps edit audition videos. He helps with big decisions. But he stays out of it otherwise. Samsara and I spend time making videos on my iPhone in a quiet room. That’s the bulk of it unless she’s working. She auditions while she works, too.

As a mother, how do you maintain Samsara’s balance between “normalcy” and life as a child star?

I make sure she is practicing empathy. We don’t glamorize work. Samsara understands how hard I work to help her. I teach her that film or tv can be quality or garbage. Ideally, one is entertained or educated by what they watch. Also, the way one looks, age, and size should not define them. Your inner self and your particular qualities matter most. But it’s Samsara who educates me. She values regular life, and she’s so grounded!

Samsara Yett answers some of our questions!

  1. What are auditions like?

Before Covid, my mom and I would take the train to Manhattan and go to different studios to audition for commercials. Sometimes, there would be a film or TV job. But mostly, just commercials. I see the same kids over and over, so it’s like having little playdates. These days we don’t go anywhere, so we’re taping videos at home. So unless I do modeling go see, I don’t see other kids too much!

  1. What was it like, playing the evil, cold-blooded killer?

It was so much fun! It’s more fun to be a tricky character. In my real life, people always say how nice I am. So being a villain is like being the opposite of me.

  1. Every actor has their preparation, the things they do to really get into a role. What was yours for “The Woman in the House Across…”?

I learned my lines, I played sweet and kept my secrets. And I stunt-trained on the ground and underwater. But I can play anyone and then go home to my cat. I’m never confused about who I am.

  1. I’ve read that you’ve said that you’re a pretty “ordinary” kid.

We are lucky. Regular school, regular friends, and time with family. Nothing fancy. I do take meetings and tape auditions. But that’s work. Even if something comes out on TV, and people notice, nothing really changes. People say: congratulations, keep going. Then things go back to normal.

  1. What’s everyday life like? What are the things you like to do?

I love to cook, garden, and do art. My cat is my love. And I have great friends. My friends come over, we play for hours. We play Roblox, or do TikTok videos. I don’t have any social media access. So I use my friends’ TikTok. We climb trees, and play games we make up. My house always has extra kids!

  1. Are acting and modeling things you want to continue doing as you get older? 

I don’t know. I write songs. They are good. So I need to make time for that. And I might want to study architecture or go to law school. Modeling will stop once I become a teen. Because I won’t be tall enough to be an adult model. Which is fine. I started modeling because I like to work and earn. It’s the best paying job for kids if you work regularly!

  1. What’s the best part about being onscreen?

When you work, you have to concentrate even though there are so many people and so much stuff around you: wires, cameras, props. So it’s kind of like being in a video game. You pretend you’re not surrounded by people and machines. That’s the most interesting part!Keep up with Samsara on Instagram.

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