Emmy nominee Punam Patel discusses what it was like exploring a more nuanced side to Kim in the second season of Special.
From the moment Punam Patel’s Kim stepped onscreen, fans of Special couldn’t get enough of her and neither could Emmy voters with Patel earning a nomination for Outstanding Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series at the 2019 Emmys.
In fact, one of the most exciting aspects of the show retooling itself into a thirty minute comedy for the second season is the fact that it gave the show more room to explore Kim’s very complicated life. In the span of eight episodes, fans were treated to two vastly different relationships, more clarity on her financial situation, and for the first time we are finally meeting the entire Laghari family.
Speaking with Awards Daily, Emmy-nominee Punam Patel discusses what it was like revealing these new sides of Kim, finding a new way to explore a romance that actually feels relatable and not plucked out of a romcom, and what she will miss the most about Kim and her time on Special.
Awards Daily: From the second Kim appears in the first season we fell in love with her. She was confident, she was unapologetically herself, she had most people online would kill for, and she owned it. In the second season we meet a more vulnerable side of Kim; a Kim that sabotages relationships, a Kim that is $40,000 in credit card debt, and a Kim that has a toxic relationship with her family. Because of that we are introduced to a more honest portrayal of who she is as a person. What was that like to portray as an actor?
Punam Patel: Challenging but rewarding. I can say that’s something I struggle with as well, allowing different elements of myself to exist at the same time. Throughout our lives we’re all taught that we need to stick to our one thing and if we stray from it then that’s bad. Playing Kim allowed me to be both in my own life.
It was also the most emotional role I’ve ever played. Until this show I didn’t even realize that you can get an emotional hangover from a tough scene. Her birthday where she forces a breakup by sabotaging her relationship was a situation where I was triggering myself for six hours straight! I feel for Kim so personally and my heart was breaking over and over again. For the rest of the week I felt so depleted. Maybe that’s just bad acting but that’s how I got to that point!
AD: The structure change of the second season turning the show into a 30-minute comedy allowed us to spend more time with Kim. Because of that we saw Kim go through two major relationships over the span of a season with Kim ultimately ending up with Ravi. It was an exciting relationship to watch unfold, especially because you and Utkarsh Ambudkar are able to achieve that in such a short amount of time. What was it like to work with Utkarsh and why do you think Kim and Ravi are such a great fit?
PP: I hadn’t met Utkarsh before we worked together. Between him and all of the Indian actors that played my family it was an incredibly powering experience. It was a genuine safe space to be surrounded by so many brown people celebrating each other. Utkarsh brings a genuine energy to everything he does and he brought out the best in my performance as well.
It’s easy to relate to Kim and Ravi because we all have those people in our lives that will always hold a special place in our heart. It’s a really cool thing to watch that love transform into something else. It’s not as simple as these two people having always been in love but denying it. Sometimes that love is more complicated and it morphs into something else when you’re finally in the right place and right time to match up. These two characters already had such a great friendship and we caught them at this moment in their lives where they said “fuck it.” It was important to show how hesitant Kim was because in real life these feelings are so much more complex than how they often get portrayed in media.
AD: As you mentioned earlier we were finally introduced to Kim’s family. Spending Diwali with the Laghari family and the dysfunctional, but completely relatable, relationship she has with them helped audiences connect with Kim on a much deeper level than ever before. What was that like for you when you saw the scripts for the first time and were able to paint this bigger picture? Did it make you approach Kim differently in the second season?
PP: It really made me explore her pride. As women, and especially as women of color, we are always conditioned to always endure and sometimes we don’t get the opportunity to admit we are struggling. That’s how Kim has functioned especially because she comes from a family where she doesn’t always feel accepted. She doesn’t want to hurt her pride by admitting she needs their help. That’s just the nature of most parent/child relationships, we don’t want to prove our parents right.
The part that I loved the most was the casting of my mother. I think a lot of Indian moms you see on TV are traditional and conservative. But Anjali Bhimani is this tiny, hot woman wearing bandage dresses with giant hair. I just love that this is Kim’s mom. She’s trying so hard to fit into this mold meanwhile her mom perfectly embodies everything Kim wants to be without even trying.
AD: Do you have a favorite Kim moment that you will look back on the most?
PP: By far the most rewarding moment was the birthday episode. I was able to tap into a vulnerable side that I am proud of. It was also the most fun because I was able to karaoke with Ryan! Anything I get to do with Ryan I cherish because we truly are best friends.
AD: What will you miss the most about playing Kim?
PP: I hope this isn’t the last time that this will happen in my career but I will miss playing someone who is so extremely flawed but at the same so celebrated. I felt so safe and taken care of and valued throughout the entire process. It’s the most valued I’ve ever felt in my career and I’ll miss playing a character like Kim who was truly celebrated for every single part of who she is, good or bad.