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‘The Night Of’ Star Amara Karan on the ‘Powerful’ Finale, That Kiss, and Season 2

Spoiler alert: Do not read unless you’ve watched the finale of HBO’s “The Night Of.”

HBO’s limited series “The Night Of” wrapped up its run with a gripping finale on August 28 — but the questions still linger. The season-ender saw all of the characters face the consequences of their actions — forever changed by the haunting murder case, for better or worse. Viewers were perhaps most confounded by the actions of Chandra Kapoor (Amara Karan), whose zealous defense of her client Naz (Riz Ahmed), saw her crossing ethical lines — which ultimately cost her job.

Here, Karan — who’s now in London filming the second season of “Stan Lee’s Lucky Man” — offers Variety her own defense of the defense attorney and discusses a potential Season 2.

What first drew you to the role? What was your reaction to the script when you first read it? 

The whole project, the whole story of the whole piece, the complexity of the characters. I was just floored, really. I could see that this was something. I felt like you really invested and were involved just from reading the story. I felt that you were really in it. Somehow, it’s instinctive, when you read something and you can just feel your way through it. You build a picture in your imagination when you read a script. I really thought the space and the pacing and the scenes were really novel. It felt in the writing a wide canvas that allowed for layers and depth and I was so pleased when I saw the final product.

When we first meet Chandra, she’s essentially being used as a prop by her boss to help recruit Naz as a client. How did you feel about that as an actress?

I took the whole piece and the characters as a whole. My preparation for the whole piece was its own thing before looking at those particular scenes. I thought that it was a very interesting predicament. The writers mapped out an interesting predicament for all of the characters. It was really interesting to play that out, to play all those scenes out.

As we saw, she ends up taking on the case alone, and her relationship with Naz becomes romantic. Was that her naivete and inexperience as a lawyer?

I do think it is. She’s very inexperienced. She finds herself in a big situation, and I think that she goes to the edge of herself. These interesting dynamics and contradictions were coming up in all the characters because they’re put under these circumstances. That’s part of the reason the part was very interesting and very challenging to portray.

Why did she kiss Naz?

I don’t want to interpret too much. I want to let the audience bring on their own interpretation. One of  the strengths of the piece is there’s a certain level of ambiguity all throughout for all the different characters. Not every action is explained, which allows the audience to own the story and take ownership of it. I think she is at the edge of her own confidence and her own insecurity. I think what eventually happens to her is a tragedy and a shame. She makes the choices. She is too involved to be the best lawyer that she could be. And it’s a portrayal of that idea.

I’m guessing you’re going to answer the next question the same way, but why do you think she smuggled the drugs for him, and then put him on the witness stand?

On a simple level, she believed the jury needed to hear his voice, and the jury needed to hear from him directly. Were they the smartest choices? They were very hubristic choices, obviously. It was interesting to me that she would eventually be her own downfall. That was an interesting journey, and an interesting character for me to dive into. It’s a reality that we can also go too far with our instincts or go too far with our investments in what we do. And maybe that’s the story of Chandra.

If you followed audience’s reactions on Twitter, people seemed dismayed that she was such a competent lawyer when it came to cross-examining witnesses, and yet made such a huge tactical blunder. 

It was such a lovely compliment, particularly when you love a character. “No, why did you do that!” It’s when you feel so invested in a character that people were taken aback by the things that she ended up doing. It’s a reality of being pushed into a situation that’s ahead of you or before you and you can be so competent in some ways and so utterly naïve in others. It’s that contradiction in marrying that that I was so very interested in. This might be an odd comparison, but someone like Bill Clinton who ended up getting impeached over something so daft and idiotic at the height of his powers. Particularly if you loved him like I did, you’re like, “No, Bill, no, what are you doing?” You ask yourself, why did you do that? What is that drives you? What I love about all of the characters is that it doesn’t explain everyone’s intentions and actions all the way through. I think that ambiguity allowed us some depth and layers in the storytelling.

Did she believe him to be innocent or was she just doing the best for her client?

I think she believed him to be innocent. Yes, I think she instinctively felt he was innocent. I don’t think she looked into his eyes and saw someone that was capable of murder. Although by the end of the show, it seemed like he’s got blood on his hands.

What do you think the future would hold for her?

You’re going to have to tune into “The Night Of” Season 2! You could invent so many wonderful stories. Why not? She could open her own law firm and start her career all over again.

Would you want to do a Season 2?

Oh yes! Absolutely if there’s a great story and a great part, absolutely, as there was in the first season. I really loved making the show. I learned a lot. I loved working with John Turturro and Riz and Steven Zaillian. It was a dream come true. If a good story came up, I’d grab it.

But is it really happening?

I’ve heard chatter. Nothing real.

Zaillian told Variety at the start of the season all the characters would be forever changed by that night. 

It was a quite a feat from his point of view creating all these wonderful subplots and characterizations. And seeing everybody’s journeys right to the end. It was very powerful. He’s not bad, is he?

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