Alum finds calling in acting

Alum Anil Sankaramanchi started his acting career when he was featured in a commercial. Photo by Soujanya Bhat | Mercury Staff.

Ever since he won a contest to be featured in a Super Bowl commercial, one UTD alum has starred in several aired television commercials and web series.

Neuroscience graduate Anil Sankaramanchi began college aiming for a career in either patient care or research. He said he eventually realized his calling was somewhere else.

“I was struggling a lot with my classes, and I realized early on I wasn’t meant for this,” Sankaramanchi said. “I actually Googled how to make money with a good personality, and acting is the first thing that came up.”

After successfully landing the Super Bowl commercial in 2016, Sankaramanchi decided to pursue acting seriously. Since then, he has been cast in advertisements for multiple companies from Kroger to Moneygram. He said he cultivated his talent partially through activities at UTD such as dancing.

“Dance is a form of non-verbal acting. You tell the story through expressions and your body language,” Sankaramanchi said. “There are entire courses taught by Stella Adler in New York on this concept, but I feel that I got that ability through learning to perform on stage as a dancer.”

During his time at UTD, Sankaramanchi pursued other creative projects as well. He worked on a sitcom series called “Paz and Chico Take Student Government” in collaboration with UTD TV. The series was produced by finance and accounting graduate Stanley Joseph.

“Anil completely inhabits the characters he plays. He thinks about how a character walks, how they talk, and even how they interact with the items they’re holding in their hands,” Joseph said in an email. “He really has a mature understanding of what it means to be an actor, and he is exceptionally dedicated to his craft.”

Sankaramanchi said with a recent push in the entertainment industry to diversify casts, directors are frequently criticized if they do not feature any people of color, and representation has become a substantial conversation in mainstream Hollywood. He said the push for diversification prompted him to stay in the Dallas area instead of moving to Los Angeles.

“There weren’t many roles for Indians, but after Mindy Kaling, ‘Master of None’ and ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ casts are trying to be inclusive,” Sankaramanchi said. “I am typically the only Indian actor within a large radius if someone is looking to cast in Dallas, because everyone else has already moved to L.A. or New York.”

Sankaramanchi was raised in an Indian household that he said was conservative. He said attending UTD made him a bit of an anomaly within the university community, since a large portion of the student body is pursuing careers in STEM fields.

“I face backlash all the time. People in my community consider acting or any artistic venture as a hobby. If you do pursue it, you must have a practical degree to fall back on,” Sankaramanchi said. “I’ve been lucky with the dance community and even my family. They have been very supportive, despite their initial apprehension.”

Since shoots for advertisements do not last very long, Sankaramanchi typically works for two weeks each month, on average. He said since he lives at home, he saves a large amount of money to use for other ventures. He recently spent time learning about personal finance and said he intends to use the knowledge he gains by advising others in the artistic community around him.

“Many people out in the workforce have a job and have money but don’t know what to do with it,” Sankaramanchi said. “Now that I have some knowledge in that field, I want to help people who have worked with me or invested in me and supported my career.”

Sankaramanchi said he is beginning to steer his projects in the direction of issues like mental health. He has several upcoming commercials and a film in the works. He said that while Los Angeles is a possibility, he is not planning to go anytime soon.

“If L.A. calls, I will move, but there is a difference between someone calling you, and you going of your own accord,” Sankaramanchi said. “As for acting, all I know is that I want to do it for the rest of my life.”

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