Lauren Patel

16th September 2021

Photography: Owen James Vincent

Make Up Artist: Alice Everiss

Hairstylist: Daniel Reed

Styling: Megan Smales

Interview: Tom George

Graphics: Emily Curtis

Digital Retoucher: Kris Udyakova

A big thanks to Epilogue for making this happen!

It wasn’t long ago that Bolton-born teenager, Lauren Patel, was traipsing open call websites looking for audition experience and unassumingly applied for the role of Pritti Pasha in the movie adaptation of the acclaimed West End musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. The true story about the only openly-queer kid (the titular Jamie, played by fellow newbie Max Harwood) at a school in Sheffield with dreams of being a drag queen, has its worldwide release on Amazon tomorrow and Lauren excitedly finds herself starring in her big screen debut alongside legends Richard E. Grant, Sarah Lancashire and Bianca Del Rio.

We chatted with the young actress about working with BAFTA nominees and drag icons, South Asian representation in film, and what she hopes audiences will take away from Jamie and Pritti’s heartwarming story. 

What drew you to the role of Pritti? 

Well, I was 17 when I auditioned and was going to open auditions wherever I could find them. I would just go for the experience thinking I was never going to get any of them. I was scrolling on [an open call] website and they wanted a girl who looks 16 who’s Indian and could sing. I fit that criteria and so I went for it. It was nice to actually see a part that was so specific and felt like it was for me. I don’t really get that a lot. 

Have you always wanted to be an actor?

I hadn't always wanted to do it as a job because I didn't think it would be possible to do it as a job. [When I was younger,] I actually wanted to be a paleontologist because Ross from Friends is one. Then I realised you don't get to meet actual dinosaurs! I was always lucky that the people around me were very supportive and I enjoyed [acting] so I kept doing it and then decided to learn about it at college and then see if I could do it at university and go to these auditions. Now, suddenly I’m doing it as a job. It’s something that I’ve always loved. It’s a little escape. Like when you were a kid and you played those imaginary games, except now you get to do it as an adult.

How did it feel sharing the screen with acting veterans such as Richard E. Grant and Sarah Lancashire? Did you learn anything from them?

The idea of them is very intimidating when you're somebody who has never done a film before. My first day on set was with Richard and Max [who plays Jamie]! But once you're there, they're not Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant and BAFTA winner Sarah Lancashire. They're just people who are very good at what they do and they were so kind and patient. Just from watching them, I could see how they work, how consistent they are with what they do, and the kind of choices they make. It was really cool to watch people like that, who’ve been doing it for such a long time, when you're so new to all of it. 

What was your favourite musical number to perform? 

My favourite to sing was "Spotlight" because it’s so fun and I just had to stand there while there was all these great dancers around me. It was really fun to watch and the way the set was designed was so cool. However, my favourite to dance was probably the finale number. I’m not a dancer and so I had time to work on that one and really get stuck in. All of the dancers were just so incredible and patient and took the time to teach me everything. 

Did you learn anything new about drag culture through working on the film?

So, Max did a lot of prep to learn about the world of drag to play Jamie. With Pritti, the whole thing is that she’s not in that world at all. I knew of RuPaul’s Drag Race and drag queens, but I hadn’t seen any perform or watched a lot of stuff like that. I learnt through watching Max in the same way Pritti learns through watching Jamie. But I remember walking onto the makeup truck one day and Anna Phylactic, Myra Dubois and Son of a Tutu were all in full drag with full makeup and I was like "oh my God!”. They looked like they were out of a comic book or summat. It was really cool.

South Asian representation is incredibly important and for a long time, there's been very little. Were there any South Asian actors who inspired you and your acting career?

Yes, but it wasn't just South Asian actors. When I was growing up I didn't actually know there were South Asian people in America because I never saw them on TV. So, it was Latino and Hispanic women, anybody that was brown or non-white, who I was like, "Oh my God! They look like me!" In terms of UK actors there's incredible [people] like Dev Patel and Riz Ahmed, and not just South Asians but in general, like Daniel Kaluuya. They all started in the UK and are now doing incredible work all around the world.

If you could star in a remake of any film, what would be your dream role? 

I would love to do a stage version of La La Land. That's my favourite film of all time. Also, Wild Rose. Basically, I want to be Emma Stone and Jessie Buckley. But I also wouldn't want to [remake those films], because I could never do it better than them!

What's next for you?

I'm working on a couple of things. I'm doing a voice-acting job with Aardman, which I'm really excited about. I didn't expect to be doing this professionally so quickly so I'm trying out absolutely everything and seeing what I like and what I don't like. 

Everybody's Talking About Jamie is such a powerful, diverse and heartwarming story. What do you hope people will take away from this film?

I hope it makes some people feel seen and listened to and feel less alone. Especially with Jamie's story because it's in a small town in Sheffield where there aren't a lot of people who are out and there aren't a lot of people who are queer. I also hope that for people who are like the characters Pritti and Margaret (Jamie’s Mum), those who know and love people who are LGBT, it can teach them what they can do to make [LGBT people] feel as loved and accepted as possible.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is available to stream on Amazon Prime worldwide from 17 September 2021. 

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