Amar Chadha-Patel: ‘Home is always where your chosen family is’ – Interview
The first non-Star Wars Lucasfilms production, Disney+’s new series, Willow, has garnered traction for its fun nostalgia and magnetic cast. At the centre of it all is rising star Amar Chadha-Patel who plays Boorman, a thief and a liar who joins the central pack of unlikely heroes on their quest to save the world. Having swerved into acting at age 29, it’s looking like Amar’s breakout role. Olivia Emily sat down with Amar to chat all things Willow, touching noses with Warwick Davis, and missing James McAvoy.
Interview with Amar Chadha-Patel
We love Willow at C&TH, but can you give our readers an elevator pitch in case anyone is unfamiliar?
Umm. Imagine the cast of The Breakfast Club have to go on an intense muddy quest to rescue a prince and that they’ll most certainly experience magic, swords, fights, sword fights and argue almost constantly. But in a really charming way.
Love it. Can you tell us a little bit about your character?
Boorman is a chaotic, roguish, yet somehow charming pain in the arse. Also, you definitely can’t smell television… But if you could, he’d probably smell somewhere between old cheese and warm spicy wood.
And what is it like playing a thief?
I never thought of Boorman as a thief, even though he describes himself as one… Well, more of an ‘obtainer of treasure’. I imagine Boorman talks his treasures into his possession. So he was always more of a silver tongued buffoon to me. Playing that was a dream come true.
The reception has been extremely positive. How does it feel?
Overwhelming, but also incredibly vindicating and validating in equal measure! Vindicating, because when I started this journey of becoming an actor at 29 (a totally normal, hard left career choice), a fair few (reasonably qualified) people told me it was ridiculous. It’s good to know all this blind faith and inability to accurately perceive massive risks paid off. Validating because we spent a solid amount of 2021 in mud, rain and extremely cold locations making this charming motley crew quest, and I’m glad the world is appreciating it!
What is the cast dynamic? Who was your fave person to work with?
The cast dynamic was incredible. Like a dysfunctional family at Christmas, but Christmas was everyday.
We’re truly a family though – best friends forever. Everyone says it for every job. But I swear, we can go months without seeing each other, but as soon as we’re together again, we slip straight back into the same joyous patterns.
As for working… I would have to say Dempsey [Bryk]. We spent nearly nine months together in Wales… And only actually had one scene the entire shoot! But my God, that scene… It was a game changer.
Any funny stories from rehearsals or filming?
MANY. Everything became funny to us when we were shooting. This cast quickly became a family in a way I’ve never experienced on a job before. Probably to the extent that it wasn’t funny to anyone else. In episode seven, I have to wake Warwick [Davis] from a dream, and we had to spend about 45 seconds before each take touching noses, tip to tip. Much giggling.
We almost lost the plot shooting the end of episode three, standing in the freezing rain on the edge of a quarry. In order to make the shoot day, we had to just push through the last scene so they didn’t turn the rain machines off. At one point, I remember there being a lot of shouting from behind the camera while we all just stood helplessly in the rain. Ellie [Bamber] just turned to me and said ‘…what the hell are we doing?’. I genuinely didn’t have an answer.
I will also never forget the lethargic insanity and ensuing bliss I felt after eating so much chicken post a particularly intense weight training session with Tony Revolori and Dempsey Bryk that I had to get off my chair and lie down on the floor outside the Nando’s in Cardiff Bay. This was week one of bootcamp. It became a regular occurrence.
Any quirky ways you get into character?
Boorman was a peacock, so once the costume was on, I became a bit of a performer on set. Lots of clowning around, falling off chairs, running around (all within acceptable measure). I found this got me in the general mindset. I also made a gigantic timeline of Boorman’s life and exploits – that helped me form a real idea of what he was like as a person.
You also have some more fun roles coming up: Fifteen Love, True Love, Slip – which are you most excited about and why?
Oh, well they’re all incredible in their own right. I’m excited for the world to see them all. But I do think True Love is going to be quite a special cinematic event. I can’t say much about it, but what I can say is I’ve never shot anything like it, and Gareth Edwards is a certified mad man/genius.
Can’t wait to see it! What has been your favourite role to date and why?
Definitely Boorman. It was the first time I was really able to sink my teeth into something so multifaceted and involved in terms of drama and action. But a close second would be the 30–40 seconds I was on a screen as ‘Palace Guard with dubious social mobility issues’ in Aladdin. That was really life changing.
Which character that you have played in the past do you relate to the most in your own life?
Probably the ‘Palace Guard with dubious social mobility issues’ in Aladdin. He was so misunderstood.
Who has been your favourite actor to work with?
I’ve been blessed to be in the presence of many. Nicholas Cage, Christian Slater, Jude Law, Emily Mortimer, Mark Lewes Jones, Ken Watanabe, John David Washington: the list is large and they’ve all been fantastic. None of them will remember me though.
It’s actually the actors I’ve been really close to working with but haven’t that are my favourite. James McAvoy: we were moments away from shooting together, but Covid intervened. We had breakfast though, and it was thrilling. He won’t remember it.
Well, maybe they will now! Which co-star did you learn the most from?
The whole cast was remarkable. Doing a show like this is truly an undertaking. You’re uprooting yourself from your home for months on end to embark on a physically and mentally demanding thing. I have to say, I felt outclassed and in awe of Tony [Revolori], Ellie, Dempsey, Ruby [Cruz] and Erin [Kellyman]. We all started this journey together, but I’ve got a few years on them, and watching them tackle this thing with the style and panache that they did, at the young tender ages that they are, was a real lesson in professionalism.
What’s a role you’d cut your right arm off to get?
Van Gogh… Wait…
To be honest, I won’t know ‘till it comes along. But I’d love to work with Paul Thomas Anderson.
What demands do you have during rehearsals?
An entire roasted goat and seven pots of hummus. Actually, to be honest, a chair is good enough, even if it’s a standing scene.
Do you get to spend much time at home?
Right now, not so much. But I’ve got itchy feet anyway, so I’m living the life I signed up for.
Do you live in the town or the country? Which do you prefer?
I’ve lived in both. They both have their strengths. I’m an East London boy at heart and always find myself back there, but I lived by the sea for a couple years and I try to get to the countryside as much as possible. Nothing beats a large open sky, a cold swim or a traipse through the woods looking for mushrooms.
What’s your interior design style?
Chaotic – a real mixture between Danish design with lots of teak in certain rooms, to bright Central American inspired paint jobs, to boho 70’s, plant filled, earthen tone rooms. A large corner sofa is a must wherever I can get one though.
What qualities do you think have made you successful?
Perseverance and belief. Not in any overtly spiritual sense, but more just that I never really allowed myself to entertain that not making it work would be a possibility. But I think success is relevant. I’ve still got a lot more to learn and a lot more I want to achieve, professionally and personally. I won’t be truly successful until I can do that run up a wall backflip thing from Singing in the Rain.
What’s your relationship with social media like?
Troubling. I’m trying to not fall into the trap of just flinging pointless noise out into the ether as well mindlessly scrolling…
How do you find balance in your personal and work lives?
I don’t think I do… But I try hard to. The amount of travelling my job entails is both thrilling and untethering. I’m absolutely blessed to have seen so many places, but home is always where your chosen family is. It’s important to prioritise getting back to them as much as possible to feel anchored. I like to book endless gig tickets to give me calendar markers to work towards. That way I can force people to see me.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A fireman or a Pizza Hut delivery man.
If you could give advice to your 15-year-old self, what would it be?
Crack on pal, it’ll all turn out ok. Also, you’re an absolute nerd and loser now… But it’ll make you better and stronger, so keep collecting Pokémon.
How can we all live a little bit better?
E M P A T H Y
Anything fun in the pipeline – professionally or personally?
I just landed in Rome to start prep on The Decameron. One of the funniest scripts I’ve ever read. Excited for the world to see this! Personally, I’m really excited about gearing up for Christmas by drinking Baileys and watching endless TV.
Quick Fire Round
I’m tuning into… My emotions.
I’m reading… Klara and the Sun [by Kazuo Ishiguo]
The last thing I watched was… Babylon Berlin (inspired by the Cabaret musical in London. Incredible.)
I’m most looking forward to seeing… The Triangle Of Sadness
Favourite film of all time… Jurassic Park
Singer I always have on repeat… Jai Paul
My ultimate cultural recommendation… Get a bike and cycle around a city. Best way to explore it.
Cultural guilty pleasure… Rom-coms
What’s next for me is… Check into my hotel in Rome and have a delicious Italian coffee. Then host Christmas for 17 guests… Actually, I’m not sure I’m contractually allowed to do something that risky…
Willow is streaming now on Disney+. Watch the trailer below.
Featured image (c) Josh Stadlen.
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