Lara Peake On How To Have Sex: ‘People Are Coming Up To Us To Say, “Oh, I Could Really Relate To That”‘

By Tessa Dunthorne

6 months ago

The actor speaks to C&TH about consent, Ayia Napa and lads holidays

Lara Peake went on that post-GCSE lads holiday herself – now starring in new film How To Have Sex she revisits the topic. Interview by Tessa Dunthorne. (Note: Some questions and answers touch upon the SAG strikes, as the interview took place before a union agreement was reached). 

Interview: Lara Peake, On How To Have Sex And Lads Holidays

Actor Lara Peake

Hiya Lara – how are you?

I’m good, thanks – just back from holiday. And I just had a Nando’s about half an hour ago. So my mouth is still on a fire. 

That’s fun. What’s your Nando’s order?

So I got a butterfly chicken, lemon and herb because then I go hard on the sauces into the flavour fun. I got pepper chips and coleslaw, and a corn on the cob. I was quite hungry.

So how was your holiday? Where was it – was it with mates?

Just a quick weekend break in Corfu, Friday to Monday, and it was really nice. Celebrated a birthday. Not my birthday. 

That sounds lovely – how’s it going more widely at the moment?

It’s been very busy. I’ve been really fortunate this year because I’ve worked a lot and now we’re doing the press for How To Have Sex, which is a British independent that came out last month – on the third of November. And we’ve just had London Film Festival. It’s very exciting. 

Can you give us the Sparknotes summary of the film?

It’s about three girls who finish their GCSEs and go on holiday. And they choose to go to Malia, a party resort in Crete. They want to let their hair down and celebrate, but then they meet three boys – from there, the group dynamic changes. The film explores friendship, womanhood and consent, and everything around sex and what we perceive as consent.

And you play Sky? What’s she like?

On the surface, she’s not very nice. She’s mean. But underneath that there’s a real insecurity and vulnerability. And I think the key was finding out what that was, and why. Maybe she feels the need to project this meanness to hide what she’s feeling inside. 

As you’ve said, the films touches on themes of consent – was there much safeguarding in the process of making the film, with this in mind?

We had an intimacy director and coordinator on set. They helped us handle those layers of the film in a way that kept us feeling safe and comfortable. We’d have rehearsals beforehand, and it was a closed set. 

Can you tell us a bit more about how the film is pushing dialogue around consent?

Well, first of all, consent is obviously not just something we need to group by binary gender. It should speak to people across the board [ie. not just women] and the film does exactly this. What strikes me the most about the film, though, is how it explores the links between consent and body language. I kind of feel it’s almost a film about body language. So, although there’s verbal consent [in the film], it highlights that the body might be saying the opposite. I think the film opens a real conversation about what is verbal versus physical consent.

And how are you feeling about the reception the film has received so far?

I mean, it’s great. It felt immediately like a bold and daring, brave film that Molly had written; it felt like we were definitely going to places that were going to feel uncomfortable. So it’s really amazing to see it pay off. And people are coming up to us to say, ‘oh, I could really relate to that.’ That they can pinpoint different points from the film that happened when they were younger. People are kind of finding comfort in it. that they can perhaps go to places that they have not wanted to return to in their brains. That feels good. 

Reaching in a way that doesn’t feel intrusive, maybe?

Yeah, that is the powerful thing about film and art. It can invoke feeling or, you know, make you relate to something gently. It’s great that it started a small conversation.

Talking of relating… Have you ever done the rite of passage holiday yourself?

We were going to! We were gonna go to Tenerife at one point, and then we were maybe looking at Ayia Napa – but we ended up in mainland Spain. It wasn’t one of those, you know, ‘big results day’ party island. We did find the party, though. 

Were you on location when filming in Malia?

Yes! We literally lived on the strip in Malia. We shot in a party hotel; but we were put up in a hotel that was further down the strip. The season was sort of dying down though by the point we were filming, but there was still enough going on in the first week for us to go out and research and rehearse. It was full on. 

Work hard, play hard?

Somewhat – although there was still COVID testing at the time, and so if any of us had gotten COVID the shoot would’ve been messed up. 

Any wholesome moments on set?

There was such a nice moment when we’d finished our rehearsal week… The cast got into the sea, and watched the sunset. We’d be so deep in discussions during rehearsals, so we really knew each other on a personal level – and then we would go into the shoot. It all felt like such a mystery then, we didn’t know what we were going to achieve, or what it’d look like. So it felt like a real special, paused moment before the chaos and fun began. 

That’s gorgeous. I wanted to talk to you a bit about your other work – is that possible?

I’m actually not allowed to talk about it – because of the strikes. (Note: this interview took place during the strikes). 

Of course – can you tell me a bit more about the strikes. How did these affect you?

Yeah – I mean, it affected UK actors differently. Obviously there were some actors that are SAG members, as well as Equity members, and part of both unions, so they’re actively on strike. Only some of my work was impacted [C&TH note: How To Have Sex was not impacted by US union strikes as it is an independent project]. I was very in support of the strikes; I feel like it was absolutely the right thing to do. People need to be paid for the work they do, and deserve the money that goes for the job they do – and the talent they have. And the fears over AI are really valid – it’s honestly quite terrifying. With AI, it definitely could infiltrate most industries… But in particular as creatives, we’re putting our faces and voices out there, and that needs to be protected. 

So what’s next for you after the press rounds for How To Have Sex? 

How the hell is it nearly the end of the year! This year has just flown by. After the press is done, I think it’ll basically be Christmas. So mostly, I’m kind of looking forward to having a chill, and, quite honestly, just reading a book and really immersing myself in theatre and going to the cinema, and just soaking in lots of other art. 

Quick Fire

I’m tuning into… The BBC’s Boiling Point. 

I’m reading… Lessons in Chemistry – my mum recommended it to me. 

Favourite film of all time… American Honey.

On replay… Rehab, by Rihanna. 

My guilty pleasure is… A maccies. 

Photography Credits

Photography: Joseph Sinclair

Styling: Jenny Kennedy

Hair: Sophie Sugarman

Makeup: Dominique Desveaux

How To Have Sex is in cinemas now, and will be available to stream on MUBI soon.