After appearing in the Everybody’s Talking About Jamie film, Talia Palamathanan made her tour debut playing Becca in the recent run of the musical’s UK Tour, in which she also covered the role of Pritti Pasha, having started the tour before the pandemic closed theatres around the world. Earlier this year, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie had their North American premiere when they opened in Los Angeles, with Talia reprising her role of Becca, and along with her fellow cast members, she was a guest performer on The Late Late Show with James Corden. Before the UK Tour reopened, Talia returned to live theatre for the first time since the pandemic started, playing her first lead role of Anne Margaret in the Donmar Warehouse’s schools tour of Teenage Dick, with the show marking her play debut. As a child actor, Talia played Hortensia in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre in the West End, which saw the cast appear on Children in Need, and she also worked on screen as Pav in Hank Zipzer for CBBC. Talia answered our questions about playing Becca in the UK Tour of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, the experience opening in the North American premiere and her time as Anne Margaret in Donmar Warehouse’s Teenage Dick schools tour.
How has it been playing Becca in the UK Tour of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and what originally drew you to the musical?
Playing Becca has been quite a joyful and cathartic experience for me because she is the complete opposite of who I was at school, and so it was enjoyable to explore that side of myself and play the ‘popular girl’. She is unapologetic about who she is, which in turn has given me a new found confidence, but I’d like to think I haven’t inherited her mean girl streak! It’s an extremely fun role to play because her track is heavily featured in the dance and singing numbers, but she also gets some hilarious and often crude lines that never get boring.
I first saw the show when it opened and remember thinking that I had never come across a musical like this before. What struck me first was the diversity of the cast, where representation is so inspiring and incredibly important for young POC performers. To be honest, being in the show had never been on my radar until I worked on the film, but it was clear to me that I had to be a part of the tour, so I jumped on it when I got asked to audition.
What was it like covering the role of Pritti and what do you remember from making your debut in the role?
Covering Pritti Pasha was a bucket list goal for me, as she is one of the only British female South Asian characters written within musical theatre. She is the representation of a beautifully crafted lead role that I wish I got to watch on stage or even on screen when I was an aspiring performer.
Where Becca is the opposite character to my own personality, I feel I am more like Pritti. Against adversity, and a somewhat misfit, she stays true to her identity and faith and exists in this world with integrity and strength. I am fortunate enough to have a strong role model in Sharan Phull, who played the role full time, I have learned so much from watching her perform every night.
I made my debut at the Hull New Theatre in Hull and I got to perform six times in a row for the remainder of that week! I went on stage after only having one previous cover rehearsal. I am so lucky to have been surrounded by such a loving cast that could not have been more supportive when I was settling into the role.
You were in the cast when the show opened in Los Angeles, how was the experience performing in America?
Opening the show in Los Angeles as part of its North American premiere was a special experience which I will never forget. Our cast was composed of a mix of both the London and tour companies, it was great to work with some new people and create a new version of the show. You inadvertently assume you will perform the show as you do in the UK, but that’s not the case because the American audiences react differently to those back home. It was lovely to see American crowds embrace the show and be so optimistic about a British-born story.
Of course, living the LA lifestyle for two months was incredible and unforgettable!!
What was it like being a guest on The Late Late Show with James Corden?
Performing on The Late Late Show with James Corden was one of those ‘pinch me’ moments. I was in a state of disbelief and gratitude the entire day. I felt extremely blessed that I was lucky enough to perform in a place where so many of my idols had tread the same boards. The fact that so many people around the world would be watching this on their TVs was just mind-boggling to me. Another memorable moment to begin 2022!
Do you have any stand-out highlights from touring for the first time in a musical?
After such a difficult time for the world when the pandemic hit – the biggest highlight for me would be just being able to perform to a live audience again – something we had previously taken for granted!
Born and bred in London, I had hardly visited any cities around the UK, so it was great to go on an adventure and explore these cities up and down the country. It was a privilege to be able to share this wonderful story to fans and newcomers that don’t live near the West End. Audiences around the country were bubbly and lively – really outwardly showing their appreciation, which just created the most wonderful atmosphere in the theatre. The stand-out venue for me personally would have to have been Canterbury, where all four of my grandparents came along together to support us and watch the show.
Is there anything you’ve enjoyed most about being part of the cast and production?
It would be hard to narrow down what I’ve enjoyed the most as I was only 17 years old when I was cast as Becca so it was thrilling and also daunting. It was surreal and life-changing as I didn’t make it to university because I secured the role at such a young age – it became my ‘university of life’. Not only for all the wonderful opportunities that came with it, but for the second family that I have made. I’ve made friends for life and memories that I will cherish forever. They’ve all looked after and mentored me along the way.
Can you tell us how you found the experience on set of the Everybody’s Talking About Jamie film?
The Jamie film was my film debut. I was part of a group of dancers. To dance with such a large, skilled, energetic cohort on set was a unique and fun experience. Film acting is not the same as show acting so it requires a different approach – one which I am keen to further enhance. The film opened up the door to me being cast in the show – so I am eternally grateful for that.
Last year, you returned to live theatre for the first time since the pandemic playing Anne Margaret in the schools tour of Teenage Dick, how did this feel and what was it like to perform in?
Just like many performers, having to stop performing during the pandemic was devastating – this meant that returning to live theatre after a year-and-a-half off was an emotional and soul-fulfilling experience. Teenage Dick with the Donmar Warehouse couldn’t have been a better project to dive straight back into, and still stands as one of my favourite jobs to date. This was a big challenge and also included many firsts; my first play, my first lead role, my first schools tour and my first job handling mature themes.
Anne Margaret is a popular, ambitious dancer who has dreams of attending a prestigious dance school in New York but is plagued by a deep secret that is horribly revealed to the rest of her school. As an actor, she is a demanding but rewarding role to play, having to lose your inhibitions, as you go from dancing full out, to delivering a soliloquy while covering yourself in fake blood in the space of ten minutes!
My favourite moment in the show was the three-minute dance number between Richard and Anne swapping from partner work to hip hop to punk rock headbanging!
The schools we visited were all based in central London where many of the kids have limited exposure to live theatre, for most of them this was the first show they had ever seen. I think they were some of my best and toughest audiences to date! They didn’t hesitate to show how they felt!
As a child actor, you played Hortensia in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre, what are some of your favourite memories from performing in the West End?
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical was my West End and professional debut. Performing in this popular show will always hold a special place in my heart. The audition process and rehearsals were rewarding but gruelling. The work ethic, professionalism, discipline and teamwork taught to me at such a young age are still part of my repertoire. These are invaluable skills which I still reach for in jobs today. As a child actor, it was the friends which I made that really made this a unique experience. It also secured my love of performing, I just knew that this was where my heart was. Being in the West End at such a young age is incredibly hard work and daunting. I am proud of myself for this role as I had to juggle school and late nights as well. It is imperative to have a solid support system when doing child roles.
The cast performed on BBC’s Children in Need, what was this like to do?
I remember being extremely nervous for Children in Need. The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Matilda The Musical was relatively new and it was important that the moves were super sharp! I didn’t know what to expect from filming something ‘live’ where you only have limited takes to get it right. I think the driving force was to remember that it was for a very special cause and how lucky we were to have this opportunity unlike so many disadvantaged kids. Therefore, after the first take, my nerves subsided and I was able to enjoy the filming. Watching it back with all my family and friends at home was the best part.
On screen, you played Pav in Hank Zipzer for CBBC, how was this?
Playing Pav was my first on-screen acting experience ever. I was extremely excited to see the set and get stuck into the acting, it was also my first time staying in a hotel overnight with the cast. The cast were warm and welcoming and I only wished that Pav was in more than one episode by the end of it.
Where does your love of performing come from and how did you start?
As a family we all love musical theatre, going on many a family outing to see shows. As far back as I can remember, my mum would always sing songs from The Wizard of Oz, and The Sound of Music. My dad would rock us to the tunes of Bob Marley. Our parents enrolled my sister and I in a dance school from a very young age and soon realised we had a flare for it! We then signed with an agent and the rest is history!
Can you tell us about your training?
From the age of three to 17 years old, I trained at my local dance school, Laura Bruce Dance Academy, learning tap, modern, ballet, musical theatre and singing. I then began Hip Hop training with Britain’s Got Talent finalists Flawless where I became versed in styles like commercial, house, popping, locking, krump and breaking.
My musical theatre training officially started when I joined The Brit School for four years, graduating early so I could join the Jamie tour.
A vital part of my training, both as a child and currently as a young adult, comes from learning on the job and I try to absorb as much knowledge as I can from all my colleagues.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch and which would you like to see that you haven’t done so as yet?
I have a huge list of shows that I want to see! I am eagerly waiting to watch Moulin Rouge!, and Bonnie and Clyde. I’d also love to expand my horizons by watching more plays and lesser-known works.
A show that I cannot get enough of has to be Hamilton, and I have seen it four times in the West End and once on Broadway.
What are you hoping 2022 brings for your career?
I am open and excited to see what the future holds and am ever grateful for whatever comes my way. I am always learning through the auditions and even the knock backs. I am a spiritual person who believes that whatever is meant to be will arrive in my path. I just have to continue working and training hard and believing in myself.
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