We connect with the Starstruck actor, discussing working with Rose Matafeo, and the progression of his character, Tom.

38-year-old actor Nikesh Patel is enjoying his time as a leading man. From support roles in the likes of heartwarming drama Indian Summers, the revamped Four Weddings and a Funeral, to more recently Prime Video’s excellent crime thriller The Devil’s House.

Patel has now found himself at the epicentre of one of the most successful recent romcoms from the small screen. Starstruck, a show that stars Patel alongside the series creator Rose Matafeo, has entered its third season, and is funnier, sweeter and more thoughtful than ever before. The premise revolves around the highs and lows of a relationship between a film star and a ‘normie’. Patel fills his character with ease, slipping into the role of a famed actor Tom seamlessly, providing a performance full of nuance and humour.

We had the pleasure of connecting with Patel, chatting working with Rose Matafeo, the progression of his Starstruck character, and his most challenging role to date.

Watch the trailer for Starstruck Season 3…

Read the exclusive interview…

Talk us through your inception into acting and performing?
I had a couple of wonderful English teachers at school who were big believers in reading plays out loud in class. They inspired me to study English Literature at university, and it was there that I found the courage to audition for a student production. It happened to be Othello – a play that I studied in for my A Levels. From that point on I had the bug, and wanted to get involved in as much as I could.
Who were your acting idols growing up?
Even though I was watching a lot when I was growing up, I wasn’t really thinking about acting as a craft or a profession, so I didn’t really have idols. There are definitely performances though that I remember being really blown away by in my twenties. One was Saif Ali Khan from the film Omkara, which is a Bollywood reimagining of Othello. The other is Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. There were a lot of bad Joker impressions at drama school when that film came out.

Has there been a performance so far in your career so far that has stood out as the most challenging? Why?
During the pandemic, I took part in a filmed production of a play called Good Grief. It was probably the maddest thing I’ve ever done. We rehearsed the play on Zoom over two weeks, and then shot it like a film, in two days. As soon as we started filming we realised there was nowhere near enough time, and I remember feeling completely defeated after the first shoot day. I was sure the work I’d done was terrible, and I’d have to go back in and do more. I got a great pep talk from my Dad on the phone that night. “You’re not doing heart surgery, everyone will be fine. There’s only one day left. Finish it.” He was right. I was working in conditions that were really far from my comfort zone and felt extremely exposed, but I was part of a brilliant team. We went in the next day and, somehow, made it work. I watched it through my fingers several weeks after it was released and ended up feeling quite proud of what we’d made.

Do you feel more at home in a comedic or dramatic hemisphere?
I definitely saw myself more as a “straight” dramatic actor when I was starting out, but over the years I definitely think that’s shifted. Partly it’s getting to work alongside so many funny people. Partly it’s realising that so much good drama can also be wickedly funny.

You’ve worked alongside greats from Julie Walters to Peter Capaldi. What have you learnt from those iconic names?
Both Julie and Peter have had such amazing careers and played some truly memorable roles, but if they share anything it’s that they’re both nice, incredibly well- prepared, and make these leaps into the unexpected with their performance choices. They’re also both great examples of dramatic actors with very funny bones.

Starring on the TV adaption of Four Weddings and a Funeral must have been incredible, what inspiration did you take from the original?
If I’m completely honest, any inspiration I took came quite late because I only watched the film for the first time after I got cast in the TV show! It was really clear to me why the original film is such a classic, but it was also really exciting to be making a new version that had some of the same ingredients but was a very different dish. I think Four Weddings the show offers a version of London and modern relationships that feels a lot more familiar to me. The portrayal of my character Kash’s family life is something I’m particularly proud of.

We love Starstruck! How did that role first come about?
I auditioned for the role during lockdown. For my first audition, I had to read with Rose Matafeo over Zoom. Then when I found out I’d made it to the next round we screen-tested in person, but we weren’t able to stand closer than two metres to each other because of social distancing rules. Those are not ideal conditions when you’re trying to demonstrate chemistry for a romantic comedy but maybe the limitations helped focus what I was doing, because thankfully it paid off.

How has it been working with the incredible Rose Matafeo?
I was actually a Rose fan before I auditioned for Starstruck. I saw her do a support slot for another comedian I’d booked to see and she lit the room up. I’ve been a fan ever since, and it’s very cool that we’re now collaborators and friends. Rose has this incredible energy and enthusiasm that she pours into every creative project she undertakes, whether that’s writing, performing or directing. She’s a force of nature.

What was it about the show and the role that drew you towards it, and you felt well suited to?
Without a doubt it was the quality of the writing – I was laughing out loud on the first read. You could tell Rose and Alice (Sneddon, co-writer and now co-director for Season Three) have a deep affection for romantic comedies, but the fantasy was always balanced with a healthy dose of relatability. They’ve got such a keen eye for the nuances of living and dating in your twenties and thirties. In the case of Tom, I liked that they weren’t actually that bothered about what it was like to be a movie star. They were more interested in exploring what it was like to live that life and feel trapped or unfulfilled by it. That’s not the relationship I have with my career, thankfully, but it was a lot of fun to play.

How has your character progressed across the seasons?
I think over the course of three seasons Tom’s role has shifted slightly from a grounding force for Jessie into something more complicated. Put simply, Tom in Season Three is a hot mess. It was a really fun gear shift to go from playing lovers to playing exes with unresolved baggage.

Patel in Statstruck

Credit: Avalon

Patel in Statstruck Credit: Avalon

What can audiences except from the third season of the show?
I think Season Three might be our best yet. It’s a bit of a departure from the will they/won’t they story of conventional rom coms, because it focuses on what life is like when the happy-ever-after is a distant memory. It’s also a real exploration of friendship and the way they can change as you get older. There are some great new characters, as well as the return of some familiar faces (yes, Minnie Driver is back and brilliant as ever).

What are your overarching career goals?
I’ve never really set myself goals in the sense of “I want to play X part by the time I’m forty” or anything like that. I think one of the joys of this job, if you’re lucky enough to make a living from doing it, is that there’s nothing set in stone. I do feel lucky that I’ve got to work with brilliant people on really good projects, and I think going forward I’d like to keep surprising people and keep stepping out of my comfort zone. I’d really like to do a Western.

What else is to come this year?
I recently finished filming the second season of The Devil’s Hour, which comes out next year. I also have a small role in The Critic, starring Ian McKellen, Mark Strong and Gemma Arterton, which is a thriller set against the backdrop of rising fascism in 1930s Theatreland.