Dev Patel says he feels “not British enough to be fully British” and “not Indian enough to be fully Indian” while on screen.
The Oscar-nominated star told The Guardian that, after his breakout role in Slumdog Millionaire, he would “wait for an Indian role to come by, where I could put on a thick accent” as “there wasn’t anything else, it was literally the cliches: goofy sidekick, taxi driver”.
Patel said: “Sometimes I feel stuck in this cultural no-man’s land. I’m not British enough to be fully British, not Indian enough to be fully Indian.”
The actor also explained how his Slumdog co-star and former girlfriend Freida Pinto faced being typecast as a “exotic beauty next to all these Caucasian leading men”.
In turn, Patel says it led him to become “fixated” on the ethnicity of his character in The Personal History Of David Copperfield.
He told director Armando Iannucci: “Wait, so is his mum going to be brown? How are we going to talk about that?
“Is there going to be, like, a scene where they, like, arrive on a boat?”, fearing that Armando would “face a barrage of comments” for casting him in the role.
Patel previously spoke of his hope that Iannucci’s adaptation of David Copperfield would introduce a whole new generation to the classic Charles Dickens tale.
“In past iterations, I haven’t seen myself represented on that screen. I definitely didn’t think it would appeal to me or speak to me, but Dickens is a truly universal story. I see Dickens on the streets every time I go to India, and it’s relevant to America too,” he said.
Patel added: “I’m from North West London, and the idea that we’ve spun a version of this film that allows kids from there to find a face they can relate to is really exciting.”
Meanwhile, Patel’s upcoming fantasy movie The Green Knight recently pulled its UK cinema release due to coronavirus concerns.
The David Lowery-directed film, which also stars Alicia Vikander, Joel Edgerton, Sarita Choudhury, Sean Harris and more, will no longer arrive on August 6 as originally planned.