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Talia Palamathanan - Everybody’s Talking About Jamie Interview

Hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has been delighting audiences since it premiered in 2017 at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre. 

The stage musical was inspired by the real life story of Jamie Campbell, who aged 16 wanted to attend his school prom in a dress. His story was captured in a BBC documentary Jamie: Drag Queen At 16. The musical has a score by Dan Gillespie Sells with a book and lyrics by Tom MacRae.

The show is currently out on an UK and Ireland tour which runs until 20th July. Leading the cast is Ivano Turco as Jamie New alongside Rebecca McKinnis as Margaret New, Kevin Clifton as Hugo/Loco Chanelle, Sam Bailey as Miss Hedge and Sejal Keshwala as Ray.

Taking on the role of Jamie’s loyal best friend Pritti Pasha is Talia Palamathanan. Ahead of the show arriving at Milton Keynes Theatre from 10th until 15th June 2024, we caught up with Talia to learn more about the show.

Talia Palamathanan.

When did you know that you wanted to perform?
I’ve always been passionate about dance and musical theatre for as long as I can remember. I attended dance classes at Laura Bruce Dance Academy since I was 3 years old, and was constantly making up my own shows in my living room with my sister and friends, but I never thought it would be my job until I started working professionally as a child. I was in Matilda the Musical at 11 years old and it was such life changing experience that solidified to me that I wanted to be a performer. 
Were there any people or performances that had a big impact on your early years?
Although they aren’t performers themselves, my parents are lovers of musical theatre, and I was raised with them singing The Sound of MusicMary Poppins, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang around the house all the time. 
The Lion King was probably the most impactful show in my early life. Since a baby I’ve been obsessed with the films and it was actually one of the first musicals I ever saw - I watched it so much I could probably recite the entire show!  
I also grew up going to a lot of R&B and Hip Hop concerts with my parents, so I’ve been heavily influenced and inspired by watching legends like Beyoncé. 
What first attracted you to the production and the role of Pritti Pasha?
I first saw the show when it opened in the West End after a friend told me that this is a show that has all the elements that I love about theatre. It was a hip hop musical that championed young people and was so ahead of its time with a diverse cast. 
It had never occurred to me to audition for the show until my mum prompted me to attend an open call for the film that she had seen on social media. In a series of serendipitous events, I was cast as a backing dancer in the film, then asked to play Becca in the original tour and in Los Angeles, and cover Pritti Pasha when we returned to the tour after Covid. Through all the iterations of the show that I’ve worked on, I’ve always known that Pritti was my dream role, and I was unbelievably happy just getting to cover that part, let alone play her full time. 
What can you tell me about the role and how Pritti fits in to the piece?
Pritti Pasha is the quietly intelligent social outcast of Mayfield High; a devout Muslim who is wise beyond her years, with dreams of becoming a Doctor. She is Jamie’s best friend and although she is the literal antithesis to who he is - they are inseparable. I would describe Pritti’s role in the show as ‘a beacon of hope and a voice of reason’. She is the first person to affirm to Jamie that he should wear his new heels to Prom with a dress, whilst also bringing him back down to Earth whenever he needs it.  Within this, she finds her own self-acceptance and pride in her religion and aspirations and finally stands up to those who have been undermining her. 

Ivano Turco (Jamie) and Talia Palamathanan (Pritti). Photo by Matt Crockett.

How does it feel to be performing in a show based on real events but playing a fictional character?
I love that ETAJ is a real story, as it reminds us that the issues in the show are very much present in real life and this story will always be relevant as long as we are fighting for acceptance. People often get confused when they find out that Pritti isn’t a real person but I prefer it that way because then as a character she can morph into whoever she represents in the audience members lives.  I like to see her as the angel on the real Jamie’s shoulders and is a personified form of all his ambitions.  
How much of yourself do you see reflected in Pritti?
In the most literal sense, Pritti was very much who I was when I was at school, so much so I’ve had school friends be taken aback about how similar we are.  However, one thing that I admire about Pritti is her unwavering confidence in herself and her beliefs. In the face of adversity she remains strong and won’t change herself no matter how many people belittle her. Essentially, I feel like I’m playing 16 year old Talia most nights but with a lot more of the strength and self confidence that I wished I had at that time. 
What advice would you go back and give teenage Talia?
As an adult I’m quite spiritual and I’m a firm believer in  philosophies of ‘if it’s meant to be, it will be’ and ‘what’s for you won’t pass you by’. With that in mind, I would just tell Teenage Talia just to keep working hard, being kind, keep passionate, and stop overthinking as things will work out how they are meant to. 
How did you approach portraying the role playing it with such power and sensitivity?
It was really important to me that I gave Pritti justice, not just because she’s means a lot to me, but for what she means for other young South Asian/ Muslim women and girls  that will be watching the show and can see themselves within her.   And even deeper than that, what it means for my family to see someone like them onstage in an industry that they love but have always felt they don’t have a place in. 
I have to give credit to all the Pritti’s I have watched play the role before, but in particular both Sharan Phull and Hiba Elchikhe. They’ve been like mentors to me and having watched them work every day with their different interpretations of the role have helped form my Pritti today. I also find it important to draw on the elements that Pritti and I share to make the role feel real and relatable. 
How do you prepare for a performance?
Pritti is the most grounded character in the show but it’s easy to be swept up in the stresses of tour especially as I am also the Dance Captain. Before a show, I always do the same prayer ritual that I’ve had since I was working as a child. It allows me to check back in with my gratitude and also focus in on my track in the show.  I also find that the costume really helps me transform into Pritti as she looks so vastly different to who I am outside of work that it transports me into her world. 
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie has a wonderful diverse company both in the characters but also in its cast, how wonderful has that been to be a part of?
I am an Advisory Board Member for the MovementTIRED, a brilliant organisation dedicated to racial equality in the industry. Diversity and inclusion have always been a topic I am extremely passionate about, and Jamie exemplifies this in such an honest way without tokenising or making it seem like it’s just a box to be ticked. Our cast is such a melting pot, not just of different ethnicities but also of sexualities and genders. It means a lot that everyone off stage can watch an actor who will represent them or the people they know.  

Ivano Turco (Jamie) and Talia Palamathanan (Pritti). Photo by Matt Crockett.

What keeps you inspired?
My parents are my biggest inspirations. They are children of immigrants who have always worked extremely hard to be where they are now and have afforded me the privilege to pursue this as a career. Their work ethic and their continual support will always keep me inspired to keep going and chase my aspirations.
What does theatre and performing mean to you?
I am extremely lucky getting to a job that I love every single day. There maybe be tough days and touring can be hard but I have to remind myself what a privileged position I’m in, especially with what is happening in the world at the moment.   Theatre is amazing at bringing light to people’s lives and it is a special feeling to be apart of that once you see how much it means to so many people up and down the country. 
What do you hope an audience takes away from seeing Everybody’s Talking About Jamie?
The main quote from the show ‘There’s a place where we belong’ says it all. It’s a show that will leave you with such an empowered sense of acceptance, love and belonging.

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is playing at Milton Keynes Theatre from Tuesday 10th until Saturday 15th June 2024. The tour then visits Hull, Norwich, Bradford and Leicester. Visit for more details. 

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