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Dev Patel Said He Feels "Stuck" Following Criticism For Playing Both British And Indian Characters

"You're kind of like, 'Where am I allowed to exist?'"

Posted on August 9, 2021, at 7:09 a.m. ET

Dev Patel is opening up about his experience in the entertainment industry, admitting he has been made to feel "not British enough" to play British characters and "not Indian enough" to play Indian characters.

Che Rosales / WireImage

Speaking to the Guardian in an interview published on Sunday, the Green Knight star said that after achieving breakout success in 2008's Slumdog Millionaire, he expected to receive bigger roles — but none came.

Jim Spellman / WireImage

Instead, Dev said, the roles he received were "clichés," or he was expected to "put on a thick [Indian] accent."

He added that his Slumdog Millionaire costar, Freida Pinto, "was being type-cast, as this exotic beauty next to all these Caucasian leading men."

He eventually did land bigger, non-cliché roles, as the lead in films such as 2019's The Personal History of David Copperfield — but that came with its own complications.

Lionsgate

In fact, Dev told the Guardian that he apologized to director Armando Iannucci for the "barrage of comments" that would come his way for casting a British Indian actor to "basically play Charles Dickens."

He said he had concerns that his casting would distract from the film itself, "because everyone's going to be so fixated on the color of the lead's skin."

He went on to discuss the criticism he's received for playing both British characters and Indian characters, saying: "You're kind of like, 'Where am I allowed to exist?'"

Daniele Venturelli / WireImage

"How specific are we going to get with this? What does it mean to be an actor — to just be yourself?" Dev asked. "Am I only allowed to play a guy who's 31 years old? Are you going to check my blood type?"

A24

"The very essence of acting, it asks for you to perform, transform, change," Dev said. "That's the allure of the job… And 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."

But when asked if the entertainment industry is improving for actors of color, Dev said he believes it's "moving in the right direction."

Chris Jackson / Getty Images

"My mate Daniel Kaluuya just won an Oscar!" he said.

"There are so many beautiful films in the mix now," Dev added, referencing Judas and the Black Messiah, Minari, and Parasite. "We’re getting more nourished as a society for it."

He went on to say certain roles of his own, like in The Personal History of David Copperfield, make those stories "more accessible" to people like him.

"People out there like me, who grew up in the same position, who share two identities…" Dev said. "People are going to relate to this material."

Read Dev Patel's interview with the Guardian in full here.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.