Lara Peake

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Words Lil­ly Delmage

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Best known for her roles as Chris­sy in BBC’s Born To Kill and Car­ly in mini-series Mood, Lara Peake adds crit­i­cal­ly-acclaimed movie, How to Have Sex to her impres­sive act­ing roster. 

The film fol­lows three teenagers on their girls’ hol­i­day to Malia, cap­tur­ing each of their dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences as they nav­i­gate the club­bing cul­ture of Greece’s par­ty cap­i­tal; The sto­ry­line draws upon numer­ous taboo issues which are all too famil­iar for many young women, includ­ing con­sent, sex, and peer pressure.

Hav­ing won the pres­ti­gious Un Cer­tain Regard award at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val ear­li­er this year and Labelled by Van­i­ty Fair as a “vivid and heart-break­ing depic­tion of what is caused by the wil­ful, dehu­man­iz­ing dis­re­gard of women”, the film’s reveal­ing mes­sage has res­onat­ed well with viewers.

Lara plays Skye, the most seem­ing­ly judge­men­tal and scorn­ful out of the trio — a role she told me she found chal­leng­ing to adopt. Dur­ing our inter­view, the actress also shed light on her jour­ney into act­ing, her meth­ods to pre­pare for the role and why the movie’s pow­er­ful mes­sage is so crucial.

And you didn’t think I would let her go with­out ask­ing her favourite design­ers, did you? You’ll have to keep on read­ing for that…

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To start, please tell us about how you got into act­ing, was it some­thing you always want­ed to do, or did you fall into it?

A bit of both real­ly! My mum took me to see my first live the­atre show and I was com­plete­ly blown away. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that peo­ple could have a career in this, it all seemed so excit­ing and high ener­gy. I set my sights on act­ing from that moment but it felt like a huge moun­tain to climb to actu­al­ly get there. 

I start­ed going to week­ly ses­sions at Inspire Acad­e­my, a train­ing group in my home­town of Not­ting­ham. It’s such a unique, nur­tur­ing envi­ron­ment where young peo­ple from all over Not­ting­ham get togeth­er and have the space to leave what­ev­er they want to at the door. It’s a real­ly safe place to let go and be vul­ner­a­ble whilst hav­ing a real­ly good laugh. I land­ed my first role in a fea­ture film from an audi­tion that came through there, Inspire holds a very spe­cial place in my heart. 

Con­grat­u­la­tions on your new film How to Have Sex, what ini­tial­ly drew you to the movie?

From the page the world imme­di­ate­ly felt very vis­cer­al and real. My sens­es got real­ly height­ened read­ing it and the descrip­tion of the strip and how the char­ac­ters con­verse and inter­act with each oth­er was so relat­able to me. As well as the themes and the over­all mes­sage it puts out. 

Tonal­ly it felt like it was going to make a state­ment but sub­tly, (the film’s writer and direc­tor) Mol­ly Man­ning Walker’s ener­gy as a film­mak­er feels real­ly pal­pa­ble and I real­ly think she’s a change mak­er. Her artic­u­la­tion of uni­ver­sal issues is bril­liant but nev­er fin­ger-point­ing, the script, the fin­ished film, and Mol­ly are open­ing space for con­ver­sa­tion with­out want­i­ng to lock any­one out from it. 

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You play Skye in the film, tell us a bit about the process of get­ting the role

I worked with Mol­ly when she was the cin­e­matog­ra­ph­er on Mood, appar­ent­ly, she asked me then if I thought I could play a six­teen-year-old old and my reac­tion was, “What? No, I don’t reck­on so”. But about six months lat­er the self-tape came through and I obvi­ous­ly did a mas­sive 360 and tried as hard as I could to chan­nel the six­teen-year-old me, but in Skye form. 

Isabel­la Odof­fin who cast the film asked whether, along with the scenes, I could tape a few anec­dotes from my teens and also record a Tik­Tok in char­ac­ter. I didn’t have Tik­Tok so had to quick­ly down­load it and make an account, it was called @Skyefitasfck or some­thing sim­i­lar. From there I did a chem­istry read and got the job!

How did you pre­pare for the role of Skye, did you do any­thing in par­tic­u­lar to get into character?

I worked out a real­ly thor­ough back­sto­ry for her, but I delib­er­ate­ly left gaps in it. I didn’t want to know all of Skye’s life in too much detail because she’s a bit of a mys­tery. I want­ed to feel as an actor like I didn’t know the rea­sons for her actions 100% of the time because I don’t think she knows. She’s put pro­tec­tive mea­sures in place for her­self but deep down I don’t think she’s as con­fi­dent as she tries to be, so her actions can often be unkind and jeal­ous as a way of dis­guis­ing that. 

What did you find the most chal­leng­ing about play­ing Skye? Can you relate to her per­son­al­i­ty in any way or would you con­sid­er your­selves polar opposites?

I’d like to think we’re polar oppo­sites but I don’t think it’s fair to total­ly demonise Skye; she’s young and fig­ur­ing things out and I think we all have either been that per­son at times or had a friend that has. I hope it’s not a per­ma­nent per­son­al­i­ty for Skye, I think it’s a tran­si­tion­al one between child­hood and adult­hood with the pres­sures from soci­ety and social media weigh­ing heav­i­ly on her. But that said, the scenes in the sec­ond half of the film I found very dif­fi­cult; brush­ing off assault and avoid­ing the con­ver­sa­tion with Tara felt grub­by at times and a hard head­space to stay in for too long. 

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What is the wider mes­sage behind How to Have Sex and why is it so important?

Talk to your friends and lis­ten to each oth­er. Con­sent is much more than just “yes” or “no” and phys­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion speaks just as loud­ly as ver­bal. Peo­ple should feel seen and heard and nor­mal­is­ing our con­ver­sa­tions around sex and con­sent will hope­ful­ly change the nar­ra­tive and pro­vide future gen­er­a­tions with a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how we go about it. 

The film won the Cannes Un Cer­tain Regard 2023 award at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, con­grat­u­la­tions! How did you feel when you heard you had won?

There were about 40 of us from the film out in Cannes so we made this group chat called ‘Lost in Cannes’. But we’d all left France by the time it was the awards cer­e­mo­ny. Mol­ly had decid­ed that she wasn’t going to hang around in Cannes expect­ing to win an award so start­ed a road trip to Greece with some of our Greek crew, she got as far as Rome when the pro­duc­ers rang her like “GET BACK TO CANNES IMMEDIATELY”, we’d won some­thing but didn’t know what. 

The whole after­noon we were all on the group chat with Mol­ly track­ing her move­ments back to Cannes; she booked the wrong flight, the new flight got delayed, she ran from the plane, left her lug­gage on the belt at Nice air­port — it was hec­tic. But when she got up on stage and did her speech, it real­ly hit me all at once. I was cry­ing on the sofa at home, group chat, a live stream of the cer­e­mo­ny and wine in hand. 

Do you think enter­tain­ment edu­ca­tion films such as How to Have Sex are the most effec­tive way of edu­cat­ing younger peo­ple in mod­ern soci­ety? And how do you think the film has suc­ceed­ed in doing this?

I do. I know that Mol­ly is try­ing to get the film into schools and I hope it hap­pens. At that age, con­ver­sa­tions can be hard, as we see in the film. Film has the abil­i­ty to speak to audi­ences, pose ques­tions and allow peo­ple to reflect and recog­nise them­selves in char­ac­ters in ways that are raw and out­side of a text­book. It can be a qui­et process too, espe­cial­ly in a cin­e­ma and it can feel deeply per­son­al. I hope as many young peo­ple are able to see it as possible.

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What has the recep­tion been from the film? 

I’m yet to speak to some­one who’s seen the film that hasn’t either been through sim­i­lar expe­ri­ences to Tara or at least knows some­one that has. But despite it being real­ly har­row­ing in parts, I love that peo­ple are also laugh­ing so hard in dif­fer­ent moments and real­ly feel­ing the jour­ney of it. There are so many highs that trans­port you right onto that resort whether you’ve been some­where like that before or not.

How would you sum up the film in 3 words?

Hang­over, Roller­coast­er, Conversation.

We also want to hear a bit about your per­son­al fash­ion style, what are your favourite fash­ion brands and designers?

I pre­fer to buy less reg­u­lar­ly, usu­al­ly twice a year, but invest in some­thing that I real­ly, real­ly fall in love with. I love find­ing design­er pieces when there’s a sale. My per­son­al favourites would have to be Guc­ci and Yves Saint Lau­rent.

If you had to sum up your style in one out­fit, what would it be?

Hon­est­ly, it’s too inter­change­able. It’s so depen­dent on the weath­er, what I’m doing and what­ev­er mood I’ve wok­en up in. It’s impos­si­ble to answer that!

Last­ly, what is next for Lara Peake?

I’ve just wrapped on Jil­ly Cooper’s RIVALS, which was so fun and hilar­i­ous to work on. It’s all set in the 1980s and comes out next year. There’s anoth­er project next year that I can’t talk about just yet but am real­ly excit­ed about. For now, I’m just real­ly look­ing for­ward to Christ­mas and being around fam­i­ly and friends to cel­e­brate the year and have a good catch-up!

How to Have Sex is cur­rent­ly being shown in UK cin­e­mas and keep an eye out for Lara’s upcom­ing projects.

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Tal­ent Lara Peake
Pho­tog­ra­ph­er & Edi­tor-in-Chief Andrew Kim­ber
Styl­ist Jessie Stein
Hair Chad Maxwell
Make­up Andri­ani Vasil­iou
OVERDUE Assis­tants Maria Hele­na Solowej & Mar­i­an­na Nadol­s­ka
Stu­dio & Retouch­ing Kim­ber Studio