In an exclusive chat with OTTplay, Patel lays it all on the table as she speaks about her experiences on The Handmaid’s Tale and Mrs. America
Shreya Patel is an enthusiastic individual who leaves no stone unturned in whatever task she takes up. Right from theatre, writing, filmmaking, modelling and acting, she has done it all. In an exclusive conversation with OTTplay, she shared, “I have always been passionate about acting and psychology, so getting into character for a role is something I enjoy immensely.” She also spoke about one of the experiences she holds close to her heart as she reminisced about her time on the series, Mrs. America. Patel played the role of a camerawoman and shared the screen with Academy Award winner Sarah Paulson on the show. Talking about her experience working with Paulson, she mentions, “The experience was a masterclass for me, as I was still emerging into the industry. She had just travelled from Los Angeles to Toronto, and she had a massive breakdown during the shoot due to exhaustion. However, she didn’t let this come in the way of her acting and had her game face on when she heard, ‘action.’” Patel also admired how Paulson gave inputs about the character she was playing to make it look more authentic, regardless of how tired she was.
The reason Patel gravitated towards the show is that each character is based on a real person. “Right from my outfit and hair to the way I spoke, it was all based on the woman I was playing from the 70s. It was like being transported to a different era,” she exclaims. She also loved that most of the cast and crew on set were women, thus making it a very powerful experience for her. “I’m so grateful for the role I got to play in Mrs. America,” she said.
Apart from Mrs. America, Patel was also part of The Handmaid’s Tale, a series based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book by the same name. She was in awe of how well things functioned behind the scenes, with there being hundreds of people on set during the pandemic. The show also had a very strict time limit, and everything went on perfectly within it. Right from costumes to scripts, the crew made sure everything was worked out to the T. Patel mentioned that every single actor on set was dressed to character, and there were multiple fittings done to ensure perfection. The scripts were also sent to actors way ahead of time, and the coordinators called each actor personally to narrate how the scene would progress so that they could rehearse well. “Even playing a small part of such a phenomenal show was a dream come true for me,” she continued.
Further speaking about her work in these shows, Patel mentions that they definitely opened doors for her in the industry, “Although these were smaller roles, I was part of magnificent shows. In Hollywood, one has to be a unionized actor to get bigger roles, which I was able to achieve with The Handmaid’s Tale and Mrs. America.”
It is after this that Patel went on to play the lead role in several short films and features. Apart from working as an actor, Patel also embarked on her journey as a writer after her stint in the two iconic series. “I got the opportunity to write my own web series and got funding for it based on my previous work,” said Patel while speaking about the role The Handmaid’s Tale and Mrs. America played in paving her way in the industry. She also told OTTplay, “I don’t have a Godfather in the industry, and I believe in working from the ground up. I’ve always believed in making my own films, writing them and also starring in them. One can’t wait for an audition to get a role.” The actress then stated that doing this makes her resume robust and lets her work speak for itself when she applies to agencies.
Speaking about auditions, Patel shared one of her worst ones yet, which took place in the initial stages of her career. It was a 14-page audition in Canada and the actress felt extremely unwell while saying her lines and had to sit down. “The crew thought I was nervous and gave me a second chance. In Canada and the United States, actors are allowed to hold the script during the audition, but that didn’t help me either, as the pain I was going through was unbearable. The audition was so bad; I thought my agent would refuse to represent me after it,” she recollects..
After the incident, Patel ensured she reshot her part once she was better and sent it to the casting director to ensure her audition wasn’t his last impression of her as a professional.
On the brighter side, Patel takes pride in the fact that she booked the first-ever audition she went for. The actress was given two lines, which she recorded and sent to the casting director, without much knowledge about the role and the film. “When I was called back, I learned the role was for the lead in a short film, Vivid, which Jeremy Benning would shoot, a cinematographer about whom I studied in film school. I was already in awe of his work and knew that every frame of this film would look like a photograph. Getting the opportunity to work with him was incredible,” Patel said as she reminisced about the first time she played the lead on-screen.
Speaking about her upcoming projects, Patel is excited about Layla is Relevant, a mockumentary series about Layla, a child star trying to regain her fame at 23. Patel is the co-creator and co-writer of this mockumentary, along with Rabiya Mansoor. That’s not all. Patel will also play the lead character in the series and says, “I love Layla’s character; we see her as Poo from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. She is a sassy young girl, who thinks she is Emily in Paris, but she’s actually in The Office.” Patel also thinks Layla’s character development in the series is notable and relates to her journey on a personal level in terms of self-acceptance and navigating through complex relationships. “Layla and I are completely different people, but the journey we take on in life will surely be relatable to everyone out there. We want Layla is Relevant to be like some of the most iconic mockumentaries of all time, like The Office and Parks and Recreation,” she said.
While giving the audience some advice on filming mockumentaries, Patel emphasizes that camera angles and direction are key. Patel tells OTTplay, “We have Shetu Modi, an excellent director on board, and her vision for this project is magnificent.”
Some of the other projects Patel is looking forward to are Strangers in a Room, a film in which she will once again play the leading role. The film is about actors’ mental health, which is rarely spoken about in mainstream media and will commence shooting in August. Patel is also working on a documentary, Eakk, which will be about transgender education and rights in India. Speaking about it, the actress shares, “We wanted to shoot it this year, but it was temporarily shelved due to India’s COVID restrictions. I hope we can resume working on it after I’ve wrapped up Layla is Relevant and Strangers in a Room,” and signs off.