We interview THE Emma Thompson, one of the stars of What’s Love Got to Do With It, premiering in the US May 5!
In Shehkar Kapur and Jemima Khan’s new romantic comedy, What’s Love Got to Do With It, we see Kaz (Shazad Latif), Zoe (Lily James), and their respective families, the Khans and the Stevensons, have longstanding connections as friend and neighbors. As Kaz goes on a journey of exploring the prospect of an arranged marriage with the documentarian Zoe chronicling his journey, we get to learn more of the nuances and quirks of both the Khans and Stevensons. We see a refreshing display of cross-cultural connections between two British families, with the Khans having immigrated from Pakistan, and the lovely companionships they’ve built up over the years.
On The Nerds of Color, we are exceedingly delighted to have Oscar winning actress and writer Emma Thompson, who plays Zoe’s mother Cath, to speak on her role in the film. Drawing on her own experiences growing up in London and her appreciation for its cultural diversity, as well as understanding of how non-immigrant Brits may not always know how to act around their brown neighbors, Thompson imbibes Cath with a realistic and humorous
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
The Nerds of Color: Thank you so, so much for speaking with The Nerds of Color today. This is an absolute honor to be speaking with you.
Emma Thompson: It’s my favorite name of any outlet I’ve ever spoken to ever. “Nerds of Color” just makes me so happy. Oh god, are those little Harry Potter figures behind you?
These are actually Avatar Last Airbender, Marvel, and Star Trek!
Okay, okay, okay. Oh, genuine nerd. I love you so much.
We love you so much! You’ve just given us so much over the years as Professor Trelawney and other roles like Nanny McPhee. We’re huge fans of yours. What drew you to the script in the theme of cross cultural connections in What’s Love Got To Do With It? between the Stevenson and Khan neighbors and how do you think that reflects London generally?
Well, London is super multicultural now and was when I was growing up. So it felt very real to me. I went to a little primary school, where there were 55 different cultures represented there. And this is a long time ago. So you know, that’s my experience of life. It was very odd to me to find myself when I was outside London, in places where pretty much everybody was white. It was very odd. It felt sort of strangely, well, I don’t mean this to be rude, but sort of strangely uninteresting and slightly flat. London is this kind of fantastic, let’s say boiling pot. And everything, but it’s not really boiling. It’s just people kind of rubbing along together and actually offering each other so many different and wonderful ways of seeing the world and experiencing the world.
And I suppose what I loved about it was that Cath was fantastically inappropriate and a bit of an idiot and a bit of a drinker. She’s given sanctuary in a way by this very kind family. She is a bit of a case, but they’re just so nice to her. And she loves them, even though she’s deeply inappropriate and sort of has all of this unconscious bias that she displays. Like, she just sort of brings it out like a peacock, which I find very funny, and very relatable. You think” I’m sure I could have made a mistake like that if if I hadn’t lived all my life surrounded by all these cultures.”
Totally, it’s relatable. She makes these mistakes, but it’s endearing as well. Cath is also someone who initially appears as an overbearing mother to Zoe but she cares deeply simply cares deeply for her daughter and for her happiness and security. So how do you aim to channel that balance in your performance?
Well, you know, that’s all in the writing. And I think Jemima did quite well in the sense in that Cath is very keen on on Zoe getting married. But of course that’s completely meaningless because her marriage hasn’t given her any satisfaction. And so she’s just doing it because it’s something to do and she’s a bit bored actually a lot of the time because when she’s not pulling rubber gloves out of a dog’s bottom, she hasn’t got very much to do anymore.
And I think that family next door, give her purpose and also all their festivals give meaning to her life. And I think that as well, you know, what we perhaps have lost in our over secularized society is the importance of ritual and festival and this sense of coming together to support one sense of faith, one’s sense of God, whatever it is that is you believe in and that’s such a beautiful thing. Of course it exists here but it is a very secular world and I think she she finds a proper sanctuary within that family.
Yeah, absolutely. What was one of your favorite days to film on set and one of the funnest days you had on set?
Easy, when we were doing all the dancing, because I got to, I mean, we didn’t use it in the end, but I got to do some of this amazing arm stuff with the girls. The dancers were absolutely extraordinary. And we were in an amazing building. And when the drummer’s came on, I mean, I just lost my mind. So that the dancing section was such a pleasure. Such a pleasure and really hard. But so I’ve decided I want to go maybe to Bollywood and make one of those films and just really do a bit of that dancing. Oh, my God, it’s so much fun.
We would absolutely love to see it. Emma Thompson, thank you so much for some of The Nerds of Color today and congratulations on the film.
Oh, thank you so much, and lots and lots of love to all you nerds. I love you.
We love you! Thank you so much.
You can watch What’s Love Got To Do With It? when it releases in theaters on Friday May 5.