Born and raised in India, breakout actor Siddharth Dhananjay studied philosophy and economics at Iowa’s Grinnell College where he and his friends made parodies of popular R&B songs on YouTube. Dhananjay currently appears in his first film Patti Cake$ (2017) and is set to appear in director Kenny Riches’ film A Name Without A Place (2019).
Yale graduate, Broadway star and Shakespeare Theatre Company actor Mamoudou Athie is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Grandmaster Flash in Netflix’ hit series The Get Down (2016-17). Athie recently starred alongside Emma Watson and Tom Hanks in James Ponsoldt’s The Circle (2017) and currently appears in Geremy Jasper’s debut film Patti Cake$ (2017).
DM: I don’t know. None of my friends from Jersey have accents. And the funny thing was Geremy was like, “A lot of people don’t, especially the younger generation, but this is set in a very small town, and I want a very specific accent.” So I was like, “Okay.”
It was amazing. It was so funny to have Sid [Dhananjay], who had never acted before, and Mamoudou [Athie], who graduated from Yale and was a theater actor. We were all from different places, which was so cool.
CM: Mamoudou, I think, is from Africa, Sid’s from India, you’re from Australia, Bridget’s from Kansas, I’m from the Bronx and Geremy is the only Jersey boy there. But we all were supposed to be from the same place in the film.
DM: The one connection that they have in the film, which is that they’re all from the same place, is the one thing we do not have in common in real life. We’re all from different corners of the world, and it was so incredible that we were all playing together. It was just like family instantly. What I really liked about this movie is that it defied laws. It made the abnormal normal, and it was never about size or gender or race. There were issues that the characters faced in the movie because of society, but it wasn’t about that. It was showing people from all different cultural backgrounds coming together and connecting in a way that’s not necessarily what we peg them to be in society. No one is put in a box in this movie, and I love that.
CM: Everybody fit perfectly.
DM: Well, it’s funny because everything I had to do for this movie felt so outside of my comfort zone, but everyone involved in the project was so incredible that I always felt comfortable being uncomfortable. When you feel safe and secure with other actors, with the director and the producers, it creates this incredible vibrancy, and something amazing happens.
CM: t’s not like we ran back to our trailers—oh, that’s right. We didn’t have any.
DM: That’s the best way, because we all connected.
CM: We laughed ourselves sick. Now, I have a personal question for you. I’ve met mom and dad and your sister and your roommates. What did they think of this for you?
DM: It was funny because some of my closest friends know me so well, and they thought it was hilarious and amazing that I was doing this movie. But they’re like also like, “How are you planning on doing it? Because this is not you.”
CM: Did you have to step back from your life?
“I’ve never put so much of myself into something.
The role was so different from myself
that it required me to do so much more.”
— Danielle Macdonald
DM: They all knew the character was so different for me, and they were basically worried that I was going to suck, but they never once told me. They were all super supportive. Then after they saw the movie, there was this incredible excitement and relief on their faces. They all came up to me like, “Oh my God, you actually did it.” I was like, “What does that mean?” And they were like, “I knew you could do it, but I didn’t know you could do it well.”
CM: I spent the night with your mom and dad the night of the party for Patti Cake$. They were gracious and lovely. They were like, “Wow, she really did good, didn’t she?” I was like, “Pretty freaking amazing, yeah.”
DM: It’s really funny because my mom and dad were like, “We actually liked it!” Honestly, I wasn’t sure. My mom is her early 60s, and my dad is in his 50s, and they don’t listen to a lot of rap. But they were very proud.
CM: What’s coming up for you?
DM: I’m doing a movie called Dumpling with Jennifer Aniston.
CM: And you’re playing her daughter, a 16 year old?
DM: Playing a high school student. The irony is that Patti Cake$ is the first time I haven’t played a teenager. I was playing my early 20s, so it’s not too far. I was in my early 20s when I started this process.
CM: You’re gonna love Jennifer Aniston. She’s absolutely lovely.
DM: Yeah, I loved the script, then I read the book and felt like it informed the script so truthfully. I would’ve wanted to see this movie growing up. Right now, I’m so excited to do things differently. I want to try everything. I want to do film, miniseries, drama.
CM: Do you have any plans to ever direct or produce?
DM: I’ve never thought about directing. I don’t know if I could. I barely slept as an actor on this project. Geremy must not have slept. There’s no other way he could’ve gotten through it all. You have to have such a vision of the entire scope of things. I have a vision of the character of the story, but I do not have that whole thing. Right now, I’m just trying to focus on the acting.
CM: All right, I love you to death, and you know that. I’m so proud of you, my little superstar.