Actor Daisy Edgar-Jones: ‘It’s good to play a character unlike myself…I’m usually cast as the smiley one!’
Written by Zoe Paskett

Muswell Hill’s Edgar-Jones is in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, based on Mohsin Hamid’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel

The National Youth Theatre has kick-started the careers of the world’s elite acting talent: Helen Mirren, Derek Jacobi, Ben Kingsley, Rosamund Pike, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matt Smith, Catherine Tate – the list really is endless.

The company is renowned for good reason, picking the cream of the crop and creating outstanding theatre across the genres.

NYT’s latest project is a series of productions in east London, exploring a range of themes from the battle to allow women to graduate at Cambridge to the refugee crisis.

One of the young actors taking part in the season is Muswell Hill’s Daisy Edgar-Jones, who stars in The Reluctant Fundamentalist at The Yard Theatre in Hackney.

The 19 year old has been acting with the NYT since she was 15.

“I always loved drama and my mum heard about the company and she was like ‘you should just audition for the experience’,” she says.

“It’s quite hard to get in and a lot of people apply. I went along to the audition not really knowing what to expect and had the best day ever and was lucky enough to get in. It was my mum really; I’ve got a lot to thank her for!”

Having taken to acting early on – she remembers her title roles in school productions of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan – she’s no stranger to auditioning and, even though still a teenager, has become accustomed to the process in a way many older actors would find difficult.

“It is an interesting thing, auditioning,” she says.

“I approach it in a different way now. I used to be going into the room and just really wanting them to choose me but now I try to go in and think, well this might be the only time I get to play this character so I’m going to really enjoy this performance as a standalone thing. I find that helps because it takes the pressure off a bit, it’s less ‘please hire me!’. They can definitely smell the desperation!”

This technique is clearly working in her favour: It was through an open casting with NYT that she first was put in touch with an agent, who opened the door for her to bag roles in Outnumbered, Silent Witness and Cold Feet.

Edgar-Jones is playing the part of April in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Based on Mohsin Hamid’s Man Booker Prize shortlisted novel, the NYT first produced the show at the Finsborough Theatre last year.

The play follows Changez, a Princeton graduate born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, who is now living and working in New York, a high achiever in a consultancy firm. He falls for a bereaved student, but the change occurs when the Twin Towers are attacked and he becomes gradually disenchanted with the West as he is treated with increasingly more suspicion.

“It’s all about someone’s struggle to live in a place they feel unwelcome because of somebody else’s actions,” says Edgar-Jones.

“It’s very topical at the minute. I think it’s quite an important story to tell.”

She is joining a cast who have worked together already on the previous incarnation of this play and is excited to be taking on a different role to those she normal has.

“My character, she’s… not very nice,” says Edgar-Jones, laughing.

“She’s very much a product of the aftermath of 9/11 in that she sums up the intolerance that started to grow in New York and America in general after the attacks. She very much looks down on Changez and is fearful of him as well.

“It’s nice to be cast as a character quite far from me, because it really feels like you’re giving a performance. I usually get cast as the smiley one!”

The Reluctant Fundamentalist runs until August 12 at the Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick.