Dev Patel is amongst the fortunate Skins gen. 1 alumni who managed to break into Hollywood after starring in the hit teen series; he shares that spot with Daniel Kaluuya—who had a supporting role on the show as Posh Kenneth. Patel discusses those beginnings in a new interview with The New York Times. He looks back at his first on-camera role as Anwar, a nerdy Muslim teenage boy who was massively obsessed with trying to get laid even though his friends fared better with girls. Patel talks about the perks of the role; he was able to help his family financially, using his first paycheck to buy his sister a new bed. But there were downsides to being a teenager on TV, namely viewers of the show telling him they didn’t care for “ugly” Anwar at all.
“I was a young kid going on these chat rooms and it was quite brutal,” says Patel. “There were all these lists of who’s the favorite character on the show or who was the best-looking character, and I was always the ugliest, the least attractive. No one liked Anwar. It really took a toll on me personally.”
And yes, Patel has experienced a much publicized “glow-up” of sorts, similar to other fellow UK actors, including Harry Potter’s Matthew Lewis. But Anwar was never ugly; he just looked realistically like any other awkward teenage boy, with a questionable haircut and scruffy facial hair. He didn’t quite fit the mold of heartthrob.
A lot has changed since the Skins days. Patel is now one of the most thirsted-over actors in Hollywood, and that’s actually part of what got him the role as Sir Gawain in The Green Knight (you know, besides being a great actor and all).
“He’s incredibly appealing in every sense of the word and yes, he’s incredibly sexy. I see no shame in wanting to capture that,” says Green Knight director David Lowery in an interview with USA Today about his decision to cast the actor. “I was like, ‘I want to see Dev looking as beautiful as he is onscreen and I don’t want to shy away from that.’ He has such a nobility to him that hasn’t been utilized in films because he’s such an affable actor who’s so quick to break into this boyish smile. It’s what made everyone fall in love with him, but in addition to that, there’s severity to him that’s really captivating.”
But despite his new status as a gorgeous leading man, Patel seems to still struggle to shake off his adolescent insecurities. New York Times reporter Kyle Buchanan brings up to Patel that he has a huge fanbase rooting for him on social media (there are several social media accounts dedicated to stanning him), but the actor interjects with a self-deprecating joke, saying, “All three members of that fan base?” He also talks about being hard on himself when he received accolades for his starring roles in Slumdog Millionaire and Lion.
“I didn’t feel worthy. That kind of speaks to my natural low self-esteem: You’re there with really impressive creatures, the best of the best, and you’re like, ‘I don’t know what I have to offer in this space,” he says.
As for early embarrassing roles, he did talk about M. Night Shyamalan’s disastrous The Last Airbender movie, referring to it as “one of the worst movies I’ve ever done, and I shouldn’t even bring it up, but do a quick IMDb search and you’ll know what it is.” He adds, “I didn’t really flourish in that position. I take my hat off to all those incredible actors that do Marvel movies where it’s, like, big, noisy fans and green screen and tennis balls and whatnot.”