As the buzzed-about BBC One anthology Small Axe continues with second film Lovers Rock this weekend, its star Amarah-Jae St Aubyn talks to Stylist about Steve McQueen, British-Caribbean culture and musical escapism.
In a handful of years, Amarah-Jae St Aubyn, breakout star of Steve McQueen’s new BBC One anthology Small Axe, has gone from the Brit school to one of the West End’s biggest ever productions – and now she’s lighting up the primetime spot on BBC One.
The actor stars alongside Top Boy’s Micheal Ward in Lovers Rock, the joyful second instalment of Small Axe that centres on a west London house party in 1980. A far cry from her work on Harry Potter And The Cursed Child, in the hour-long film St Aubyn plays the defiant, dreamy Martha, who sneaks out of bed for a night of romance that ends just in time for Sunday Mass.
As the child of a Jamaican and Cuban mother and a Guyanese father, St Aubyn’s connection to both her character and the British-Caribbean culture celebrated in Lovers Rock
What was it like working on Lovers Rock?
We filmed it all in this beautiful big house, and when I went in and all the supporting artists were in their costumes, dancing in a smoky room, the energy was just there
Did filming make you miss house parties in a year when they’ve been off the cards?
Oh, 100%. That is all everyone on set kept saying. But you know, house parties now are different, people just kind of sit around and talk – I want some house parties like Lovers Rock
Did you feel a personal connection with the story?
Very much so, it felt like coming back to myself and my family. When I was filming, I sent my mum a picture of myself with my wig and outfit on and she was like, ‘You look like me! Wow!’ I think it really took her back. She used to tell me stories of these parties she went to, about how couples would be “peeling off the wallpaper” because they’d be so packed in and rubbing up against the walls. So when I took her to see
Also, funnily enough, when us actors were in a table read rehearsal there was a big moodboard in front of us, and there was a picture of my dad just chilling by a sound system on it. He used to be a reggae artist, but they had no idea he was my dad – so it’s a story that’s close to him, too.
What was it like working with Steve McQueen?
Just incredible. I mean, he’s a genius. We only filmed for two weeks, and I learned so much from him. What I love about Steve is that he’s so open to ideas and trusting of his actors, as long as the foundation of his vision stays strong. Coming from something like
What else has inspired you lately?
Lovers Rock is available on iPlayer now. Small Axe continues on Sundays at 9pm on BBC One.
Images: Joseph Sinclair, BBC
Meena Alexander is Stylist magazine’s features editor.