Nathan Stewart-Jarrett on Berlin drag queen revenge thriller Femme

Nathan Stewart-Jarrett is ready for his close-up. After making a name for himself in the TV series ‘Misfits’ and ‘Utopia’ and in the film ‘Candyman’, the British actor is set to explode on the world stage with ‘Femme’, world premiere at the Panorama section of the Berlin Film Festival.

Stewart-Jarrett plays Jules, whose alter ego is Aphrodite, a celebrated drag queen at a London gay club whose life is shattered by a homophobic attack. After discovering one of the perpetrators (George MacKay) in a gay sauna, Jules seeks revenge.

Femme is based on the BAFTA-nominated short film of the same name, directed by Sam H. Freeman and Ng Choon Ping. Stewart-Jarrett had played a former drag queen in the Tony and Olivier Award-winning theatrical production of Angels in America and built on that during the prep for Femme.

“One of the first things I said was, ‘I need some heels’ — I was just so concerned about running and performing in heels,” Stewart-Jarrett told Variety. “I didn’t want to fall on set and procrastinate things. I just didn’t want to break my neck.”

The actor took a pair of heels with him on vacation to Italy to perfect the character’s gait and posture. “Drag, like clowning, like any costume, and especially with this film, how you look and move in the clothes is so important,” Stewart-Jarrett said.

The actor said that usually the interior of the character affects the costume, but in the case of “Femme” it was the other way around. “When you put something on, how does it make you feel? How does it move you?” Stewart-Jarrett said.

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Aphrodite was inspired by Stewart-Jarrett’s Grace Jones and Naomi Campbell and RuPaul’s Drag Race, among others. “I used some of these people to influence who Aphrodite was. They have power and strength,” the actor said.

“Femme” also points to the homophobia that still exists in modern society today. “It’s really important that it’s highlighted – even though there’s a gay club that’s open and it’s not being attacked or burned down, even though people are living free, they actually step out like Jules does and cross the street that is essentially the crossing of a chasm, a river, or an ocean into a world fraught with danger,” Stewart-Jarrett.

For the actress, the sticking point of “Femme” is identity. “Who Jules is with and believes in and feels the power that he inhabits as Aphrodite, as someone else … It’s about identity and how he feels like he’s letting her down when he steps into another part of identity and oddly has more agency than he went on,” the actor said.

The directors did a chemistry read for George MacKay, who plays the attacker, and Stewart-Jarrett. “He just carried me through this chemistry read, he was just amazing,” said Stewart-Jarrett. “There was an element of surprise in every scene, I didn’t really know what was going to happen. It is a testament to the trust George and I have and have had.”

Stewart-Jarrett describes the premiere of “Femme” in Berlin as “an absolute dream”.

Next up for the actor is the Disney+/Star series Culprits, which follows the aftermath of a robbery where the crew has disbanded but are attacked by a killer. Stewart-Jarrett stars alongside Gemma Arterton and Eddie Izzard.

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“Femme” will premiere on February 19 at the Berlin Film Festival. The film is being produced by Agile Films and Anton is taking care of world sales.