“I always saw myself in the place of all these incredible female characters”, thinks Freida Pinto, describing his love of Regency-era novels written by authors like Jane Austen. “They defied the odds in their time.” The Slumdog Millionaire The star studied English literature at university, delving into classic works and envisioning herself one day playing such characters in big-screen adaptations.
Now she is, in the new romantic drama Mr. Malcolm’s list, directed by a beginner filmmaker Emma Holly Jones and co-starred Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù as the titular hero. In the film, which you can get an exclusive first look at below, Dìrísù plays the dashing Mr. Malcolm, a rich and stylish suitor looking for a bride who meets every qualification he has on his list. Pinto plays Selina Dalton, a woman who helps her friend Julia Thistlewaite (the charming Zawe Ashton) get revenge on Mr. Malcolm after he rejects her for not meeting his lofty standards.
The film is based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Allen, who adapted it into a screenplay that received a board read by the blacklist. Jones, who is married to the Black List founder Franklin Leonard, heard it, fell in love with it, and decided she was going to do the movie. She started by directing a short film version which helped her secure funding for the feature film, with a cast completed by Oliver Jackson-Cohen like the sociable Lord Cassidy; Ashley Park like the bubbly Gertie Covington, and Theo James like the good-natured Captain Henry Ossory.
In a way, Jones has been preparing her whole life for this. “I actually go by the name of Jane Austen Emma,says Jones. “I fell in love with period dramas from an early age.”
During the preparation Mr. Malcolm’s list, she saw hamilton on Broadway and was blown away by the musical’s inclusive cast. Jones decided she wanted to do the same on her film. As a result, both the short (filmed in 2018 and released in 2019) and the feature are largely made up of actors of color, much like those on Netflix. Bridgerton (who Mr. Malcolm’s List is earlier).
This is part of what attracted Dìrísù, who is British Nigerian, to the film. Previously, the actor did not care much about period dramas of that era, nor did he have the opportunity to act in them. “There were no color stories told in these films,” he says. “Many young white British actors would leave drama school and get a period drama, and that would be their path to success.” That wasn’t the case for Dìrísù, who went on to star in shows like London Gangs and movies like His house.
However, it connected with the script to Mr. Malcolm’s list, finding it a fun and interesting departure from the other work that was offered to him. Jones knew the moment she met him that she had found “the new Mr. Darcy”.