Kaitlyn Dever admitted her knowledge of Shakespeare was “not great” before starring in an upcoming Romeo and Juliet-based film, but said she learnt a lot during her time at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (Rada).
The US actress, known for her role in coming-of-age comedy Booksmart, said the experience had been “so scary” but she had learned to tackle the Bard’s works in her own way.
Dever takes the title role in Disney’s Rosaline, which tells the story of “Romeo’s ex”, and her attempts to win back her lover from the affections of her younger cousin, Juliet.
The character of Rosaline features only briefly in Romeo and Juliet, becoming the plot device that allows the doomed lovers to meet at the masquerade ball.
Speaking to the PA news agency at the global premiere of the film in Los Angeles, Dever said: “My knowledge of Shakespeare wasn’t great before (the film).
“I went to Rada when I was 18, I took a Shakespeare course there and I literally took the course to experience something new – I didn’t know anything about Shakespeare.
“And I discovered that every kid in my class knew so much about Shakespeare and I was so immediately scared in my first class.
“It was so scary (but) I ended up learning a lot, and then I was assigned to read Romeo and Juliet in high school so I was familiar for sure.”
She continued: “When I went to Rada, what I learned was that I was doing Shakespeare in a way that I thought you were supposed to.
“I was so worried about it and worrying about it, and on my very last day I was doing a performance and I just decided to let it go and do it the way I would do it.”
Dever added that Rosaline was a “very empowering female story” about self-discovery.
She stars alongside Isabela Merced, who plays Juliet, Kyle Allen as Romeo, Sean Teale as Dario, and Christopher McDonald, who revealed to PA that he had also attended Rada.
Director Karen Maine agreed that the film was “definitely empowering” and that many of the film’s feminist themes were “unfortunately” still relevant in the modern day.
“It’s a story that we’ve not seen before even though it exists in this very familiar Shakespearean narrative and read a million times and seen different treatments of,” she told PA.
“We’ve never seen it from the perspective of Rosaline, a tertiary character…what she thinks of everything and the role she has played in the whole story.
“There’s a lot of feminist themes to it… Unfortunately a lot of things are still relevant today. It’s definitely empowering.”
Rosaline airs in the UK on Disney+ under the Star banner on October 14.