Luke Pasqualino talks about new hairdresser murder-mystery Medusa Deluxe

luke pasqualino, medusa deluxe
Shadow and Bone star on new movieMubi

After breaking through with Skins, Luke Pasqualino has appeared in a variety of roles from Our Girl and The Musketeers to Netflix's fantasy hit Shadow and Bone and Shantaram. He's even popped up in Saint Marie for Death in Paradise.

His latest role might be unique, though, as he appears as Angel in Medusa Deluxe, a murder-mystery set at a hairdressing competition. Angel is the lover of the stylist who's found murdered at the start of the movie, with the rest playing out as one unbroken take in real time as the competitors try to find the culprit.

Don't go expecting Knives Out with hairdressers though, as writer-director Thomas Hardiman weaves through the competitors' own personal lives and issues, just as much as he does the investigation into the murder. The result is an original, entertaining and often vicious take on the classic genre.

To celebrate Medusa Deluxe's release in UK and Irish cinemas, Digital Spy sat down with Luke Pasqualino to talk about his personal connection to the world, the challenges of long takes and what genre he'd tackle next.

luke pasqualino, medusa deluxe

You come from a family of hairdressers, so when this movie came up, were you like, "Well, I've got to do this one. This is perfect"?

Luke Pasqualino: My agent called me about it, and she said, "This script's come in that the casting director wants you to read for. Have a little read. Let me know what you think."

She told me the premise, that it's a dark comedy murder-mystery all set backstage at a regional hairdressing competition – and already my interest was piqued because I used to go to these sort of shows.

Me and my mum and my sister – my sister's a hairdresser as well – we were following her down to these various hairdressing events and whatnot, and seeing her doing this thing, so I felt like it was a world that I knew. It made me feel a bit more inclined to cracking on and reading it.

Was there anything in particular you brought from those kind of memories of going around to these shows to the character of Angel?

Yes and no. I mean, it's like a lot of the characters that you meet – you know, like Darrell D'Silva's character, Rene – I feel like some of my dad's friends are sort of like [that]. One of my Dad's friends even looks like Darrell.

So when you see the characters come to life – I loved those costume fittings and hair and makeup tests – to see everybody and how they were going to look in the film, I remember when everyone was stood up together. I was like, "I feel like if I've seen someone like you before. I've seen someone that looks like you. I've seen someone…"

But apart from that, really, it was just, like I said, the comfort of knowing this world a little bit, in regards to my family being hairdressers.

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Because you shot in a single location with these long takes and with a limited crew, because it was during COVID as well, did that help foster that kind of close bond with the cast to convey that these characters have crossed these paths all the time?

It did help. We all became so close because we rehearsed for four or five weeks before we even started filming.

I think the time in which we shot the film in – with it being COVID and lockdown and limited access to shops and restaurants – we made our own entertainment. We would stay together. We would go out for walks. We used to all stay in the same part of the building. So we just used to hang out together.

So to have that bond, and then, you know, be cushioned in this uncertainty that was COVID, I think that lent itself really well to the nature of the film.

Angel is quite a heightened character because he has this emotional shock and he doesn't really go down from that because it is in real time. Did that make it quite exhausting to play?

It was exhausting, but it was one of these things. Because of how we shot the film with these long 10-minute, 15-minute, 20-minute takes sometimes – we didn't have the luxury of being able to cut and go again, unless something went wrong very, very early on in the take. So you just had to carry on and see what happens.

I think with that coupled with the fact that we were constantly acting – you couldn't just drop out of character. You almost had to be in character, waiting for our cue, or making sure we were scurrying around the set to make sure we were at a different location for when the camera would finally come around to join us.

You didn't realise how exhausting it was until you finally got home at the end of the night, and crashed out, you know? It was exhausting, but it was also incredibly rewarding.

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Is it stressful to know that one mistake could completely mess up, say, 15 or 20 minutes of work for everyone else?

It is all part of the fun. But because we had such an extensive rehearsal period before we even started shooting the film, everyone was sort of relatively comfortable with where they had to go, and what they had to do.

Honestly, when you finally get the big cameras – a lot of rehearsals were done on phones –with our camera operator, Jake [Whitehouse], with the full kit and stuff, a lot of the real heavy lifting was him. Literally, the heavy lifting was him.

Did it feel potentially a bit more theatrical, like doing a play with these long takes?

That was how it was sort of pitched to us when we first got to our first read-through together as a cast. Tom [Hardiman] said, "We are going to be rehearsing this like a play".

We rehearsed a section at a time, scene by scene, and whatnot. Because there weren't really any real scene episodes. It's all one continuous shot, so it did feel like a play.

With the murder-mystery aspect, did you guess how it worked out when you first got the script?

I didn't really, I can't really remember thinking about how the movie ended because obviously there are certain parts of the movie that I didn't have anything to do with. They were filmed on days that I wasn't there, or when I'd wrapped or whatever.

So to see it finally come to life, and to see it on a big screen, and to see how it was finally cut – it ended totally differently [to what I thought].

anitajoy uwajeh, medusa deluxe

Finally, this is a unique role for you, but is there a genre or type of role that you're wanting to tackle, that you want that script to come by for?

I'm totally open to anything. I mean, I'm at the stage in my career now where I just want to work with good material. Something that's challenging me, and allows people to sort of open their minds a little bit, and maybe feel something that they've not felt before.

I think the one thing that I would take away from people seeing this film and other projects that I've done recently, is the comedy. I'd like to do more comedy. It's certainly a genre that I don't feel like I've done enough of, and that I'd like to explore more.

Medusa Deluxe is out now in UK and Irish cinemas.

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