There are some movies you feel the urge to recommend via a group text to the entire world. After you leave the theater, you want to design a poster for the film, print it out on quality paper, and paste it all over town in your spare time. Usually, these are the movies we see ourselves in, no matter how fantastical they may be. Director and writer Geremy Jasper’s Patti Cake$ is that movie for me.
As a coming-of-age tale based in Jersey, Patti Cake$ follows the unlikely aspiring rapper Patricia Dombrowski (also known as Killa P and, later, as Patti Cake$) as she seeks glory, and a better understanding of herself. Australian actress Danielle Macdonald was chosen to embody this role, and for good reason. At the movie’s Sundance premiere, John Cooper, the film festival’s director, stated, “Not since Jennifer Lawrence have I seen a star like this.” After seeing Patti Cake$ for myself, I can safely say that such a comment is not just talk.
Alongside Bridget Everett, Mamoudou Athie, Siddharth Dhananjay, and Cathy Moriarty, Danielle not only raps, but does so in a Jersey accent. As if that weren’t a feat in itself, the actress also displays the type of depth that reaches out and grabs you in the most endearing, gentle way. This is surely Danielle’s breakout performance, and you will not want to miss it (the movie premieres today!).
To give a better idea of both Patti and Danielle, the actress kindly agreed to answer a few of our Qs.
HelloGiggles (HG): While learning to rap for this film, did you learn anything that gave you a newfound respect for this art form?
Danielle Macdonald (DM): Yeah, definitely. 100%. The moment you attempt it and realize just how difficult it is, there’s automatically so much more respect, just because you’re aware of how difficult it is. And I wasn’t even writing the lyrics, you know? I’m just learning how to rap, and flow, and [about] melody, and I’m finding that incredibly difficult.
Then you have these people who are pouring their heart and soul out through lyrics, and it’s just a beautiful art form at its core…I always liked it, didn’t know that much about it though. After really getting into it…You know, hats are off. It’s insane.
HG: This movie made me think a lot about escapism — especially about how those who are discriminated against may look for a way out through art or creativity. With this in mind, what did your character see in rap?
DM: Going into certain films, sometimes without even knowing why, it just becomes a love. And I think that in Patti’s case, she loves writing, she loses herself through her work, also. She found that through rap. And I think rap at its core is really about when you’re in a very grave situation and it’s time to get out…She’s dreaming of more and dealing with the crap in her life that she’s trying to kind of escape from.
HG: One of the moments that stood out to me in the film was the rap battle between your character and one of the guys who insults her. I think it speaks to how our world can view women in an unequal light. I’m wondering if you had similar — or different — thoughts or feelings while filming this scene?
DM: The funny thing is, I was playing off [actor McCaul Lombardi]…He is incredible, and he was struggling to say these things. He was like, “I can’t say these things to you.” He hated it. It was funny because I was like, “No, just do it!”…Words only hurt you if you let them, you know what I mean?
[As Patti], I’m going, man, that guy I like, he kind of shit me out a bit…You think you’ve kind of got some form of respect, and you get punched down, and on top of that…It’s just commenting on you how you look. But that’s also such a cheap, easy option. When someone else is horrible to you and they’re like, “Let’s talk about how you look,” it’s like ohh wow! What is that? Even if it’s true, it does nothing! So it’s funny how childish it was, and [Patti] responded in kind.
I think we’ve all had moments where we’ve had someone in our lives turn to us and, in that moment, you want to say something, you have a comeback in your head. Sometimes, you don’t allow yourself to [say it]. I definitely don’t. I’m one of those people who’s like, “Yeah. Ignore. Ignore.” But Patti’s like, “You know what? I’m going to go for it. I’m going to show you.” That was very cathartic in a way, it was really fun.
It was a very safe space and when you feel like you’re in a safe space to do that, you’re allowed to be vulnerable. I was allowed to let down a few walls.
HG: Why do you think the world needs a character like Patti?
DM: I think that people want to feel represented. Honestly, I think that when we watch TV and film, we want to see stories that you can relate to, that bring emotions out of us. And a lot of the time, it’s a story that you would never really expect.
When I first read [this script], I thought, “Oh, I don’t relate to this movie in any way,” because this girl is really different from me, reacts different from me. I don’t know how I could ever play her. We have different interests. And then I was like, “Wait a minute! You’re in there. Let me cut to the heart of this’…I think everyone’s felt lost at some point and this is just about finding yourself. And living when things get shitty — just take it a day at a time until it gets better. Taking advantage of the opportunities that come your way.
I’ve had a lot of people, even much older generations, coming to me and saying, “I didn’t think that I would like this movie, I’m not into rap, but I came and watched it anyway, and now all I want to do is call my mom.” People will find different areas in which they relate to the movie and I love that, and I think that that’s what the world needs. It needs this movie. I think it gives you a little bit of hope, and I think that sometimes we need to feel good coming out of a movie.
HG: Do you have a favorite scene in the movie? Or do you have a favorite memory from filming?
DM: You only see a few seconds of it in the movie, but the Cleopatra mermaid music video. You see that just for a second, that was probably my favorite thing to shoot. Because it was week five at that point, we were almost done shooting, so the lack of sleep was really real for all of the cast and crew. Everyone’s been working really hard, because we had a really long, hard day of stunt work. Physically challenging, mentally challenging. And then we had an hour to get this done, and everyone was rushing to get it set up, and all of it was done, and it was just nothing to do because it was a really controlled environment. So everyone could just kind of stand around and not have to work and watch.
And it’s ridiculous, you know? [The director], Geremy, is like, “Pop the champagne bottle and spray it all over yourself!” It was just hilarious, it was that moment when everyone came together and we were just laughing, and we didn’t have to worry about sound because it was a pre-recorded thing…Everyone was laughing, and they were allowed to. It was one of those fun moments when everyone was just relaxed and got to enjoy it. It just felt like a really nice coming together, a nice little refreshing break-up that everyone needed.
HG: For you personally, what would you say that the main message is behind the movie?
DM: I think it’s about going for your dreams, not letting people bring you down, having self-belief, self-confidence.
I definitely think that it’s a story in which love really comes out on top…Like love in relationships, love in life, love in an art form. It really does come out on top if people are true with it.
If people could take something away from the movie, I would love them to take away that if the thing that they love, [the thing] they want to do, scares them, I would love them to just do it. Because with this movie, I love acting, I love the script, but it terrified me, and I’m so glad I did it. I learned a lot and I had the best experience, and I think that that’s what happiness is about: Doing something that terrifies you and learning from it and following your dreams. I’d love if people would take that from it.
HG: What can we expect from you in the future?
DM: I’m working on some projects right now that I’m really excited about. I’ve got a few lined up, but in the future, I would really like to do a bit of everything. I’d love to do a miniseries, TV, film, comedy, dramedy, suspense, thriller. I really would love to try a bit of everything. Just because I feel like there’s so many different ways to tell stories, and I just love the storytelling experience. I would love to experience all those different ways to do it.
You can catch Patti Cake$ in theaters today, August 18th.