Liverpool actor Kayleigh Coleman is celebrating after her first ever film, Aftersun, was nominated for four BAFTA awards.
1 year ago
The 21-year-old actor was actually considering quitting acting when she landed a role alongside Normal People’s Paul Mescal.
It’s gone on to become a huge hit with critics and filmgoers, not only getting BAFTA recognition but also an Oscar nomination for its leading man actor Paul Mescal.
Kayleigh, who shot Aftersun on location in Turkey during summer 2021, says she’s been blown away by the response.
“It’s still really weird for me to think that what we did has come this far, but I really do believe that the film deserves every single success it gets,” she says. “I’m so proud of this film, the fact it’s independent and it’s British, and it makes me quite emotional to think how it’s beaten the odds.”
Former Maghull High School pupil Kayleigh studied drama at Rare Studio in Liverpool after her GCSEs.
She fell in love with performing at a young age and joined LHK Productions’ youth theatre as a teenager.
“I remember my first time being on the Epstein stage and looking out onto the audience. I had this mix of nervousness and excitement and just absolute wonder for what I was doing.
“I also used to do technician work there because I was so infatuated by the arts, every part of it – being on stage, off stage, behind the scenes.
“I knew I just wanted to do this every single day of my life and being at Rare, surrounded by such like-minded people, it was like a family and the teachers are amazing.”
Kayleigh, who lives in Walton, was at Rare and in her second year of auditioning for drama schools when she got the email about Aftersun.
“I’d just been rejected from LAMDA and I was so down, telling myself I wasn’t worth anything. I’d worked so hard but I was at a point where I was thinking maybe I shouldn’t go to drama school, maybe I wasn’t good enough for this industry.
“Then I got an email from 20 Storeys High which is a fantastic youth company based in Liverpool. I’d been doing sessions with them but I hadn’t been for about six months because we’d only just come out of lockdown.
“It was an open call from a casting director called Lucy Pardee who is well known for street casting, so she goes to places where she believes there will be talent that hasn’t had the opportunities, so no agent or privileges that a lot of people have getting into the industry.
“This email just said it was a film in Turkey, for two weeks, needs to be OK with intimacy. I thought, I might as well go for it, what have I got to lose?
“That day I taped with my mum – she was fantastic and supportive, she always has been – and I sent it off. I found out two days later that they’d already cast the part I was going for, but they said they really wanted to see me again for the part of Jane. I did a chemistry test over Zoom with Lucy and two possible young lads to play the part of Scott, my character’s boyfriend, and the following day I found out I’d got the part and I was flying out the next Friday to Turkey. I was absolutely gobsmacked, at first I thought it was a mistake then I read it again and I was just screaming.”
Kayleigh was even more excited when she discovered who had been cast in the lead male part.
“When I found out Paul was going to be in it, my head was just blown. He’s so talented and such a lovely lovely person.”
Kayleigh says her whole experience on Aftersun was everything she could have hoped for and more.
“It was a debut direct from Charlotte Wells who’s absolutely incredible and just understands actors, and everyone from producers to runners was just so kind so I felt really cared for.”
Seeing herself on the big screen at the film’s BFI premiere was surreal, she adds. “I wasn’t expecting it to blow up or get the big premiere like it did, so I was wearing an ASOS suit and fake pearls I’d bought secondhand. I remember sitting there with hundreds of people watching the film and when I came on screen for a second I cringed, then I felt a hand grab my hand and it was little Frankie who plays Sophie going, ‘there’s you, there’s you’!”
Since filming Aftersun Kayleigh has won a place at Rose Bruford drama school, where Liverpool actor Stephen Graham – who’s top of her co-star wish list, along with Jodie Comer – also studied.
As for the upcoming awards season, she still can’t quite believe it’s all happening.
“Ben Stiller tweeted about Aftersun and former President Barack Obama said it was one of his top films of the year. It feels like a dream.
“If I’d told 14-year-old me, the girl who had no self-confidence, who had really bad body issues and was constantly down on herself, that in seven years this would be happening, I would never have believed it.”