The next Jennifer Lawrence?

Actress Danielle Macdonald (above) plays a burly teenager who becomes an in-your-face rapper named Killa P. in comedic drama Patti Cake$.
Actress Danielle Macdonald (above) plays a burly teenager who becomes an in-your-face rapper named Killa P. in comedic drama Patti Cake$.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PARK CITY (Utah) • "Not since Jennifer Lawrence have I seen a star like this."

That is how John Cooper, the long-time director of the Sundance Film Festival, described Danielle Macdonald, 25, ahead of the premiere of her movie here yesterday.

Pressure? Just a little.

In 2010, a then-unknown Lawrence arrived at Sundance in the film Winter's Bone and rocketed into the Hollywood stratosphere.

But Macdonald, curled up on a sofa last Saturday as a snowstorm spun outside, could not quite bring herself to believe that her moment may have arrived.

"I still can't really believe I even got the part," she said.

Macdonald, who is Australian, plays the title role in Patti Cake$, a comedic drama about a burly New Jersey teenager - dealing with a boozy mother, a chain-smoking grandmother and boyfriends (plural) - who becomes an in-your-face rapper named Killa P.

Macdonald, who lives in Los Angeles, helped the film's director, Geremy Jasper, who is known for music videos, develop the character in workshops.

To her shock, she said, he asked her to stay on. "I guess he's just a loyal person," she said.

Or he knows talent when he sees it. The supporting Patti Cake$ cast includes Bridget Everett, known for Inside Amy Schumer; newcomers Mamoudou Athie and Siddharth Dhananjay; and the inimitable Cathy Moriarty.

Here are excerpts from an interview with Macdonald ahead of her debut:

You seem like such a sweet person. Where did the profane, aggressive Killa P. come from?

Her heart, I understood. Her soul, I understood. Her passions, her needs - I got those. I could relate to Patti on the inside, so it was doable.

You rap extensively in this movie. Was that the most challenging part of the role?

The movement was actually the hardest part. How she walks. How she holds her arms when she's performing. That, weirdly, was the hardest thing for me to get.

How did you overcome that?

I had an amazing rap coach named Skyzoo. He helped me be more in my body.

When you rap, you're using all of yourself. And it slowly became a bit easier. I was conscious of my movement at first and I needed to be unconscious of it.

Your character gets treated pretty horribly by some local jerks. Calling her Dumbo, making fun of her weight. Did those aspects of the script give you any pause?

The script is different from how it started. I can't remember how much was in there at the beginning.

But generally the name-calling didn't bother me. Words are just words. They bother you only if you let them.

I will say, though, that one of the people I was acting with struggled to talk to me in that way.

I told him: "Look, it's fine. Just do it. It's just acting."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2017, with the headline 'The next Jennifer Lawrence?'. Print Edition | Subscribe