Lara Peake: "It's really rewarding to hear that How to Have Sex has built a space for conversations around sex and consent"

Lara Peake photoshoot
(Image credit: Joseph Sinclair)

Lara Peake is one of Britain’s most exciting new talents. At just 25 years old, the actress has already worked on a number of impressive projects - from How To Talk To Girls At Parties with Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning, to The Salt Path with Gillian Anderson, and her breakout role in BBC’s riveting drama, Born To Kill.

Most recently, Peake starred as Skye alongside Mia McKenna-Bruce in the Cannes-winning film, How To Have Sex. The movie, which premiered in cinemas last month, has been praised for its powerful exploration of consent and everyone is talking about it. The compelling film follows a group of teenage girls on a rite of passage holiday as they navigate sexual encounters and relationships. It has since received rave reviews and landed 13 nominations at the British Independent Film Awards last weekend, including a win for Mia McKenna-Bruce in the Best Lead Performance category. 

Just after the BIFA Awards, Marie Claire UK sat down with Lara Peake to discuss her acting prowess, her character in How To Have Sex, and the powerful themes threaded through this film.

How has your career evolved since your early days as a teenager actor? What was your experience like? 

I felt so fortunate and excited all the time. I had such an eagerness to learn and still do. I try and check in as much as I can on where I’m at and what else I could be trying out. But at that age, stepping onto a set was a totally different world to me. It really did feel magical. 

How to Have Sex received 13 impressive nominations for this year's BIFA awards - what drew you to the film in the first place?

The script and, of course, Molly Manning Walker. The world felt so real, and the dialogue between each of the characters was so recognisable. There’s an exciting energy around Molly and her work, her storytelling is unconventional and brave and I wanted to witness that.

It immediately felt like a conversation starter of a project. In rehearsals the discussions we were having where really eye opening - we were like, "Oh my God, we really need to tell this story". We all really bonded and built trust in one another over that period which proved to be really essential for when we got out to Malia on the shoot. 

Lara Peake Photoshoot

(Image credit: Joseph Sinclair)

What challenges did you encounter while portraying Skye?

She’s a tricky one, because a lot of her actions are unkind and come from a place of jealousy. But I tried not to judge her too heavily on that. She’s young, and to me it always felt like there were larger reasons as to why her behaviour is the way it is. There’s a vulnerability to her, and I guess one of the main challenges was playing how much she tries to keep that vulnerability hidden from others.  

What do you tend to look for first in a project - is it the director or the script? 

Both combined. If there’s a clear vision from the director for the project and the storytelling is great then it’s a no brainer. I love subversive stories and those that pose questions to an audience. 

Role-wise, I get hungry for a challenge so if something comes through that’s really out of my comfort zone then I’m going to run at it as best I can. 

The film highlights themes of consent and female advocacy. What was it like experimenting with that as an actress? 

It felt like we had a responsibility, not just to highlight these experiences but to turn up and do our best everyday so that we were doing them justice. That said, it was difficult at times and there were certain scenes or days when it took a toll on me. But it’s really rewarding to hear that the film has built a space for conversations around sex and consent. 

What are the three values that you live by that you would pass on to other women? 

  1. Be patient with yourself. You’re not going to get everything right
  2. Do what you would do if you knew you couldn’t fail
  3. Be yourself, not who somebody else wants you to be

Do you have any dream roles or genres that you would like to explore in the future?

Ah, so many! I’d love to push myself physically for a role; I think the discipline of that could be a fun challenge, to play an assassin or a boxer or something like that where you’re required to train each day and be in a certain mindset. I love investigative stories too, those like Spotlight and She Said - I’d love to be involved in a project like that. 

How to Have Sex is available to watch in selected cinemas now. 

Sofia Piza
Fashion Writer

Sofia Piza is the Fashion Writer at Marie Claire UK. 

Sofia Piza is a Fashion Writer with experience working across runway trends, shopping picks, creative production, and celebrity fashion news. Born in Mexico and raised in five countries, Sofia decided to settle in London after spending four years at the London College of Fashion, studying Fashion Journalism. When she's not sourcing inspiration from social media, you will most certainly find Sofia anywhere from a local vintage market to busy central London streets people watching - the possibilities are endless.