Patel has his first major leading role in the musical drama as a singer-songwriter who becomes a pop phenom using the work of The Beatles after waking up in a world where they’ve been forgotten.
In an interview with Variety, his director Danny Boyle explained that one of the reasons he was most excited about casting Patel is because he’s primarily known for his TV work.
“I must admit, when we were looking for people, there’s something really beneficial about this person being someone you don’t know, someone who is propelled to a more-popular-than-Jesus kind of stardom, that he would come out of nowhere,” he said.
However, the filmmaker admitted that studio bosses at Universal Pictures needed convincing since Himesh was best known for playing Tamwar Masood in EastEnders prior to his casting in in Yesterday.
“I had to persuade the studio to go with him,” Boyle recalled. “They were reluctant, but they understood when they saw his audition. I tried to be very responsible about casting.
“It’s a lot of money to use the Beatles songs and you have a responsibility to try and earn it back. Universal had success with Lily James in Mamma Mia 2, so she gave the studio some reassurance that we weren’t making a private film about the Beatles. We wanted to share it with as many people as possible.”
Of course, Himesh eventually did land the role and he’s potentially poised for Hollywood stardom — but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s closing the door on his soap past either.
The actor told Digital Spy recently that he’d “never say never” to returning to EastEnders in the future.
Yesterday is in UK cinemas on Friday (June 28).