The star of one of the most critically acclaimed and all-over-the-world beloved series “Sex Education,” Patricia Allison is a deeply intense and incredibly brilliant human. To anything I dared ask her, she had the best answers, and that’s what struck me the most about her (besides her already widely known performing talent) – I just couldn’t stop telling her, all I wanted to do was express my admiration, for her vision and her work. Because we really need to find a language to express our emotions: that’s what she taught me, and that’s what she wants our society to acknowledge.
In other words, what better fit and source of enrichment for our Mental Health Format? And the best Cover Story we could wish for, this month.
Generational cross-overs and overturning, thirst for communication and self-analysis, the riddles of our mind, flesh and soul, the dream of an unfiltered and unashamed approach to sex, of a world where we get to properly learn about our body as a whole and open dialogues that have never been legitimized before – between a walk, a quick bite and a car drive, Trish beautifully got carried away by such thoughts, in the name of change, the only constant in our lives. Because we’re human beings and, in perfect harmony with the nature from which we originated and to which we always go back, we’re ever-changing: the key to handling our fluid lives is accepting them for what they are and ourselves for who we are.
Gratefulness is the clue, forefront is the path – a mantra to depict Patricia Allison. That’s it.
They often say that the teenage years are difficult. If you think about your childhood and adolescence, what comes to your mind?
I think that’s a really interesting question. Teenage years can be very difficult because you’re adjusting to all the hormones that are coming into your body and you don’t know how to cope with it sometimes, I remember that. The first thing that comes to mind, when I think about being a teenager and growing up and that stuff, is the idea of always trying to find myself, at 15 or 16 asking myself, “Who am I?”, at 18 still doing the same thing, and now I’m 27 and I’m still doing the same thing, it’s really funny. I guess it doesn’t change, or it does change, but it changes in a different way. So, it’s all about remembering that you’re always young, you’re always learning, and each stage is always a new one.
Are there any rituals or things you do when you wake up in the morning, or when you go to sleep? For example, some people, before going to bed at night, make a list of things they are grateful for, or stuff like that… What’s your thing, instead?
That’s nice. I’ve started making a mental list when I’m stretching at night before I go to bed – I have to stretch before I go to sleep because otherwise, I can’t sleep, and do a little meditation, like 10 minutes of just breathing and clearing out my head. In that space, I definitely take the time to be grateful for my day. I also learned that the more time I spend being grateful, the less time I spend allowing fear and anxiety into my life, and so, when I actualize my gratitude, I feel so good from it because it also shows me there’s something I might be struggling with, even when I think that I’m not struggling with anything. It puts everything into perspective again, and it’s so important for me to be able to carry on to know myself and to know who is serving me in my life, what is serving me.
Moments of gratitude help you do that and they can also help you filter out the things that you don’t need, which I think is just as crucial.
With “Sex Education” you all started a very important dialogue. What kind of path have you followed through your life to become who you are today, to be able to speak openly the way you do?
That’s a really great question. I feel that sometimes accepting the path that you’re on already is a start, as well as feeling like, “Okay, this is where I am, this is where I’m starting from,” and also that every individual is different. I’m a very spiritual person and that always comes into my work and it comes into how I view my life in terms of where I want to go, and so, over the years, more so now since “Sex Education,” I’ve had the time and the privilege to get to know lots of books and authors, women that I really like to follow, who have helped me find a voice and another language, another way of communicating, and for me, books are the best thing, I really love reading; that’s another ritual of mine, something that I love to do in my day because I find that taking that time for silence, to read, learning something, is just great, and people are writing such exciting books at the moment. Our world is ever-changing, constantly, if you think about the way that we view gender, each other, and relationships, and how we relate to the space, to ourselves, and all of that dialogue, and so that’s the path I want to be on, I want to be always on the forefront of change, I always want to be able to admit when I’d been wrong before, and not berate myself but move on in a very healthy way, learning from my mistakes and allowing myself to make mistakes. I think that’s what we forget, that’s what helps you figure out who you are, sometimes.
Because we’re human beings…
Yes, we’re human beings, we make mistakes, and it’s okay to fail because it means you’re taking risks, it means that you’re being courageous. I think that’s something I really want to be doing, be courageous and be brave, and sometimes that means failing and not succeeding in that one moment because you have to lose a battle to win a war. Maybe not everything is always as it seems, and we should not be taking every “negative” thing that happens to you as being a negative situation because you don’t know which doors it might open. So, that’s the path that I want to take on, also not being afraid to really know myself, to say “no” to the things that I don’t want to do, to set boundaries, with myself, too, so I don’t work too much and have time for myself because that can be difficult, as well – when you’re an actor, you are your work, so, then, when do you switch off?
“You have to lose a battle to win a war”
How important do you think it is to be educated about sex but also about things like emotions and empathy?
I think it’s very important to be educated about sex and our bodies, we have to take care of it, it’s part of your self-care, to take care of yourself and to understand yourself. Part of it, for me, is also reclaiming knowledge – I feel like, in my time in school, I didn’t learn enough about the female reproductive system, which hormones are working at different times causing things to come into effect, so I’m doing my own education, I’m curious about finding out that.
But I wonder what it would be like if it was introduced in schools in a different way; I wonder if we need to look at sex instead of being so fucking scared of it and scared of the prudishness of it, and feeling awkward and uncomfortable because of all our own insecurities and problems.
Because we’re all human beings, we’re all dealing with that, right? We need to realize that there needs to be another universal language to talk about emotions and what’s happening with sex and not disconnecting that, and seeing the body as a whole, seeing the mental health aspect of it, and that needing to be just as important as physically protecting yourself with a condom, and also, what situation you can put people in if you behave in a certain way.
Are there any books, or authors that you particularly like, that speak to your heart?
Yes, there are many authors that I love. There’s been some new authors writing a lot of really interesting books, especially people of color who are writing about LGBTQ issues, transgender issues, being gay and being black, what it’s like to be a woman. “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo is an amazing one, also “The Transgender Issue” by Shon Faye is another really good one, that’s what I’m reading right now.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is also an amazing author, she wrote “Americanah,” where she writes about immigration really well. Bell Hooks, too, “All About Love” is a really good book she wrote, and I think it talks about misogyny in a really positive way, and it’s hard to do so! It’s all about love and her views on how we can do it, and I love how she looks at the world.
There is still a huge taboo on psychotherapy or, in general, on searching for help (at least in Italy). Have you ever felt that and how would you like to change it?
Yes, in the UK as well. Although recently my family has gotten together, we’ve spoken about it, and they said things like, “I’ve been feeling a bit emotional,” and I let them know that we can talk about that. People from the older generations in my family are now coming to us for ways of communication and finding out what it is that they’re going through, and how they’re feeling, it’s new. I feel like we should really try to get rid of this taboo on psychotherapy because we all need somebody to talk to, do yoga, and do any kind of exercise to help clear our mind; it doesn’t have to mean anything, it’s just nice to have someone to talk to and to understand how to express and process emotions.
We all need an outlet.
“People from the older generations in my family are now coming to us for ways of communication and finding out what it is that they’re going through…”
From what you say, you are very bonded with nature. What’s its role in your life?
It’s everything. Vitality. It’s like the umbilical cord of the world. Number one, it’s all around us, it’s the air that we breathe, it grounds me, it helps inspire me, the sun gets me up and gets me going, it’s everything for me. I try and be grateful for it because I feel like we can also forget the fact that the stars come out at night and the moon has its cycle, and these things just happen all the time, the sun rises and sets and we don’t have to do anything for that, just like we don’t have to do anything with breathing, it just happens. All these things are happening and have been happening for so long, and that gives me great comfort because they’re here and have bigger power than we might know.
Nature just recharges you, in a way.
It recharges me! I actually ground myself, so I go earthing – you know, when you put your feet in the earth and you can actually change the ions in your body, so you release all the positive ions and get all the negative ions, which is a good thing because, with all our phones and computers and everything we’re dealing with all the time, we’re sponges, we’re taking all of this information. It’s so important to detox, and start again and go forest bathing, just walking through trees is bathing, you’re actually bathing yourself, and to be conscious of that is a beautiful thing, allowing yourself to refresh and change your mind, releasing emotion.
I think nature can be our best friend if we use it correctly. That’s why we’ve got to take care of our environment and that’s why I’m so bitterly disappointed that it’s taken so long for the governments to take the climate revolution seriously; now, so many young people have been taking the matter into their own hands, suing these corporations, suing the governments, and I think that’s exciting, I fully am behind that.
How important is it for you to be consistent with yourself or, on the contrary, sometimes not to be consistent at all?
That’s a really good one! [laughs] I try so hard to be consistent, but my schedule is changing all the time in terms of different jobs that I do, different places I might be traveling to, different time zones that I’m in, so the one consistency that I might have in my life is my little routines, the things that I do right when I wake up or just before I go to bed: I’ll definitely have to have time to read or 20 minutes where I just listen to music and I’m by myself like almost napping, it’s a must, regardless. So that’s the one consistency in my life, just knowing when I need to take time for myself and find the time to do that because I’ve not been very good at it in the past.
That’s my one constant, it reminds me to keep myself healthy.
Have you ever felt alone? If so, how did you face that?
Yeah, I feel alone all the time! [laughs] But it’s good. Every time I feel lonely, I remind myself, again because I’m quite spiritual, how many “mes” are here right now. I actually thank myself for turning up, and I say to myself, “Let’s go on a date, let’s make something out of this time that we’ve got together, let’s discover what we like and what we don’t like… and masturbation is always great when we’re lonely! [laughs] That’s also part of it. I’m trying to change my mindset about it, so when I find myself feeling, “Oh no, I’m panicking, I’m feeling lonely, I’m feeling bored,” I’m reminding myself I don’t need anybody else to make me feel something. What is it that I’m needing from that person? So, it’s also a time for reflection: why do I feel like I need somebody? Maybe I haven’t paid enough attention to myself. When I do something that I want to do, I’m fine and I don’t feel alone anymore. But even if you do feel alone, you should just remember that you’ve got your mind, your body, and your soul with you, and they’re all talking.
“…WHY DO I FEEL LIKE I NEED SOMEBODY? MAYBE I HAVEN’T PAID ENOUGH ATTENTION TO MYSELF.”
What’s sensuality for you?
Smell. Good smell. Soft-touch. Comfortable, warm environment. Soft kisses. Love, loving someone, touching someone with a real intention that is compassionate and really kind.
What was the best “fuck you” of your life?
Each time I get over a major fear of mine; the first time I went sky diving.
What’s the latest thing you’ve discovered about yourself?
I’ve rediscovered my courage, which is interesting. I’ve been meditating on it, and I’ve been thinking, “What makes me courageous now? What is it that I can do that gives me courage?”. The first thing that came to my head was to not feel happy all the time, to allow myself to feel everything that I’m feeling, and to not turn any feelings away or try to push any feelings down…
…to just have the courage to feel.
You recently talked about directing and producing. What are the stories you dream to tell and how would you love to touch people’s hearts and souls doing that?
There’s a really interesting story that I want to tell but haven’t quite written out yet, and I want to make it into something: it has to do with the environment and all-time farming in Kenya. The women there are farmers, the men don’t do the farming, it’s the women, and there’s so much history in that, in the way that they have combated desert land and no water to enable to grow trees and farm, and obviously, climate change is just happening, so it’s important to understand that what our world might be turning into is going to become very volatile, and it’s already becoming very volatile in a lot of places in and around where I grew up in Africa.
I want to tell stories that are politically charged and active, but also have a lot of heart, some relatable topics, and maybe something new that we’ve not seen before. I like these kinds of ways of looking at it, almost like a mockumentary/documentary, but more historically relevant; maybe it can be informative, too, informing on how we can take these traditional farming methods into the future, into right now, and carry on.
Did you fall in love with acting and directing overnight, or was it kind of gradual?
I felt like acting was the only way in which I could communicate with myself. When I found that, I thought, “Oh, this makes sense to me, I like to use my energy in this way, and I feel like I can serve these stories;” I felt like I could understand these characters and so I really wanted to take pleasure in being there with them. That was something that’s always been with me. In terms of directing, that has come since being on “Sex Education,” actually, and watching Ben Taylor direct, and enjoying this process of filmmaking, improvising, and that also comes from my drama school days at East 15 improvising and creating work. So, that incentive to become a director was always in the back of my head, I just didn’t know how to link it. Shadowing and watching people work is the most amazing thing because you learn so much, and that’s what makes me fall in love with something, when I watch someone really good at their job just doing it, it gives you such a good buzz. If you have somebody who’s helpful and nice enough to explain the ropes, then you understand where you can come from, and I think that’s part of it with directing, it’s also knowing the equipment that you’re working with, the actors. Having a background in acting is definitely helping me with directing because I can see what I want, and I can see where I want to go.
“I felt like acting was the only way in which I could communicate with myself.”
What do you take comfort from?
I have a weighted blanket that is just incredible! [laughs] It’s like a five-pound weighted blanket that’s just changed my freaking life, and I take comfort from that…
But, seriously, I take comfort from the awareness that change is a constant, so we can’t be afraid of change because, as we’ve said before, it’s something that’s actually the one consistent in our life, that changes all the time.
What scares you the most?
Complacency. I get scared that I will not care about what it is that I’m doing. The possibility that I’ll end up doing something that I’m comfortable in, and I become a bit complacent. Loads of things scare me, obviously, but in terms of artistry, it’s just that you don’t want to get stuck.
What makes you feel safe, instead?
It’s so funny, but it’s my little dog. Anyone who has a pet probably feels the same way, but she makes me feel safe in the way that she gives me that constant love that’s unconditional love; of course, our parents love us unconditionally, but there’s conditional love everywhere! I guess she makes me feel safe because she reminds me that there’s so much goodness in the world, to remind you that there’s so much love and to be forgiving; through my dog, I have learned so much about myself and that’s such a nice thing, I feel like family with her.
What does it mean for you to have respect for yourself?
That’s so important. For me, to have respect for myself is wonderful, it’s a good place to start, I feel like you can’t have respect for other people and no one else will have respect for you unless you have respect for yourself and love for yourself.
What would you personally call “essential”?
Essential means something that I can put in a bag and I can fly away with to go to a certain place at a certain time because I often find myself realizing, “Oh, I’ve got to go there in a couple of hours because I’m shooting this tomorrow” and it’s just happened because my life sometimes is just a surprise and I’m always jumping from one place to the next. Essential is, bare minimum, taking care of myself first and foremost, making sure that I’m able to get up and do what I need to do. Essential: water, love, and hugs.