Eurovision Song Contest star Mae Muller has spoken to PinkNews about making a bold career move as her debut movie hits cinemas.
It’s not even a year since Muller was named as the UK’s song contest entrant and her single “I Wrote A Song”, became her first UK Top 10 hit. But the Eurovision dream soured on the big night, as she ended up in 25th place – above only Germany.
However, Muller persevered, and, five years after the release of her debut single “Close”, her first album, Sorry I’m Late, arrived in September, cracking the top 40 at number 33.
Now, she’s back. This time though, she’s on the big screen rather than a big stage, making her first film appearance: in George Amponsah’s British crime drama, Gassed Up.
“I’d never really done any acting before, but I’d been interested,” Muller tells PinkNews. “I studied it at school, and done some school plays and stuff, so I was like: ‘Let me try. What’s the worst that can happen?’”
Muller plays Kelly, a Londoner who becomes the love interest of the capital’s most hesitant street gang member, Ash (Boiling Point’s Stephen Odubola). As he becomes increasingly morally torn about his involvement in thefts and robberies, Kelly has to make a choice about whether she wants to get roped into his dark world.
“She knows what she wants, but she has boundaries,” Muller says. “She’s not about to go down. I’m not about to be brought down by a man.”
Originally, her then label, Capitol Records – they went their separate ways in January – was asked if any of the artists on their roster could contribute to the soundtrack. But when one of the film’s producers spotted her, they saw exactly what they were looking for in Kelly and asked if the singer would be up for dipping her toes into acting.
Mae Muller at the premiere of Gassed Up. (Getty/Karwai Tang
Despite her lack of experience, it was an opportunity she couldn’t turn down. “I didn’t know if I could even act. I was like: ‘I don’t know, girl’,” she says.
Even after the film was finished, she was nervous about how it would turn out. It wasn’t until she saw it for the first time that she was finally able to relax.
“Maybe I needed to have a bit more faith in myself, because everyone on set was telling me: ‘You’re such a natural’. Watching it is a different thing than doing it, and it gave me more belief that this is something I could do. I enjoy it and I’m not bad at it.”
Mae Muller gets involved with British gangsters in her debut film Gassed Up. (YouTube/Vertigo Releasing)
As a child studying at Fine Arts College in London’s Hampstead, she was first inspired by Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. Since then, her taste has refined slightly. Most recently, she saw the “inspiring icon” Andrew Scott in Vanya and All of Us Strangers, and found love for him as an actor who can “make you cry [and] laugh within two minutes of each other”.
After watching him, and having her first taste of the acting world, she’s “gagging” to do it again, and last month, she was signed by an acting agent.
“That’s really exciting, so hopefully I’ll get more auditions,” she says. “I’m looking forward to playing, I guess, more challenging roles as well – where it’s not so similar to who I am, and test myself.
“You’ll be seeing things from me in the future.”
Although Muller might be about to break into the film industry, her music fans have no cause for concern. She’s still writing, still recording, but she’s doing it her way.
At the beginning of the year, she shared a statement on social media saying that she had “lost sight” of why she fell in love with music in the first place, expressing her distress at having to “chase hits” and making creative decisions that “didn’t sit well” with her.
As a result, she will now release music independently.
“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking,” she reflects. “In the past few years, I’ve hit some career highs and I’ve had the biggest hits of my career, but my actual identity of why I started this got lost.”
Muller came to a crossroads: She could continue releasing songs that did well but that she didn’t believe in, or “do the scary thing, which is to stop, because I haven’t stopped for three years”. The best way to “recalibrate” was to leave her label.
“This is not to say my label were terrible. This is not one of those stories,” she insists. “There were things I feel could have been handled better but as a whole they have been really great and supportive. What we both want as a label and as an artist is not going together.”
As an independent musician, she can write, record and release what she wants, when she wants. It also means she can pause music to focus on acting.
“That’s why this film and acting has come along [at] the best [time],” she says. “It’s not like I’m stopping music and doing acting, but it’s something new I can put my energy into and something new that I can learn.
“Music isn’t going anywhere, I want people to know that. I’m getting back into the studio and back to writing songs I actually like.”
Mae Muller has always been made to feel safe in LGBTQ+ spaces. (Getty/ Dia Dipasupil)
Whatever happens after the release of Gassed Up, Muller is guaranteed the support of the LGBTQ+ community who, through Eurovision and beyond, have continued to shower her with love and support.
“It’s changed my life,” she says of her queer fan base. “The fact that the LGBTQ+ community have naturally warmed to me is the biggest gift, because I’ve always felt really safe in LGBTQ+ spaces.”
Her favourite nights out are in LGBTQ+ bars and Pride festivals, with her queer friends. In return, she sees it as her duty to share the same love, respect and sense of safety with the community.
“If I feel so safe in their space, I want you to feel just as safe in mine,” she explains. “It made the whole Eurovision experience much more enjoyable. It’s a really nice place to be.”
Gassed Up opens in UK cinemas today (9 February).