“It wasn’t just a teacher and a student,” Ali Fazal says of the previously almost unknown relationship between a young Muslim clerk from India and Queen Victoria revealed in Victoria & Abdul. “It was love, it was friendship.”

Joining Oscar winner Judi Dench for another performance as Victoria, the Bollywood star and Furious 7 actor was onstage at the DGA Theater last month during Deadline’s The Contenders awards-season event. Along with Fazal, BAFTA winner Adeel Akhtar was also in front of the packed house of Academy and key guild voters. The Four Lions vet cracked up the crowd up discussing his role as Abdul’s ornery companion Mohammed.

Based on Shrabani Basu’s book, the Stephen Frears-helmed film debuted at the Venice Film Festival and was released on this side of the pond September 22. As well as Fazal, Dench and Akhtar, this slice of suppressed history also stars Eddie Izzard, Michael Gambon, Olivia Williams, Paul Higgins and the late Tim Piggot-Smith.

That ensemble in part led to my colleague and fellow Contenders host Pete Hammond calling Victoria & Abdul “splendid all around” in his review this year.

Check out our conversation above.