Rami Malek said he felt “incredibly insecure” the moment he put in the prop teeth designed to make him look like Freddie Mercury – and immediately realized how important the real teeth had been to the development of the Queen icon’s character.

Malek has been connected with Oscar rumors for his performance in Bohemian Rhapsody, which opens in theaters on Nov. 2. He previously revealed he’d had the prop teeth coated in gold and kept them as a memento, noting it was “probably the most ostentatious thing” he’d ever done, and that it was “in the spirit of Freddie.”

Speaking on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on Monday, Malek said, “I had these teeth that I wear, and the first time I put them in my mouth I felt incredibly insecure. Then I found myself compensating – sitting straight, more elegant. He had the best posture. You start to think, ‘Oh! These are the reasons why he is who he is.’”

You can watch the full interview below.

Mercury was famously self-conscious about the fact that having four extra teeth at the back of his mouth pushed his front teeth into an overbite, and yet he refused to undergo surgery to address the issue, partly because he worried that it would affect his singing voice.

On Tonight, Malek also recalled the experience of shooting Queen’s legendary appearance at Live Aid on the first day of filming. “I thought, ‘They must have a reason for doing this,” he said. “‘If we get through this and we suck, they’ll just pull the plug on the whole production. Pack it up and go home.’ [They’d think,] ‘We gave $60 million and we don’t have to watch this B-rate version of Queen for three months!’”

He noted the “baptism of fire” left him feeling like “winning an Oscar” when he actually received a call sheet for the next day’s shooting.

 

 

Freddie Mercury Year by Year: Photos 1973-1990