Earlier this year, Evanna Lynch ― the actress who got her start when she was cast at Luna Lovegood in the “Harry Potter” film series ― announced on Instagram that she was ready to take on new endeavors.
“I feel like I’m stuck in my 18-year-old self artistically when I actually have a lot more to say,” the actress wrote on Instagram, addressing her choice to move on from regularly attending “Harry Potter” conventions.
Now, just a few months later, she’s starring in a forthcoming play in London, an update on Enda Walsh’s “Disco Pigs,” a story about a pair of teens who speak in their own intimate, expressive language. Lynch says the play is in keeping with the types of roles she hopes to pursue in the future: bold characters and unabashed misfits.
Below, Lynch discusses her recent starring role in the indie film “My Name is Emily,” and why she can’t help but return to Hogwarts stories, which, she says, have a “resetting effect” on her.
First, I’d love to hear about “Disco Pigs.” How did you get involved with the project?
I wanted to do theater for a while, but I only recently moved to London so I only had that opportunity for a while.
I loved the script; it was so different from anything I’d read before. The language is so strange and idiosyncratic. I find the story very romantic. It’s these two teenagers, and they have their own little world. I always connect to characters who do things their own way, and who don’t really set their standards by other people.
What for you was the biggest difference between stage acting and on-screen acting?
On-screen it’s nice because you get to film over a long period of time. Stage is different because ― for this play, anyway, it’s only an hour. Whereas on film you mull with it, you know, a month to six weeks, probably six to eight weeks, you’re with the character every single day, obsessed with them, thinking of them.
[In theater] you’re running on adrenaline. There’s a lot of fear. That aspect you don’t have in film, which is nice, it takes the pressure off.
You also had a fairly recent film that was released in the U.S. this year, “My Name is Emily.” This was your first starring role in a film. How was that experience different from your past work?
For one thing it was an independent movie, so there were a lot fewer resources. More responsibility, which I find very exciting. I felt like I was more of a collaborator. And I don’t know if that’s just about the position I was in, or if that’s my age. Because when I started the “Potter” films I was 14, I was more of a child, and on “My Name Is Emily,” that was the first time I was a collaborating artist. That was really exciting.
I just focused on the work. I’m not trying to make friends with everyone. I’ve seen with other films, the central cast member will try to really welcome everyone and I thought about that, but it’s just not me. I’m quite shy, I’m quite introverted, I like to sit and watch people. I feel like that’s how I learn about people, how I study them. So, it wasn’t a whole lot different for me. Yes, there was added pressure, but you have to do everything you can to not think about the pressure.
“I think I went through most of primary school and high school just feeling like I hadn’t really met my people, and “Harry Potter” felt like my people. They were the kind of friends I wanted to have.”
By the time you were cast as Luna you were already a fan of the “Potter” books. What did you love most about the books?
I just loved it because it really felt like I understood the people ― the teenagers. I just felt like they were my friends. I loved that it was just like a bunch of misfits, and they were the heroes of the story. And I’d never read a book series before where the characters were so relatable, and inspiring in how relatable they were. I felt what they were doing, and what they were grappling with. The books just had this amazing ability to make me feel not alone. And I think I went through most of primary school and high school just feeling like I hadn’t really met my people, and “Harry Potter” felt like my people. They were the kind of friends I wanted to have.
Of course it was also a more fascinating world than what I was involved in. It just made me believe in things that were different.
I actually read Prisoner of Azkaban around Christmastime. I had a craving for it; I don’t know why. I often do press events and conventions, and I get asked a lot of questions. It was a point of pride that I was like a walking encyclopedia for the books. And I realized my trivia had been slipping the last few years. I was like, oh, this can’t fall away. This is something I need to maintain.
It’s just me being a nerd. The books almost have a resetting effect on me. They bring me back to who I am. And the films are sort of different because it became a career, and it’s so entwined with who I am as a public figure, which I don’t want to think about when I’m reading. The books still remind me of who I am.
Do you have a favorite “Potter” character besides Luna?
I always liked Dumbledore because he’s so wise, and he’s got such a deep mind and thinks so deeply on things, but he’s also able to enjoy the finer things in life. I like that.
And then recently I realized I really like [Gilderoy] Lockhart. I sort of admire that obliviousness he has. He doesn’t seem to be aware of what people think of him, or that not everyone wants his autograph. I think I’m probably too self-conscious. Not in an insecure way, but I have this paranoid thing where I’ll often think people are giving me a weird look or something. My best friend always points it out, he’s like, really, it’s not about you. […] My mind makes up weird stories, and I started to really love Lockhart for how he doesn’t do that. He does the opposite. He assumes everyone loves him. I just think it’s so funny.
“The films [...] became a career, and it’s so entwined with who I am as a public figure, which I don’t want to think about when I’m reading. The books still remind me of who I am.”
I want to ask about your activist work. It seems that you use your platform to promote your causes ― especially veganism. Do you foresee yourself trying for roles that promote your political message?
For me, art can be political, but I don’t think you should force it. I think the best way to make people feel is just story for the sake of story.
I mean, I do often think about maybe working on a book or something like that, told from the animals’ eyes. The stories that really inspired me to be vegan ― well, vegetarian first, and then vegan ― and just to care about animals in the first place, were things like watching “Babe,” or watching “Chicken Run.” That, I think, is a very powerful tool. Other than that I do like to keep activism and art separate. I think if you try too hard for it to be worthy and have a message, it just ― I think it poisons it a little bit. Or, not poisons, but it loses its integrity.
Even books like “Harry Potter,” I don’t feel like it’s trying to force it down our throats that like, fascism is bad, but you pick up those things by osmosis of what the characters feel. Those kinds of stories have a much more powerful effect on me personally.
What would you say you’re looking for most in acting roles going forward?
Bold characters. I always look up to people who are very unapologetic. Whether their morals are in line with mine ― say for example, the character in “Disco Pigs.” She has no moral compass, really. She’s 17, for one thing. But they’re always eating sausages, they don’t give a damn. I didn’t see that as a reason not to admire her, because obviously that’s her blind spot, but what I liked about her was that she was so sure of what she was doing, such a unique person, such an individual. That’s what it is in characters. I just want to find something individual, something about them that makes them an outsider, and that encourages me to be more that way. Because I think if I’m around other people I tend to want to fit in. I think characters in books and in movies that are complete individuals and who are not apologizing for it, they remind me to be myself. That’s why I like the character Luna Lovegood so much. I just want to have more of that energy.
From June 1 to 30, HuffPost is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the very first “Harry Potter” book by reminiscing about all things Hogwarts. Accio childhood memories.